Sunday, January 20, 2008

REVIEW: Conan the Barbarian

Conan the Barbarian

Year: 1982
Director: John Milius
Starring: Arnold Schwarzenegger, James Earl Jones, Max von Sydow, Sandahl Bergman, Ben Davidson
Distributor: Universal Pictures
MPAA: Rated R

Conan the Barbarian was one of Arnold Schwarzenegger's first films starting as a low paid actor. It was really this film that slowly launched his career to stardom. Having grossed roughly around $68 million worldwide, it was a decent pic for an R rated film at the time. Its always been one of Schwarzenegger's classic film and many people still hold that by cake. I have never seen this movie at all which is kind of weird since I consider myself a Schwarzenegger fan. Its always been brought up all the time by many fans around the world when we would talk about Arnold's best films. So I had to see for myself and decided to check out the DVD version.

Plot Outline:
Conan (Arnold Schwarzenegger) has a loving father (William Smith) and mother (Nadiuska) that care for him. Not all goes well when a group of brutal warriors known as the "Snake Cult" lead by Thulsa Doom (James Earl Jones) attack the villagers and kill Conan's parents. Young Conan is then slaved along with the other children of the village. They work like animals for years until Conan gets sold to a new master. His master trains him to be a Gladiator and a Warrior so Conan can defend himself. When his master frees him, he meets several warriors along the way. He meets Subotai (Gerry Lopez) and Valeria (Sandhal Bergman). They team together as Warriors and Thieves until King Orsic (Max von Sydow) hires Conan and his warriors to rescue his daughter, Princess Yasmina (Valérie Quennessen) from Thulsa Doom who seduced her. Now Conan takes his revenge on Thulsa Doom and his Warriors for killing his people & his parents.

The story of Conan the Barbarian is based on the Robert E. Howard stories. The film starts off alittle slow by slowly introducing the characters and setting up the plot. It then slowly starts to pick up with some intense fight scenes here and their that make up for the slow pace. We get many sex scenes that also don't really distract the film, but add to the story. I found the story to be alittle puzzling at first with some scenes looking alittle skeptical, but then it got better. You just have to give it some time and don't take it too seriously. The story is pretty good with many elements that need to be seen. The characters are rough and aggressive especially Conan. I found the length of the film to be pretty satisfying and not too long. The movie is also really entertaining from time to time. You will enjoy the many Conan fights here and there which are really fun to see.

The cast of the film is pretty solid most of the times. Arnold Schwarzenegger plays the main character Conan and since this was early in his acting career, it kind of shows it. There are parts where he looks like he isn't trying too hard, but rather reading a script out loud. The good thing is that he doesn't speak too often in the movie since his face usually speaks for him, but when he does speak, its not that bad. James Earl Jones plays the evil character of Thulsa Doom and hes great. He brings that sinister look and creepiness of that character. I really enjoyed his performance. Gerry Lopez and Sandhal Bergman play the characters Subotai and Valeria. They play their parts pretty well with nothing that's out of this world, but still pretty solid.

The visual looks of the film are pretty cool. This was a film that was made in 1982 and alot of the image shows it. The atmosphere looks great with many bright environments and dark tone sky's. The clothing and props look very apparent and appropriate for the films setting. I found the film to be alittle gory with alot of blood used effectively which isn't surprising since this is Conan were talking here. The movie has many grainy scenes which dont surprise me considering its age. Colors look dusty, but hold up pretty well. There are many outdoors scenes that show the films colors off. Detail looks pretty good since the movie was remastered not too long ago, but it isn't something to brag about.

The film has a well produced soundtrack that is considered one of the best. The soundtrack is made by Basil Poledouris who I think did an amazing job with the music. The film uses the soundtrack very effectively with almost every scene filled with some kind of music or beat. There are many that stand out because of how well their made, but then theirs one that kind of sounds alot like the score from Total Recall which also featured Arnold Schwarzenegger in it. If there was one complaint about the films soundtrack its that it desperately needs a 5.1 restoration mix. As much as I love the music in the film, the dialogue really shows the films age with some parts alittle fuzzy. With all of this said, the film still boasts a very powerful soundtrack that I really loved listening too.

Conan the Barbarian is considered Arnold Schwarzenegger's best film and in some parts I can agree with, but then their are some parts where I disagree with. I thought the film had a pretty good story that was entertaining to watch even though some parts I didn't think worked so well. The cast was pretty solid and everyone seemed to look the part pretty accurately. The visual look of the film was pretty cool to look at. The film's soundtrack although in need of a sound restoration still sounds really great with a well produced soundtrack. I would recommend you check it out if your a fan of these types of films or if your a Schwarzenegger fan because this film is one of his better films.

Grade: C+

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