Review of Conan the Barbarian (1982)

11 Sep

Conan the Barbarian (1982) is an adventure/fantasy/action film, based on the stories by Robert E. Howard.

Directed by John Milius (Red Dawn (1984), Dillinger (1973)).

Written by John Milius (Evel Knievel (1971), Farewell to the King (1989)) and Oliver Stone (Platoon (1986), Savages (2012)).

Starring: Arnold Schwarzenegger, James Earl Jones, Max Von Sydow, Sandahl Bergman, Mako, Gerry Lopez and others.

It opens with a narrator telling us about Conan, but the way he talks, you don’t really care to listen, because it won’t really matter anyway. Then the movie finds it important to randomly show us some blacksmithing, just before kid Conan’s village is attacked and I wonder if I should care for these people I see for the first time.

Then James Earl Jones arrives on the scene and you know what? He looks ridiculous, even his epic voice (why couldn’t he narrate the movie instead?) doesn’t change the fact, that his wig of long, straight, black hair doesn’t look awesome at all. Yes, even after he decapitates Conan’s mom. And he doesn’t say a word during the whole scene, so he talks for the first time somewhere in the second half of the movie, when he appears again.

So the attackers kill everyone, except the children, which they take with them, because they’re pedophiles… or slavekeepers, I’m not sure. They make kid Conan push some rotating thing and a couple of years later he’s Arnold fucking Schwarzenegger and it doesn’t take long for Arnie to make his classic guttural “argh!” sounds.

Then we spend some time watching Conan killing people in arena fights. After becoming this champion fighter, he’s almost a celebrity, he gets whores and is allowed to read, which isn’t very barbarian-like thing to do, but don’t worry Conan isn’t smart. He just has the best possible life a slave can have, he lacks some freedom, but in every other way his life is much better than it would have been in his native village. Being an unappreciative bastard he uses the first opportunity to run away and be free, only to be instantly chased by a pack of wolves and falling into a cave to struggle with making fire and shit. If you ask me, being a slave was way better.

25 minutes into the movie we hear the main character speak for the first time and, oh dear god, where did he develop this thick Austrian accent? To think of it, 80s were a weird time, when people actually accepted his accent, this would never happen today.

He stumbles on some chick, they chat for a bit and then we get to listen to her moan out the rest of her lines, while they both are having sex. After that she turns into a horrible witch-monster, so Conan throws her into the fireplace. Who hasn’t had this first date, am I right? From this point on, it’s just Conan having various shenanigans, while searching for the man, who killed his parents. He meets a thief guy and then a  chick and they form a party of D&D characters and proceed on their adventure, which includes among other things, stabbing a huge rubber snake through the head and Conan punching a camel. There was once a time when a snake could look at least somewhat realistic and not like a CG piece of shit.

The movie is often very slow-paced. You get to see quite an amount of naked breasts. These were just two facts about the movie that sort of negate each other. The dialogue is often very clunky and not only when put into Arnold’s mouth. Some people, like Sandahl Bergman, deliver it quite well, with this rhythm, like it’s from Shakespeare, but you only half-listen to what is said. Later on they use Jones’ booming voice and he gives easily the best performance in the movie, but it doesn’t take back his absurd appearance and not having aged a day in the time when Conan became Mr. Universe.

To give credit to Arnold, he might be the only actor that sort of can pull off the Conan look, but when at one point in the movie he is disguised as a monk, he does look ridiculous, the robe failing to hide that he is a muscle-bound freak. Often I got the feeling that the script had lines, but they opted for Arnold just to stay quiet and scowl or not emote at all.

The movie has some nice gore and it’s actually kind of odd, the movie is a solid R, but it clearly appeals most to teenage boys, younger than the allowed age. Also it made me think if we really see any R rated adventure flicks nowadays. I don’t think so.

Overall, a decent, but really predictable movie for adolescents. I didn’t find it as entertaining as some later Schwarzenegger flicks, but if you’re a fan give it a watch, nothing remarkable about it. Not recommended.

Between your villain looking like a drag queen and your protagonist looking like this, I’m really not sure which side to root for.

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