Conan the Barbarian is a 1982 fantasy adventure directed by John Milius. The legend himself – Arnold Schwarzenegger – is the titular Conan the Barbarian. The supporting cast includes James Earl Jones as the evil sorcerer Thulsa Doom with Max von Sydow and Sandhal Bergman. What some may consider to be a cult classic, I consider to be better off forgotten.
I love a good sword and sandal movie and this checks all the boxes on paper. Kick-ass action star in his prime? Check. Villain with a great voice and eerie presence? Check. Culpable amounts of violence with iffy stunts and rubber props? Check and check. These are the ingredients required for a mildly enjoyable early 80s action flick. But it’s not the 80s anymore and this movie shows its age in tremendous fashion.
Clocking in at just over 2 hours, Conan the Barbarian is overrun with long stretches of time where it’s just non-stop violence for several scenes. It’s not even particularly good violence because it’s still trapped in the old ways of filming such things. The dialogue is sparse and ham-fisted in a way that is only acceptable BECAUSE it’s an 80s movie. Punctuating the violence are random demons, paper mache snakes, and topless scenes that are inserted to reel in a more general audience.
What little story there is feels like it was adapted straight out of a poorly written comic book (oh wait, it was). The best part of the entire movie was in the end credits where Arnold is sitting on a throne as Conan the Conqueror while a tribal drum beats over the crawl. The performances by the main cast were eyebrow-raising at best. The focus belongs on the action and the overarching story, as any intimate moment was doomed from the start.
Conan the Barbarian is worth watching if you’re willing to stomach a couple of hours of absurdity and aren’t afraid of rubbery fight scenes. Fans of Schwarzenegger know what they’re signing up for, but more general movie watchers might have cause for complaint.
Cast and Crew
Directed by: John Milius
Studio: Universal Pictures
Starring: Arnold Schwarzenegger, James Earl Jones, Max von Sydow, Sandahl Bergman