A barbarian trained in the arts of war joins with thieves in a quest to solve the riddle of steel and find the sorcerer responsible for the genocide of his people in this faithful adaptation of Robert E. Howard's sword and sorcery adventures. This film briefly sparked a wave of fantasy films including the sequel, Conan the Destroyer, in the early 80s. Written by
Keith Loh <firstname.lastname@example.org>
When the princess is chained to the rock, the clasps around her wrist keep changing shapes. Either way, she could easily slip her hands through them at any time. See more »
Between the time when the oceans drank Atlantis and the rise of the sons of Aryas, there was an age undreamed of. And unto this, Conan, destined to wear the jeweled crown of Aquilonia upon a troubled brow. It is I, his chronicler, who alone can tell thee of his saga. Let me tell you of the days of high adventure!
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A cracking sword and sorcery yarn that has divided movie goer opinions since it's release. Some believing it's a beefy and shallow action movie, glossed up with big sets and fancy costumes. Others believing it is a truly eye popping visual feast of a film with hidden depth. The film was panned on its original release but since then has been something of a critical favourite. While the film is too murky and turgid at times, it is still engaging, despite needing to lighten up a touch, because this is based on a comic book after all. The film is fantastical but at the same time the film doesn't go quite as fantastical as the comic books did. This seems to be more based in reality but it still features a snake-man, giant snakes and witches.
The film follows Conan from childhood when his parents are killed and follows him through his early years as a slave to adulthood when he becomes a fighter and a thief. What drives Conan is pure bloodthirsty revenge on the man who killed his parents(James Earl Jones) and he is constantly spurred on by the belief he is doing his god's (Krom the god of steel) will. Conan constantly interprets important moments as messages from Krom.This film is so visual. The dialogue is minimal and yet meaningful. This gives the film a great atmosphere and really brings to mind two other fantasy action movies I really love, Crying Freeman and Highlander. They are all very similar in style. They all have the same strengths, in that they are both great looking, have a lead character driven by a spirit guide, controlled by his beliefs and a sense of destiny and all three have similar romantic subplot, all told with visuals, and little dialogue. They are all also blessed with unique and rousing scores. It's all very mythical and philosophical in each, with love at first site important. It is the love of the women that drive the men to their goals. In Freeman Dacascos wants to break away from his controlled regime, and take back his life when his love gives him the will to do so. In Highlander McLeod wants to lead a mortal life, to love and grow old with someone, to be human. Conan wants a life after he takes his revenge. The greatness of their romantic story and the purely visual way it is told is that during the movie he says only 5 words to her,and they all come in their first meeting. The film should not get away with something like that, yet it works well. The twist in Conan is that his lover sacrifices herself for him and in effect once he has achieved his goal the film is left with the feeling Conan has no further purpose in life.
The cast are good. Arnold was made into a star here. He is physically the best shape he's ever been in a movie. He is smaller than his bodybuilding days yet as big as he's ever been on screen and at the same time fleet of foot and nimble. Lest we not forget by the time he hit mega stardom he was in his 40's, but Arnold is truly in his prime here. It is a performance though of glaring inconsistency which is the likes of which I have never seen. It is at once his best and his worst performance. For all that Schwarzenegger does with a depth and humanity not seen in his films since, he overplays and looks amateurish in others, because of course he was an amateur here. What really does work is the chemistry between Sandahl Bergman and Schwarzy. She gets the best out of him and their scenes together are generally his best. Bergman received a Golden Globe for this and had Arnie consistently been as good as his higher points here, who knows? You get the feeling the philosophical side might occasionally have gone over his head. At times he would bawl out "Kraaoomm!!!" without knowing why he was delivering the line. Bergman is good. She is enigmatic and quite sexy in a "why is she sexy?" kind of a way. Bergman kicks ass and her dance background shows as she moves with grace. The showstoppers though are the supporting cast with the legend Mako, excellent as the wizard and narrator. Max Von Sydow is superb as king Osric and he gets some of the best dialogue but it is the chilling James Earl Jones who is particularly excellent as Thulsa Doom.
What makes this film great is the fact that it feels older than it is. It feels like a b-movie fantasy film from the golden ages of the 50's and 60's, with some of the charming elements of the legendarily cheap Italian fantasy films. The film even at times feels like it is dubbed. While all it lacks is a stand out Ray Harryhausen moment. The nearest we get is the giant snake. I would have loved to have seen more creatures and beasts in this movie with some HarryHausen effects but it come a tad too late really. Also Basil Poledouris' score is fantastic and old fashioned a big reason the film feels like it is from the golden age of this sword and sorcery quest movies. The score is the real standout part of the movie. It's very old fashioned, medieval and a bit baroque and works marvellously well with some rousing themes.
The film is directed with visual flourish by John Milius, whose tragically lame career since makes you wonder what happened. In that sense it has another similarity with Highlander as the even more talented Russell Mulcahy was never matched the quality or success of Highlander since. This is a top notch film that fantasy enthusiasts will love. ****
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