140 Character Movie Review – #140RVW
Destined to be the breakout film for the Austrian Oak. No one else could have played Conan. No other role would have made him a superstar…
Spoiler-free Movie Review of Conan the Barbarian:
It’s such a shame that Arnold Schwarzenegger has become such a polarizing figure. I suppose he was always controversial, but many of us were blissfully unaware of the baggage he brought around with him. During the 1980’s & 90’s, you could simply enjoy the sheer awesomeness of Ahnold.
I am aware that this film was recently remade in 2011 with Jason Momoa (Game of Thrones) as the titular character. I’m not sure if I’ll ever watch it. There is absolutely no upside to remaking such an iconic film.
And Conan is an iconic film – a fantastic movie. I know that statement will strike some as preposterous, but it’s true – it’s a very good movie.
It certainly took a long time to make. The character debuted in the pulp fiction pages of Weird Tales magazine in 1932, with creator Robert E. Howard penning some 20 tales before his untimely death in 1936 at age 30. The character was revived by authors L. Sprague DeCamp and Lin Carter (and others) in novel form, but it may have been the covers by famed fantasy artist Frank Frazetta that are the most indelible image of Conan the Cimmerian.
Edward Summer was the first person to work toward turning Conan into a film character, enlisting executive producer Edward R. Pressman as early as 1975. It would take 7 years to make the film a reality. Along the way there was a crazy script written by an admittedly drugged-out Oliver Stone (who would retain partial screenwriting credit) and the acquisition of a co-producer (legend Dino De Laurentiis) and co-writer/director in John Milius.
But it was the casting of bodybuilder and aspiring actor Arnold Schwarzenegger in the title role that really would sell this picture. While there were other strongmen who could have filled the role (one of Schwarzenegger’s friends and competitors Franco Columbu is in the film), none could have really owned the part the way Ahnold did. It really is his picture.
It’s the perfect role for him. His inexperience, his struggle with the accent, all of these are good things for the role – he’s a barbarian. I love that Schwarzenegger had to do his own stunts because they couldn’t possibly find a suitable body double. His physique is only more impressive when you realize he had to cut back on his workouts because he didn’t have any range of motion to use a sword – he was too huge. What’s sort of amusing to me, even on the thousandth viewing, is that he plays a thief. It’s just kind of funny to have someone so huge and without subtlety in the role of thief. Totally makes me question all those dice rolls…
The story is very good, although not so good that I’m going to summarize it here – it would sound silly. And I suppose to some degree it is, but it works well for this type of picture. The plot is based on a number of different Howard storylines, coaxed by Milius into shape by appropriating bits from other films like Seven Samurai. The dialogue is a great collection of funny lines – some of which were actually meant to be funny.
The acting by non-Austrian bodybuilders is fine, with James Earl Jones & Max Von Sydow along to provide gravitas in bad wigs. And the best thing about the film may well be the score by Basil Poledouris – simply gorgeous.
Despite primitive effects, it’s a good looking film. It looks like it could have been made more or less anytime pre-CG. While it was meant to be the beginning of a franchise, the crappy sequel and the rise of Ahnold made that difficult, although they seem to be seriously planning a new movie now that the Governator has returned to acting…
Conan the Barbarian is a fantastically fun picture. It’s stupid violent, with no subtlety and absolutely no cultural sensitivity. It scores a zero on the Representation Test and isn’t likely to be screened for my daughter any time soon. And I LOVE it. It’s one of my favorite movies and I simply refuse to apologize for it, by Crom…
The Representation Test Score: F (0 pts)
|Main Cast||Arnold Schwarzenegger Conan, James Earl Jones Thulsa Doom, Max von Sydow King Osric, Sandahl Bergman Valeria|
|Release Date||Fri 14 May 1982 UTC|
|Genres||Action, Fantasy, Adventure|
|Plot||A vengeful barbarian warrior sets off to avenge his tribe and his parents whom were slain by an evil sorcerer and his warriors when he was a boy.|
|Tagline||He conquered an empire with his sword. She conquered HIM with her bare hands.|
|Writers||Robert E. Howard (stories), John Milius (written by) …|