The summer movie season gets mythological this weekend with Kenneth Branagh's Thor
, starring Chris Hemsworth—the real Thunder from Down Under—as the eponymous god of thunder with the giant magical hammer. Both are a real hit with the ladies, including the scientist played by Natalie Portman, who can't resist Thor's hammer or sick abs. In any other hands the movie might have been an explosive green-screen mess, but Branagh expertly blends fantasy, Shakespearean drama and witty humor into what is, so far, the most impressive Marvel adaptation leading up to The Avengers
Long ago (1983) in a galaxy not so far away (the one you're sitting in), a sort of eight-bit fantasy-adventure predecessor of Thor titled Krull dazzled moviegoers with cheesy effects and a classic story of one man's quest to rescue a princess. Prince Colwyn (Ken Marshall), like Thor, is a bearded towhead with sick abs whose bride to be, Princess Lyssa (Lysette Anthony), is kidnapped by an omnipotent alien invader known as The Beast. Instead of a hammer, Colwyn is armed with the Glaive—a bejeweled star-shaped weapon with magical powers and lethal razor tips that would make Freddy Krueger blush.
Colwyn picks up a ragtag group on his long journey to save Lyssa, including a goofy magician who shapeshifts into different animals, an old seer, a Cyclops and a group of escaped prisoners, including a young Liam Neeson. Along the way the fellowship of planet Krull is under constant attack by The Beast's army of Slayers as Colwyn tries to pinpoint the location of the dark lord's Black Fortress, which moves to a new location with each dawn.
After Ynyr the Old One (Freddie Jones) braves the lair of the crystal spider and convinces his old love, the Widow of the Web, to reveal the location of the Black Fortress, Colwyn storms The Beast's home and uses the Glaive to free the beautiful princess with the gigantic hair (it was the '80s) from her cell. It all ends with a somewhat anticlimactic battle between Colwyn and Beast, but maybe the producers ran out of money after spending it all on superimposed imagery, otherworldly sets and some Flash Gordon-ish props and costumes.
Krull cost between $45 and $50 million back in the day and pulled in less than $17 million at the box office, but this fantastical bomb has developed a devoted cult following in the 28 years since its release. Before you check out the big-bucks descendant known as Thor in theaters, get your Jurassic fantasy fix today with Krull, available on DVD or via streaming from Netflix.