Wednesday, 27 January 2010

Conan the Barbarian

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Dir: John Milius (Red Dawn, Flight of the Intruder)
Based on the stories by Robert E. Howard
Cast: Arnold Schwarzenegger, James Earl Jones, Sandahl Bergman, Mako, Ben Davidson, Max von Sydow
USA, 1982

Revisited: January 26, 2010

Reason to Watch & Review: For the Sword & Sandal Marathon*

Revisiting Conan the Barbarian was such a treat as I have lots of fond memories of it from growing up, but I found myself having to really stop and focus on watching the film because I've seen it so many times that it took effort to really 'see' it. It's strange - I haven't had that happens since I revisited Harry Potter and the Philosopher's Stone, who knew these two films would have anything in common?

This is an epic movie on many levels, from the epic journey of the main character to the fantastic world it is set in with magic and sorcery. One of the things I love most about Conan the Barbarian is that it really plays to it's strengths and doesn't let possible weaknesses gets in the way. It's a great adventure story, which is sets up through narration and follows through with action which visual takes us for a right for the majority of the journey. I'd admit that the dialogue isn't fantastic but it keeps it brief and what we are left either works well or at the very least is pretty amusing. The film also plays the epic card very well with fantastic locations, impressive sets and iconic heroes and villains. The score is powerful and really amps up the charging energy at all the right moments.

Out of the sword & sandal films so far, I'm surprized to say that Conan is the least likable character. Not that I disliked him, but when you sit down and think about it he's not a terrific guy (hence: Barbarian) and this film is primarily based on revenge as opposed to overall good vs evil theme. I almost didn't notice this about his character because it's tempered by Arnold Schwarzenegger charisma which brings a lot to the screen.

A huge bonus to the film is getting to see the character of Valeria, played by Sandahl Bergman, who is a thief by definition but plays out as a warrior. She is the first to jump into action, fearless, resourceful and can fight to boot. It's always welcome to have strong female characters and she is a fantastic one. The fighting overall it pretty awesome combining creativity with straight up skill for impressive and inventive results. It's didn't feel that gory overall although there are some pretty intense moments, I was surprized to see the DVD had an R rating but perhaps that is due to to the nudity and not violence.

Overall it's a great adventure and one that I'm sure to revisit again and again.

Shannon's Overall View:
I loved it
I own it
I'd recommend it as a great adventure/sword & sandals film

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© Shannon Ridler, 2010

* The Sword & Sandal Marathon is a 13 week marathon exploring sword & sandal films in anticipation of the 2010 release of Clash of the Titans

6 comments:

The Film Connoisseur said...

One of my all time favorite films! I love the art direction on this film.

What I love the most about it is its themes. I love how we follow Conan from childhood to adulthood. Seeing him take his first steps on his own in the big bad world is a great sequence. I love it when he first comes upon those wild dogs that follow him, and when he finds his first sword.

But what I dig the most is the anti-religious angle. This movie is all about sending blind faith to hell. That scene where the leader of the snake worshipping cult tells one of his followers to jump off the bulding and she jumps and kills herself...chilling commentary on giving yourself blindly to a religion.

And the fact that he chops off the religious leaders head!! And then burns their temple! Awesome awesome stuff....

Suzie Ridler said...

It's true, his character isn't a very good character but you're right, that is what makes him a barbarian.

LOL, I like TFC's perspective on this movie's comment on religion, I had no idea that it was that deep a movie but wow, maybe it is?

OK, now I have to see it again too. At least Reg will be happy. It's one of his favs of all time. He has all the books!

Shannon the Movie Moxie said...

You are so right Connoisseur, the art direction in this film is fantastic. It's strange, because you see other films try to imitate but fall short.

This is the first time I picked up on the religion angle, I always saw all the ritual stuff as fascinating and scary but this time the power of devotion being an analogy to religion was very clear. It's a pretty freaking gutsy statement!

It's a great repeat watcher, I don't think I had seen it since I got it on DVD but I know I will be seeing it again. There is also a commentary with the director and Schwarzenegger which I'm really looking forward to checking out.

The Film Connoisseur said...

Many people are surprised when I mention this films anti religious angle, but its true.

If you remember, the followers have to "empty their minds completely" in order to for a part of the snake cult. Which of course is a comment on faith.

Also, the king looses his daughter to the religious freaks, and he looses her for good. Reflecting on how sometimes people loose a family member to a religion or a cult, which is something that happens a lot! Suddenly your family member is your enemy because they joined some religion.

Its a deep movie, with many themes, the other one being pure revenge!

Shannon the Movie Moxie said...

I was very surprized at the depth and breadth of the film in terms of themes. It's pretty freaking epic and now I'm considering it a classic!

Anonymous said...

Not so fast...

Unfortunately, the film is not really anti-religious as Connoisseur made it appear. It's more a "beware of false prophets" kind of thing as Conan seems to be a believer in his own god, Crom, while Thulsa Doom is outed as the leader of an evil snake cult. False prophet is then destroyed, "true believer" Conan wins.
Of course, I don't actually think the movie's message is religious in nature, but it certainly isn't anti-religious. Conan is the hero, he's on a hero's journey to find himself and the truth, but he never forgets the "old gods" of his childhood. It's interesting to keep in mind that "doomsday cults" were a big deal in the late '70's and 80's.

-Wray

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