Friday, March 15, 2013

Conan the Barbarian (John Milius, 1982) Review

I have really been watching too many Schwarzenegger movies lately. When friends throw DVDs at you (five of them consisting of Arnie films), that's bound to happen but I guess it's my own fault for not watching films such as Terminator 2 and A Clockwork Orange. We all know Arnie as a cheesy, macho guy that likes to go "RAAGAHHAHRHAH" a lot but let's look at an Arnie film BEFORE he went (is that even a thing? It is now). So is Conan The Barbarian like an other Arnie film or something different? Let's find out.

Conan is a young boy whose father (William Smith) makes a legendary sword. When his village is invaded and whiped out by a man named Thulsa Doom (James Earl Jones), Conan is captured and mae a slave. Many years later, Conan, now an adult (Arnold Schwarzenegger), escapes and vows vengeance on Thulsa. Conan meets two thieves, Subotai (Gerry Lopez) and Valeria (Sandahl Bergman), who band together to take down Thulsa Doom's forces as well as trying to rescue the King's daughter from Thulsa's hypnoses.

Did I say this was different from Arnie films? Err...kind of.  Sure, there are no guns or explosions but it's got an older equivalent with Arnie style sword fighting instead (all those people couldn't take down Conan? How?!). Does this make it a bad film? Not really, I think it's a little worse than Commando though as the biggest problem with Conan the Barbarian is that it's way too slow. Some scenes were very unnecessary and dragged on a bit. Ironically, the only bits that seemed a bit too fast were the RELEVANT bits to the plot! I think it has it's priorities wrong. 

There are some great things (I think I'm making a habit of this formula). James Earl Jones is excellent in this however he only really gets one scene to shine. The rest of the time, he doesn't do much but his imposing look is enough to be awesome. I will admit that the side characters are engaging but Conan himself is boring. There's no character to him. Look past him and you get a film with some great characters who you will actually care about. It also has one of the best soundtracks in film history. Just...JUST LISTEN TO THIS (best bit starts at around 3:32).

Conan the Barbarian is definitely an epic film but there are so many flaws that stop it from being a great one. If they had polished up some things such as the pacing and the writing, this could be a great film. The cast, the music and the look of the film get overshadowed by the flaws. This film is a gem hidden deep in a rock. Cult classic? Probably. Guilty Please? Again, probably. That's what Arnie's films all tend to be: guilty pleasures.

There are so many good things here but the flaws overshadow them. 

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