Sunday, May 29, 2011

Conan the barbarian 1982

Well, after probably more than twenty years, I actually sat down and watched 1982's Conan the Barbarian from start to finish. I accomplished this by swearing to myself that I would just watch it as a movie, without cataloging the inaccuracies of the film compared to Robert E. Howard's creation. For the most part I was successful, though a few things still grated. I came away thinking that my problem with the film is less the movie itself and more the repercussions it has caused for the character of Conan. All the time that I and others have expended explaining why this isn't Conan as he was created.
In fact, had the movie been called Zargon the Barbarian, I probably would have liked it in the same way I like Sinbad movies or Peplums. Thing is, there's not much reason to call this movie Conan. There are a few nods to Howard's stories, the crucifixion being the stand out, but really it's the John Milius show all the way and the movie is a mishmash of Nietzscheian philosophy, quotes from Genghis Khan, and other manly man tropes. Nothing wrong with that. I'm an admirer of many of the films Milius wrote, co-wrote, or directed. It just isn't Conan.
But anyway, rather than dwell on what I didn't like, let me mention a few things I did. I liked the fight in the caves below Thulsa Doom's palace, especially Valeria's running battle as she and her comrades were trying to escape. Her fight was better than Conan's really. (Though I must admit to being totally mystified how anyone found Sandahl Bergman attractive.)
I liked the big battle at the end. I liked Mako's character, the wizard. I was amused by Jame's Earl Jones' portrayal of the aging Thulsa Doom as a sociopathic flower child.
So do I still hate the movie? No. Do I like the movie? No. I doubt I'll ever watch it again. I think I came away with a little better idea of why so many other people like the film, though. It has a certain something. Anyway, I watched it. Now I can move on.

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