Directed by John Nicolella
Visual Effects Supervisor: Richard Malzahn

Visual Effects Produced by:

Executive Producer: Dobbie Schiff




Nominated for one 1997 VFX HQ Awards: Special Achievement Award.

John Nicolella directs Kevin Sorbo of TV's "Hercules" in this action-epic, also starring Tia Carrera and Harvey Fierstein. MetroLight Studios handled the lion's share of visual effects, including some terrific sequences featuring the Flame of Acheron.

The best effects in this film take place around the Flame, which is a constantly burning torch that emanates from an ancient temple. The Flame is a highly concentrated collection of flame elements that rise into the air that plays a pivotal role in the film's climax. MetroLight created some wonderful animation for the Flame effects, which appear in a number of complicated shots. More incredible than the actual animation is the match-moving and compositing of each Flame shot.

Only a small fraction of the Flame shots are locked-down, static shots. From the very first shot, where the Flame is introduced, the camera not only pans and tilts, but cranes and dollys all over the stage, and the Flame looks locked into place. In addition to the terrific match-moving, characters regularly walk in front of the Flame, requiring rotoscoping of the foreground elements to the highest degree, even during long, five or six second shots. The compositing of all the Flame sequences is consistently brilliant.

The Flame surrounds the evil Akivasha creature, a Greg Cannom creation, as realistic and visually stunning flames surround her. MetroLight animated and match-moved the lovely flame elements for KULL THE CONQUEROR.

The only time the flame elements look a little cheesy is when Akivasha, the evil witch, enters the Flame and begins her transformation. As she enters the ring of fire, flame elements realistically and beautifully surround her--but as she transforms into a devilish, drooling creature and is destroyed by Kull, a few explosion elements and swirling fire elements seem a bit clumpy and push beyond the point of realism and move into the cartoonish.

MetroLight also added fire elements to Akivasha's mummified corpse as it rises to life near the beginning of the film. In a series of wonderful shots, the corpse and coffin are bathed in composited flame elements that are quite realistic.

As Kull destroys Akivasha with the magical icy breath (beautifully animated and composited into many shots), the fire swells with both flame elements and ice elements. The cool blue tones of ice particles swirl with the hot, orange/red flame elements, giving each of these shots a visually stunning contrast in color and texture. The icy blue elements blow in corkscrew patterns very realistically, and are a joy to watch.

There are plenty of other, smaller effects that work quite well, including the subtle animation of the Fire Kiss that Tia Carrera gives Kevin Sorbo, and a few really nice morphs (matched by a few, robotic morphs, as well). A short yet memorable effects shot occurs as poor fellow falls into the Flame--his body disintegrates in a stunning fashion, burning up from head to toe.

Illusion Arts, under the supervision of Bill Taylor and Syd Dutton, created a number of fine matte paintings for the film, expanding the scope of the production with wide vista shots. The usual Illusion Arts flair is present in KULL THE CONQUEROR, with their rich, detailed representations of the surrounding lands for landscape shots.

Amidst all the fine effects, a few effects shots, however, ring out with cheesyness and a lack of realism. At one point, when the Flame throws up an extra blast of fire into the air, the wide shot tilts up to follow the flames into the air. The tilt-up is robotic, with no ease in or ease out of camera movement.

KULL THE CONQUEROR is a silly, essentially lifeless film, with very little emotion or energy, or any kind of originality. Kevin Sorbo's television show, "Hercules" is filled with a lot more creative energy than KULL. With only a few moments of wit, the film does not deserve the fine visual effects provided by MetroLight and Illusion Arts.

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All text Copyright © 1998 Todd Vaziri, unless otherwise noted