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Conan the Barbarian (DVD, 2000, Collector's Edition Widescreen)
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What is best in life, Conan?
Feb 2, 2002
Review by joecooper
Rated a Very Helpful Review
Pros:Power, passion, aggression. It'll bring out the man in you!
Cons:Some slippage in the acting department. But it's irrelevant.
The Bottom Line: Arguably the best fantasy movie ever made. Definitely the best fantasy movie ever made with adult viewers in mind.
“What is best in life, Conan?”
Recommend this product?
“To crush your enemies, to see them driven before you, and to hear the lamentation of their women.”
Back in the Dark Ages (1982), Conan The Barbarian was one of the most eagerly awaited of films. Fantasy obsessives like myself were particularly keen to flock to the cinema. We were anxious to discover whether the dreamweavers at Universal Studios and an unknown actor, but well know bodybuilder, by the name of Arnold Schwarzenegger would do our hero justice on the big screen.
Conan has been around in print for a long time. He was the 1930s creation of author Robert E. Howard. Howard published 18 stories featuring the exploits of the wandering barbarian that would one day be king. These stories, and numerous spin-off comic series, were enjoyed by several generations of fantasy aficionados, including myself. Would Conan The Barbarian, the movie, cut the mustard? (I’ve never used that expression before) Keep reading and find out!
As a side note, it must be mentioned that Conan The Barbarian is designed to be enjoyed by those unfamiliar with Conan, as well as the fans of Howard’s stories. The Conan layperson doesn’t miss a beat. They get the full ride.
Conan The Barbarian is set 12,000 years ago, in an age when sorcery was real, monsters plagued the land, and men were men. As the movie’s introduction explains, ‘…between the years when the oceans drank Atlantis and the gleaming cities, and the years of the rise of the sons of Aryas, there was an age undreamed of... Hither came Conan…’ You get the picture! It’s a setting that Dungeons & Dragons dreams are made of.
The movie begins with Conan as a young boy. At a blacksmith’s forge, his father is explaining to him the ‘riddle of steel’. It’s shortly after this warm moment with his Dad that Conan’s world is turned upside down. His village is mercilessly sacked by a warrior/sorcerer, Thulsa Doom, (James Earl Jones) and his henchmen, all of which sport Iron Maiden haircuts. Conan’s father is slain resisting, and his mother is decapitated in front of the youngster. It’s a terrifying day for Conan. One that sees him end up in chains and sold into slavery.
The years ahead see Conan as a brutally oppressed workhorse. As he reaches adulthood, and an enormous size, he’s thrust into the fighting pits. To save his own life, Conan learns the vicious game and rises to become a gladiatorial champion. After a brief stint siring new slave stock, his owner, fearing Conan’s considerable size and skills as a killer, eventually sets him free.
After picking up a sidekick named Subotai (Gerry Lopez), Conan heads for the temptations of civilization. In the city of Zamora, our barbarian friend meets a beautiful thief by the name of Valeria. One thing leads to another and Conan finds himself living the lucrative life of a successful thief and as Valeria’s lover.
It doesn’t take long, however, for the joys of gold, drink, and sex to wear thin on Conan. The fires of revenge begin to burn. After receiving information regarding the whereabouts of one Thulsa Doom, Conan drops everything and the quest for the man who took the lives of his parents and sold him into slavery begins. Horrors lie ahead, but Conan is determined to end the life of Doom. How does he confront the evil sorcerer? You’ll have to watch the movie.
Director John Milius succeeds brilliantly in creating a fascinating and believable fantasy world. For the most, he’s employed a minimum of prone-to-aging special effects, and has instead utilized spectacular settings. The architecture, costumes, and weaponry have the right look for the era. It’s easy to imagine that Conan’s world is one where magic, monsters, and heroic battles take place.
Conan The Barbarian did not collect a bag load of Oscars for its acting talent. That becomes apparent quickly. However, there are some pleasant exceptions. Despite Arnie’s limited acting ability (it hasn’t changed since!) he’s actually well suited to the character of Conan. He’s meant to be a non-talkative brute. The other notable mention is, of course, James Earl Jones, as the evil Thulsa Doom. A younger Jones than we’re used to has an amazing on-screen presence to match that commanding voice.
Conan The Barbarian is not Hercules or Xena (Warrior Princess!). It’s not a bloodless adventure for the kids or a fairy tale with a moral to the story. It’s a story that feeds on raw themes. It’s all about power, revenge, and ruthlessness. There isn’t an excess of gore involved, but it does earn its R rating for the sex and violence on show.
To sum it up, this is probably the best fantasy film ever made, from the point of view of an adult. It’s a powerful movie that grabs you from the Nietzsche quote at the beginning to exciting end. It has a feel that needs to be experienced to be understood.
Personally, it makes me feel like eating half-cooked meat around a roaring campfire, and boasting of my conquests!
‘That which does not kill us, makes us stronger.’ - Friedrich Nietzsche
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