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People have preconceptions of what makes a good move and more often
than not they get tangled up in their own web of closed mindedness. It
is no one thing that makes a movie great but a combination of all to
create a feeling, and that is one thing that Conan has always done for
This was the first film that introduced me to "the goosebump effect" or rather seeing scenes of such emotional and thematic power that they give you chills. After watching this film over and over again it still doesn't disappoint. The scene immediately following the raid on Conan's village is a true masterpiece of visual storytelling. without a single line of dialogue everything that is to come in the next two hours is set up with the Murder of Conan's parents before his eyes. The look of disbelief on his face as his mother's lifeless body falls before him. Staring at his hand and then toward Thulsa Doom. the Villain saluting his freshly stolen steel. It is a perfectly executed scene that were this film not so unjustly written off as a hack and slash "sword and sorcery" picture would be rightfully remembered as one of the great scenes in film history.
The best way to describe Conan would be to call it a philosophical epic. There are real ideas and philosophies at play in the narrative. Conan's father's teachings of steel...the opening scene forging the sword becoming a metaphor for Conan's life. He is a character created by hardship and grief, and like the opening quote says "That which does not kill us makes us stronger" Conan becomes more powerful with the more hardships he overcomes. The film is very well put together. Many scenes and images from the movie are as visually layered and well thought out as any Ridley Scott picture. The prelude to the opening battle in the snow is stunning with great visual flair, a single scout stands atop a boulder breathing heavy, anticipating battle as vibrant rays of sunlight pour through the trees.
There is a ritualistic quality to many of the scenes in the film such as the finding of the atlantean sword, or the lead up to Conan's duel with the snake which is carried through right to the end where after Conan drops his sword the followers of doom extinguish their flames in the fountain. Everyone in the film manages to give a good performance but the big mistake that most people make in judging them is that they do not understand that acting is not simply saying lines of dialogue, it is behavior. Arnold Schwarzenegger and the rest of the cast give outstanding performances without saying all that much. The scene at the funeral pyre where Conan runs his hand through the hair of his fallen love...the subtle look of grief withheld combined with the eloquent score is enough to get the idea across, no dialogue is needed. Basil Poledouris' score for the film has to be one of, if not, the greatest score ever composed and it plays an integral part in creating the rich emotional landscape of John Milius' epic film. Conan the barbarian is a film I saw when I was very young, and through the years as I have gotten a little older and wiser the film has gotten richer and more rewarding with each subsequent viewing.
This is a film of great resonance and subtlety. Most audiences today cannot appreciate a film that requires a bit of deep thinking, but this is one of the rare films that is even more rewarding if you look beneath the surface.
In an age of Xena-esque fantasy adventure films (al la the tepid Scorpion King) It is startling to go back and see just how good this movie still is. "Conan" is not for the faint of heart, and not just for gore - there are far more bloody movies out there - but for the uncompromising warrior-ethos John Milius infused into his vision. There is nothing PC about this fantasy world. When he is asked "what is best in life?" Conan paraphrases Genghis Khan: "Crush your enemies, see them driven before you, and hear the lamentations of their women!" We are not led to believe he is kidding. It is true that Arnold is no great actor, but it is also true he has always stuck with parts he can handle, and he does a fine job as Conan, but the real star here is the director. John Milius is one of the greats, totally unappreciated in his time, and his sweeping scope and epic, gritty battle sequences add a dimension lacking from almost every other S&S film. There is a grim aura of doom pervading the movie that fits the original Howard stories to a T, and I think Robert E Howard would have really liked this movie. James Earl Jones gives a killer performance as the evil Thulsa Doom, rivalling Darth Vader himself. A last point in this film's favor is the score. Basil Poledouris turned out his best score ever for this film: Brooding, powerful and operatic, it lends the film a grandeur Hercules could only dream of. I must have seen this film 40 times and I still never get tired of it.
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. ****
I have a soft spot in my heart for this movie, being that this is one
of the first movies I can remember seeing. As I grew up I never stopped
enjoying this movie and could come away with something new every time I
watched it (now around 50+ times). The movie is multi-layered. On one
level there is the action (which is very graphic). There is also
philosophical layer (why am i here ?? that which doesn't kill you....).
Mix that in with some wonderful cinematography (filmed in Spain) and
very appropriately accompanied by dark, serious, foreboding music (by
Basil Poledouris - who also did the music for Hunt for Red October) and
you get the ultimate action movie (that is more than just an action
movie - its the thinking man's action movie).
Conan is based on the work of Robert E. Howard. Howard once described writing the Conan stories (which were published in Weird Tales) as this : At sunset, he could feel the presence of Conan coming into his room, looming over him and compelling or forcing him to write the stories. The movie captures the spirit of Conan, as portrayed in the stories. He is one who has lived a harsh existence, yet endures. He has been everything from a barbarian, to a swashbuckler, to a soldier, to a thief, to a general and eventually to even king. He is considered a barbarian by all the people he meets, include those considered to be "civilized". Conan plays by his own rules and morals. Even though he kills, he does so in much the same way a tiger eats its prey. At the same time, he displays more humanity, mercy and honor than most of the civilized world. This movie is perfect in the above respects. John Milius (the director and co-writer) does an excellent job along with Oliver Stone (co-writer) in getting the feel of the stories into the movie world. Schwarzenegger is cast perfectly in the role of Conan. I don't think anyone else would have been able to pull it off as well as he could have and still kept the role in the way it was meant to be. Conan does not say much, but when he does you better listen because it is important. Along with Schwarzenegger, the rest of the cast does a brilliant job to support the story. James Earl Jones is wickedly evil and Mako is perfect as the reluctant sorcerer.
There are so many wonderful scenes that stick out in my mind. So many in fact that you should go out and see the movie for yourself (make sure you get the special edition DVD since it has extra footage and a great making of with all the cast including Schwarzenegger). By far my two favorite scenes/sequences of the movie are : 1) Prior to the battle in the desert, Conan says a little prayer to his god, Crom. This prayer embodies everything that Conan stands for. WHAT A PRAYER !!!. 2) The sequence thats starts from Conan's return to the Tower of Power to confront Thulsa Doom all the way to the end. It is wrought with meaning and some great cinematography. This movie is an absolute must see. 10/10
I think this is the best sword and magic / fantasy movie ever made. Unlike the second Conan movie (the destroyer, which was a huge disappointment) this is dark, dirty, violent (with the harsh way) and most of all faithful to the original Conan by Howard. By that i mean that conan wasn't a joker and babyoiled coverboy like in the sequel. Only part of the movie that i weren't content about was the childhood of conan, the part where he grows up spinning some goddamn wheel of fortune, Howard specifically points in many novels that Conan was grown free in the Cimmeria. Despite the this awkward transition to skip the childhood of Conan this still is the best fantasy movie ever made.
This is one of my top-ten favorite movies of all time. It's quite easy
dismiss this film based on its genre (barbarian slash-em-up) and the
acting ability of the star (Schwarzenegger), but Conan is nothing short
Ok, the story is fairly standard, and the principal actors (Schwarzenegger, Sandahl Bergman & Gerry Lopez) are competent but not outstanding. There are a few brief but memorable performances from James Earl Jones and Max von Sydow that help lend weight to the film, but the real stars are Poledouris' score and the cinematography. I have never seen a more beautifully-shot film in my life. The costumes, props and art direction are all top-notch. They could take all of the dialog out of the movie, and just have the music and pictures and it would still be worth watching.
To fully appreciate Conan, though, you have to watch it and then watch another barbarian-type film from any era (Beastmaster, Krull, etc.) and the difference will be stunning.
This is really an amazing movie! It is so passionate and intense. It all
feels so genuine as well.
During my childhood this was my all-time favorite! From an adult (25) perspective, his movie is as damn amazing as I remember. Thee story and dialog are really damn good. There are so many classic scenes. I got my girlfriend to watch it. She was convinced it was going to be a stupid Arnold muscle movie (it seems almost everyone thinks this) but she loved it.
It's such a change to see such an un-ironic passionate movie. I can't see a movie like this being made today. The nudity and violence were great and added realism without ever being flatly gratuitous.
Don't see Destroyer though, that was absolutely awful.
It took a long time for Robert E Howard's wonderful creation to make it to the big screen,and the result is something of a mixture.Some of Conan is very impressive,with the atmosphere of Howard's writing perfectly captured on screen,but some of the film is badly misjudged,with daft moments,botched action,and an uneven performance from schwarzenneger.He looks the part but in some scenes comes across as a muscle bound buffoon.Something the literary hero definitely wasn't.The story is ok,apart from having Conan spend half his life chained to the wheel of pain!But it's a dissapointing script,considering greats Milius and Oliver Stone wrote it.There are some excellent sequences in the film though,that are beautifully photographed.The opening attack on conans village is impressive,and Conans encounter with a weird witch is pretty good.But best of all is the orgy sequence,where the action,sets,and music blend together perfectly.It's like a Frank Frazetta painting come to life!The climactic battle of the mounds is ok,but it's all over far to quickly.The film does look good with some gorgeous photography,and set design.Best of all though,is the music by Basil Poledouris.This is an absolutely stunning score,that really captures the savage world of Conan.I'll stick my neck out and say that it's the best film soundtrack ever composed!General Cromwell,over and out.
This is a great movie. One of Arnold's classics and one of the best, unique movies to come out of the early 80s. The movie doesn't even come close to the grandeur of the books written by Robert E. Howard after the turn of the century though. If only there was a director out there who could read a book all the way through and see the unbelievable stories in the original Conan books, they could make a fortune. Of course it would be hard to find the muscle bound, intelligent barbarian the books portrayed though.
Conan the Barbarian is one of those films that just shouldn't work on
paper, but somehow ends up not only working, but becoming a classic.
Everything is right here thanks to Milius unashamed
bigger-than-life-direction. He takes him serious and dares to go far
enough with the grandness, something few directors would dare do today
for fear of being labeled pretentious.
Combine this with probably the best film score EVER written, and you have movie magic. Basil Poledouris score is such a classic that every other composer has ripped it off a thousand times, and rightly so. It's the granddaddy of Wagnerian tour-de-force scoring.
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