Back when I just started reviewing here, I thought I would pull a bit of a fast one by putting up a review of Conan the Barbarian which was barely a paragraph, and was written in about 10 minutes. This was originally written for a school/college project where the content didnt really matter. I decided for my 99th review, that I should try and do my views on the movie justice.
Recommend this product?
Naturally it didnt fare too well, so I thought I would delete it and give it another go, now that after a year my friend has returned the bloody DVD of it back to me.
The movie begins with young Conan (Jorge Sanz) being taught by his father, about the secret of the steel, and how great steel is, and about their god Krom. All is fine in Conans life until his village is attacked by the evil Thulsa Doom (James Earl Jones The Sandlot). Doom and his soldiers kill everyone in the village, including Conans mother, who is decapitated while she holds her sons hand.
Conan is taken away, and sold as a slave used to push a large stone device along with others of a similar fate, however, they all die, but Conan just gets stronger, and it isnt long before a fully grown Conan (Arnold Schwarzenegger - The Running Man) is taken to become a gladiator for the amusement of his captors. As Conan slaughters all who are sent against him, he is taught how to wield a sword properly by a swordsman from the far east, and he is well educated, but one day, he is freed, and sets off to try and survive, and possibly avenge his village.
Along the way, he encounters and befriends an archer by the name of Subotai (Gerry Lopez Storm Riders), and it isnt long before a third member of their little group is added in the form of the female thief Valeria (Sandahl Bergman Red Sonja). The group get themselves into several incidents, including slaying a giant snake, one of Thulsas pets and generally becoming a thievery group, stealing all the jewels they can get their hands on..
But as Conan begins to find traces of Thulsa Doom, his quest for vengeance re-awakens, and in a strike on one of Dooms palaces, Valeria is shot with a Snake Arrow (kinda like in GI Joe the movie) and dies in Conans arms. Now with even more hatred in his heart, Conan sets off to avenge not only his family, but the love of his life as well.
My write up of the story is still a bit loose, but that is because personally I think everyone should see the movie, and dont want to give everything away.
The acting in this movie is actually spot on. Conan is the perfect character for Arnie, and is probably his best performance to date. While many may say that this is because he has so few lines, I just feel everything about Arnold fills the role. The voice Arnie has is perfect for the Barbarian. He is built like you would expect a Barbarian to be. Even the deadpan look on his face is something that Arnold often receives criticism for in other movies, but here just fits Conan brilliantly.
James Earl Jones actually gets to be the Black-Armour clad villain this time, instead of just voicing him, and is generally as good as you would expect the man to be. Doom really isnt all that removed from Vader in some ways, such as the speeches he makes (he even makes a Conan
I am your father type one towards the end, only Conans reaction is a lot cooler than Skywalkers). Jones just pores charisma when he plays Doom.
Sandahl Bergman didnt impress me as much. She does have the build and skills for her role, but if I am being vain, she isnt as nice looking as Bridgitte Nielsen, who played a similar character opposite Bergman and Arnold in Red Sonja. But she does her job well, and cant really be faltered for her performance.
Gerry Lopez I actually found quite likeable as Subotai, while he isnt a spectacular performer in the movie, there certainly is no fault with what he does do.
Slightly odd Japanese star Mako (Robocop 3) makes an appearance as a Wizard friend of Conans who saves him from death. Mako plays the Wizard pretty well, if slightly mad in character. He does seem to be hamming it up a bit, but it isnt anything at all offensive.
While I would love to write paragraphs and paragraphs on the Basil Poledouris soundtrack, it could also be summed up in two words: Epic and Brilliant. This is a simply masterful score that makes the movies feel like a genuine epic. Its the perfect soundtrack to swords clashing, or even just Camera shots of the brilliant scenery in which the movie has been shot. Its a shame that Conan never really gets the respect it deserves, because the music in this deserves to be as famous as any movie theme you can think of.
The special effects arent exactly groundbreaking, but for an early 80s movie, they are good, and nowadays are still adequate.
The action scenes in the movie put anything in any other fantasy movie to shame. The fights are epic. From Arnolds awesome swordplay, to the traps Conan and Subotai set up for Dooms soldiers. Its brilliantly shot and brilliantly choreographed. These are the type of battles you expect from any fantasy movie, and Conan is one of the only movies I have seen that truly does deliver them.
The movie in general is just an epic. As I mentioned, the landscape in which the movie is shot is perfect, and every time a fantasy barbarian land is mentioned, this is exactly what I picture. Large rocks and dusty plains is all it may seem to be, but there is just something about it that gives it that much more oomph.
The story, while simple in basic premise, is pulled off with such class that it has to be one of the silver screens most defining pictures of vengeance. It is also littered with small, but entertaining little chunks, my personal favourite being when Conan and Subotai, discuss, then slag off each others religion.
One infinitely strange scene that Im surprised actually made it into the movie, although it could be because it isnt all that clear, is when a drunken Conan and Subotai witness a man having sex with a camel.
When I mentioned the movie being one of the screens defining pictures of vengeance, its also the defining image of the Barbarian. Can anyone truthfully say that after watching this movie whenever the word Barbarian is mentioned they dont think of Conan? Thought not. Everything from his furry loincloth to the shape of his iconic sword is all defining imagery of the Barbarian.
The movie may not be overflowing with a philosophical story, and the whole vengeance thing has been done in 10 million movies over the years, but this movie just handles it so well, and portrays it as the basic and primal thing that it is that I cant do anything but love it. The movie also doesnt over-glamorise revenge. Despite killing Doom, Conan does not have his family back, and he in fact loses Valeria. When he wins, he really has nothing to smile about.
The movie doesnt contain an awful lot of dialogue (count how many times Conan and Valeria actually speak to each other), but once again, that does nothing but add to the barbaric feel of the movie.
If you want faults, then I suppose you could look at the special effects and say LOL 80s, but apart from that, the only faults I can see are that people dont recognise this for the classic it is, and that Milius never did get to complete a Conan trilogy. While it does look like a third Conan movie will happen, it looks like being without Arnold, which personally I feel defeats the purpose of the entire thing.
At the end of the day, if you are a fan of Arnie, this isnt his typical movie, but it should be seen to see his best performance, and one of his best movies. If you like fantasy, personally I think this is the defining fantasy movie. Given my views on the Lord of the Rings movies, this isnt a hard choice for me to make, but this just has a certain air of barbarosity that no other movie in the genre can claim to.
Action fans are probably Arnie fans, so see above.
Anyone else should just see the movie, while it seems to be often scoffed at, for me, I can seriously state that it is one of my favourite movies ever. While that may not exactly mean much to you, I cant claim to be a big fan of fantasy, so a fantasy movie that not only appeals to me, but can make it into that league is something that is probably worth another look. Ron Howards Willow is the only other similar case that springs to mind.
Conan has had many a spin-off, from a sequel in Conan the Destroyer, to a planned but changed sequel Red Sonja,to a TV series and a cartoon and most recently a videogame none of which have ever really captured the greatness of the Barbarian.
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