Wednesday, March 24, 2010

CONAN THE BARBARIAN (1982) - 4/5 stars

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Release: 1982
Director: John Milius
Writer: Oliver Stone and John Milius (screenplay), Robert E. Howard (stories)
Cast: Arnold Schwarzenneger, James Earl Jones, Max von Sydow, Sandahl Bergman, Ben Davidson, Cassandra Gava, Gerry Lopez, Mako
Soundtrack: Basil Poledouris
Claim to fame: the live-action adaptation of Robert E. Howard's popular pulp stories; one of Arnold Schwarzenneger's first big movies
Rating: 4/5 stars

"Conan the Barbarian" has 3 things really going for it. One is that, in 1982, Arnold Schwarzenneger looked exactly like every adolescent kid dreamed Conan would.

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Is that a...barbarian camel toe?!?!

Second is the scene in which James Earl Jones lectures Conan about true power, and demonstrates by having a young woman leap to her death at his mere asking.

"That is strength, boy! That is power! What is steel compared to the hand that wields it? Look at the strength in your body, the desire in your heart, I gave you this! Such a waste. Contemplate this on the tree of woe. Crucify him!"

Whoa, okay, I'm not going to argue with him there.

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Jesus Christ Pose

And lastly is the soundtrack by composer Basil Poledouris, an old college friend of director John Milius. The film is almost undeserving of the beautiful music he wrote; his score lends power and the weight of Fate itself to scenes that should have really just been half-naked dudes waving swords around in the desert.

You can tell it'll be a memorable soundtrack from the opening credits and it's since been used in everything from trailers to "Gladiator" to promotional videos for the "Legend of Zelda" games. Basil himself went on to score a lot of memorable 80's movies like "Robocop" and "Red Dawn."

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"Valor pleases you, grant me one request.

Grant me revenge! And if you do not listen, then to HELL with you!"

I think the issue with "Conan the Barbarian" is that it's more noteworthy for the impact and influence it had on popular culture than as a film itself. It's certainly not the best movie that Oliver Stone or John Milius ever had their name attached to, and here Arnold is clearly still in the growing pains of learning how to act.

James Earl Jones ends up carrying all of their scenes together on his back and his performance goes a long way towards making the film feel like a genuine clash between good and evil.

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James Earl Jones practices his thousand yard stare - into your SOUL

In the end, this is a movie worth watching - you've got plenty 'o decapitated heads, giant snakes, palace orgies, and much talk of the god Crom.

But once you read up on how much the film mixed and mashed Robert E. Howard's mythos, you realize you might be better off turning up Basil's soundtrack and imagining your own adventures for Conan.

conan 9

Look at those rippling thigh muscles, hrnnnugh aghhh

1 comment:

  1. A childhood favorite. Gotta love that wig on James Earl Jones. And I seem to remember the audio commentary being quite amusing, with Milius talking about symbolism and aesthetics and Arnie sounding off with "OHHH YAH I REMEMMBAH DAT!" throughout every scene.