Conan the Barbarian Reviews

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Super Reviewer
½ March 9, 2013
The first film to get Arnie on the way to the man he is today, and the first of three very similar fantasy flicks. Based on a pulp comic character from the 30's this film franchise turned the idea on its head and into a cult spanning many different formats and influencing other fantasy films, it also helped some videogames along the way.

The plot is simple, Conan is taken from his family who have been conveniently killed by a band of nasty warriors dressed in black. He is put into slavery and made to do hard labour for the rest of his foreseeable future. The torturous slavery makes Conan big and strong despite the apparent lack of decent food, nutrients, fishfingers or milk. He eventually is sold into gladiatorial fighting where he becomes a brilliant battler and swordsman and wins his freedom. From there on he's off to avenge his families death, as you do.

Obvious premise but its an old film folks. Yes the film is old, back in 82 things were different, what you see now when watching is a horribly cliched, predictable, hammy, semi cheap looking mess, but back then it was fresh...ish. All the bad guys wear black and look a bit camp with their wigs and handlebar moustaches, you wonder why exactly these groups of bad guys always attack and kill helpless useless peasants, what's in it for them? why they always leave one kid alive to grow up and take revenge on them?? and what is James Earl Jones character actually up to? what's his goal? his plans? why do all those people follow him? etc...

Yeah I know I'm being picky, it matters not really, the film is old and all these barbarian films are pretty much the same, its all about the spectacle and fantasy right. This first film is definitely more adult than the rest, lots of blood splashing about with limbs being hacked off...good stuff. Yet despite that there isn't too much action really, more character development surprisingly and what action there is has some nice effects too, nice snake work and some nice animated spirits also.

To be honest I've actually always preferred the original 'Beastmaster' film over Conan. There a few nice moments in this but really its pretty tepid, if only 'The Beastmaster' starred Arnie. And what the hell was that huge wheel thing Conan pushes for half his life suppose to be? a mill? a well? or merely for torture? a plan that backfired for Thulsa Doom methinks.

In the end the final teasing image and narration about King Conan is actually far more interesting and intriguing than the film that preceded it.
Super Reviewer
January 18, 2007
oddly, I almost feel as if this film has improved with age. It has a haunting atmosphere and is set in a perfect fantasy like world. I would have loved a fuller, longer franchise of these films to see what other sorts of adventures the characters would have explored. solid action.
Super Reviewer
August 27, 2011
John Millius' action fantasy film Conan the Barbarian is a thrilling film. The film has its imperfections, which I will get into in just a moment, but for the most part the film is very exciting and is pure fun, if you can forgive its flaws. The films weakness is in the dialogue delivery, and some bits of the dialogue are very cheesy, but in the end, who cares? Conan the Barbarian is a fun action fantasy film based on the comic book character of the same name. The film steadily builds up to a terrific action packed climax. The film story is interesting, but it does lack a bit of substance. However it makes up for it with the action scenes. Conan the Barbarian is a flawed film, but it's also the type of film that you need to shut off your brain to enjoy. If you get past the somewhat cheesy dialogue and ridiculous scenes, then you might actually enjoy this. Conan the Barbarian is meant to be a mindless action film, and it most certainly is that. The film has a comic book feel that comes across very nicely and this is a fine action film. The film lacks effective dialogue, but the film makes up for it with an interesting storyline. John Mlius' directing keeps the film moving at a steady pace, and keeps you interested for the first hour of the film due to stunning visuals, and the story itself. Many viewers have stated that the story is almost nonexistent However, I beg to differ, and I think that the story though not very elaborate still has some merit. For all its faults, Conan the Barbarian is an action classic. This film is the type of action picture that you need to simply shut off your mind to enjoy to the film boasts some impressive action sequences and John Milius has crafted a fine action film based on the Pulp comic character. A fun ride.
Super Reviewer
October 1, 2010
Although it may have the classic 80's feel and the bloody action is very impressive for it's time, the story seems a little unoriginal and the outcome is very cliche. The acting here is very average and the characters are hard to believe. As Conan is on a trail with two partners to rescue a kings daughter, they seem to find many troubles along the way. To me they just seem like excuses to make an action sequence; However, the action is cool to watch and as cliche as it may be, the story is not unwatchable. It is definitely just another average action/adventure flick but I had some fun with it. Conan: The Barbarian is easily forgettable.
Super Reviewer
May 7, 2011
Conan the Barbarian plays almost like a silent film. It's got a loud, booming, choir orchestra playing through the entire picture. There's barely any dialogue. The entire film moves sluggishly through scene after scene, this soundtrack loudly playing. It pauses briefly to allow for some inept dialogue that doesn't enhance anything about the story before carrying on. The music isn't particularly good either. It never once sets the mood or tone for the scene. Instead, it makes the film play out like an extended music video for the Symphony Orchestra.
My biggest problem with this film is that it isn't really about anything. There's some talk of Conan's plot to revenge the death of his family. However, the film incoherently follows Conan's life as if it were some kind of epic. But the casting of Arnold Schwarzennegger is perfect only in a physical sense, not in the actor's range to communicate any emotion. Yes, I know it's an Arnold movie, and character depth is secondary to violence, but.....there's barely even any action. And the action is severely dated; poorly choreographed with obvious continuity errors and actors throwing blood packs on themselves. The film attempts to be more of a pulp epic fantasy but only turns out to be an epic failure.
The script contains the biggest screenwriting flaw in that a narrator recites the entire film. Why? It doesn't create any sense of a legend or mythology for the character. It distances us so much from what is going on that it is impossible to care about anything that happens. Laughable sex scenes, painstakingly long scenes of characters doing nothing, no character depth, and no plot. It actually takes over forty five minutes just to set up the so called revenge narrative. There is nothing of value in this movie.
Super Reviewer
July 3, 2007
Robert E Howard is often credited with inventing the sword and sorcery genre with the introduction of one of the all-time great fantasy characters, Conan the Barbarian. This was way back in the early 1930s. Writer Karl Wagner describes sword and sorcery as, "...a fascinating synthesis of horror, adventure, and imagination...the common motif is a universe in which magic works and an individual may kill according to his personal code." The atmosphere of sword and sorcery is charged with violence, darkness, sexuality, and supernatural perils. The themes of the stories often reach deep into the abyss of cosmic horror and dread. It takes quite a hero to stride undaunted and undeterred across this landscape!

In the early 1980s Conan got his first film. It launched Arnold Schwarzenegger's career. It was a brilliant film, flawed, but it soared above its flaws. It has been often imitated since then, yet most of those efforts failed miserably.

Why do imitation films fail in this genre? Because they focus on the half-naked babes, the half-naked muscle bound (and often angry) hero, the violent fights, the wizards with special effects at their fingertips, as if this were enough. But they fail to capture the fundamental and necessary element of the genre - a subtle atmosphere of the supernatural and the uncanny. There must be a credible, ever-present but not over-done supernatural theme pervading the setting. The darkness, the pathos, the sense of horror necessary for the genre entered for a few moments of the film. The witch, the wizard, the evil priest of the snake cult, the cultist's suicide, the scene where the spirits are trying to steal Conan's soul, the occasional banter about the gods, the orgy...all of these elements capture the proper atmosphere. The sorcery is not overblown, nor is it all about special effects. Few S&S movies get this right. Conan the Barbarian shows how it is done.

There are a few issues with the movie that will bother Conan purists but all in all, I imagine Robert Howard would be happy with this Conan. A few of the scenes were right out of his stories - the crucifixion tree, the ghostly help from a dead girlfriend, gigantic snakes, thieves climbing a mysterious tower. Sadly missing are the monstrous man-apes, or unnatural creatures summoned out of the abyss by sorcerers, both of which feature prominently in Conan stories.

The music is awesome, James Earl Jones and Sandahl Bergman are fabulous. And of course Arnold is perfect. I keep hoping for another great Sword and Sorcery movie like this one and there are no contenders as of yet.
Super Reviewer
October 11, 2008
"Valor pleases you Crom, so grant me one request. Grant me revenge."

Not a bad adaptation of the Conan origin story, even if it is somewhat sanitized and less brutal than the source material. Arnold Schwarzenegger and James Earl Jones are improbable, often hilarious, but somehow good fits for the characters of Conan and Thulsa Doom.

Overall, this will probably be worth your time if you're interested. Lots of sword-fighting action, that's for sure.
Super Reviewer
September 6, 2010
A nice epic battle adventure fantasy movie, I liked it for the most part, but overall it could have been a lot better, especially the story could have been clearer. Overall, it's okay, though.
Super Reviewer
April 28, 2010
Ok, it's not a great film but it is my most guilty of pleasures. Pure 80's cheese, and I'm not ashamed to declare my love for it. So bad it's fucking brilliant territory!
Super Reviewer
June 14, 2006
When it comes to sword and sorcery films it still doesn't get much better than the first "Conan" film. Surely, it's dumb at times, has a few lousy dialogs and tacky sequences. But the rest is near-perfect. The atmosphere, the characters, the fights, the settings and cinematography, it all has a very special feel to it and makes for a really enjoyable and rewatchable fantasy experience. The story is actually a lot more complex than it is getting credit for. And Basil Poledouris' soundtrack is one of the most fitting and beautiful ones ever written.
Super Reviewer
December 24, 2007
I found this film to be pretty damn mediocre and very boring for the most part. Red Sonja was more fun to watch than this.
Super Reviewer
November 17, 2009
Arnold Schwarzenegger doing what he does best, crushing human beings with his bare hands and stabbing giant snakes. This is a great adaption, even though it strayed away from the source material. It kept true to the essence of Conan's character which is the most important thing. The sets and look of the film is amazing, complete attention to detail. The action sequences were done brutally, yet not overdone. It's a great epic and I love that it was told so gracefully, the viewer isn't overcrowded with meaningless exposition and pointless side characters.
Super Reviewer
March 26, 2007
"Conan, what is best in life?"
"To crush your enemies, see them driven before you, and to hear the lamentation of their women!"
Super Reviewer
July 20, 2007
ah-nold brings to life the uncanny cimmerian, awash in a world of no mercy and bloodlust!! zowie! i always wanted to talk that way!
Super Reviewer
June 27, 2007
The first Conan movie was a fine work of art. Probably Arnold Schwarzenegger's most-suited role. The story follows Conan from a young boy to becoming his own King. His parents are killed by the snake cult invading his village and he is enslaved. He would grow to become the greatest heroes of the land, and powerful enough to take on the snake cult to get his deserved revenge. It was set on another world, but could have easily be set on ancient Earth. The settings are mostly rough deserts. I loved the Basil Poledouris music; very tribal. The orchestral choir when Conan's village is attacked is perfect. This movie is a nice escape. We watched this repeatedly as kids; it feuled our Dungeons & Dragons sessions in the early 80's.
Super Reviewer
½ June 21, 2007
Super Reviewer
June 18, 2007
A classic and one of Arnie's earlier films. This is all muscles and swordplay as he seeks revenge for what happened to him and his people as a boy. A great fantasy adventure.
Super Reviewer
May 13, 2007
One of Schwarzenegger's best films.
Super Reviewer
½ December 27, 2006
A great action fantasy film.
Super Reviewer
December 24, 2006
This swords and sorcery comic book epic is strangely slow paced and thoughtful, concentrating more on surreal imagery and mysticism than action. To this day, I still don't really know what to make of it!
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