Some reviews of the Milius' movie
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Registration date : 2007-08-28
|Subject: Some reviews of the Milius' movie Thu 12 Jun - 4:07|| |
CONAN THE BARBARIAN (1982)
Comments: What, more Arnold!? Yes, indeedy. After a couple of false starts to his cinematic career (which we will, in due course, be examining here), Arnold established himself as a "star" (if not necessarily as an actor) by taking the lead role in Conan The Barbarian. The film itself is a surprisingly well-made fantasy-epic. It was both extremely successful in its own right, and enormously influential. The sword ‘n’ sandal film, which became popular after the release of The Labours Of Hercules in 1957 and died away a decade later, was revived in the wake of Conan, but with a new twist: the sword ‘n’ sorcery film was born. In America, the first cab off the rank was The Sword And The Sorcerer, which was released the same year as Conan, and which unleashed Albert Pyun upon an unsuspecting world. This was followed by the inevitable Conan sequel, Conan The Destroyer; further Howard adaptations in Red Sonja and Kull The Conqueror; odd co-productions such as Hundra and Wizards Of The Lost Kingdom; and the Beastmaster and Deathstalker series. Meanwhile, Italy came to the party with the Ator series, and some other legendary clunkers including Yor, The Hunter From The Future. What distinguishes Conan The Barbarian from most of these imitations is not its acting, which is truly not that much better here than elsewhere; nor its plot, which is perfunctory; nor its special effects, which are nothing special; but the absolute seriousness with which it is treated by its makers. (Well, let’s face it: neither John Milius nor Oliver Stone is exactly known for his sense of humour, is he?) The majority of the sword 'n' sorcery knock-offs that followed chose to take a lead from The Sword And The Sorcerer, and play their material for camp. Conan, on the other hand, is handled like high art. This dead-straight seriousness could have turned the entire project into a debacle, but miraculously, it worked. Conan The Barbarian is long for a film of its type, and that it never drags is a credit to its writers and director. A lot of thought and care (and money) went into the making of this movie, and it shows. The result is, if not a great film, then an exciting and bloody spectacle with a welcome sense of grandeur.
One of the biggest flaws in Conan The Barbarian is the character of Conan himself. He simply isn’t very interesting. He undergoes no change – unless starting out mad and getting madder counts as "change". He grows physically, but not spiritually. He develops as a warrior, but not as a human being. Of course, it is entirely possible that this is exactly what John Milius intended. Perhaps it is Conan’s very simplicity and single-mindedness that in the director’s opinion, marks him for greatness. The film does in fact radiate a love of "when men were men" (and women were "breeding stock"); there is an almost wistful longing for a time when people solved their problems not by talking, but by hacking at each other with swords until one of them died. At this Conan does excel; the difficulty for the viewer is translating that ability into a belief in Conan’s "greatness". Schwarzenegger’s woodenness is a major liability here. It is clear that John Milius chose his cast for their physical attributes, not their thespian qualities; and on the whole this was a wise move, as the frequent fight scenes are brutally convincing. However, when his characters are finally called upon to speak, we have a problem. Conan, this king in the making, this leader of men, has about thirty lines of dialogue in the whole two-hour film – and two of those are exclamations of, "Crom!" (Another whole two are directed at Conan’s great love, Valeria, when they first meet. After the pair become lovers, he never speaks to her.) Arnold may – hell, does – look the part, but when he opens his mouth, it’s hard not to wince. Milius’ decision to restrict his dialogue was wise, but it makes it difficult for the viewer to see Conan as anything more than a killing machine. In an effort to overcome this, we are given told from the outset (and again later in the film) that Conan will become a king "by his own hand". The wizard who narrates the story refers to Conan throughout as "my master" – if a wizard’s serving him, he must be great, right? And when Conan suffers a tragic loss late in the film, it is his loyal companion, Subotai, who cries – "because he will not". And so on it goes, all of it intended to convince the audience of Conan’s less tangible qualities, but on the whole falling short of the intended mark. Less successful still is our brief, narrated glimpse of Conan’s training. That he became adept at the martial arts we can believe, but when we are further told that he was given access to "language and writing", to "poetry and philosophy"---well, it all becomes a bit difficult to swallow; unless, that is, the "philosophy" he was taught was "if you can’t say something nice, don’t say anything at all".
Okay, now I’m going to say something I truly never expected to say when I set out to review this film. Do you know what I really enjoyed about Conan The Barbarian? Sandahl Bergman. Honestly! My only previous experience of Bergman as an "actress" was in Red Sonja, a film in every way grossly inferior to this one, and my memories of her were not very kind. Imagine my surprise when her Valeria turned out to be one of the brightest spots in this production. Cast, like Schwarzenegger, for her athleticism (she was a professional dancer before turning to acting), Bergman nevertheless gives an enthusiastic, if not particularly skilled performance. Valeria is smart, strong, and good at her job. (Okay, so her job is being a thief. In this world, that’s practically honourable.) She can match the men in her handling of a sword, and displays an iron-nerve at every step. She and Conan are partners, equals, not merely lovers. (Interestingly, we get the same sense of equality in the brief glimpse we are given of Conan’s parents – an odd touch, perhaps, in a story that sees women generally dismissed as breeders, sex objects, or mere pawns in the manoeuvring of men.) When their brief idyll is brought to an end by Conan’s acceptance of King Osric’s mission, she first tries to talk him out of it. When this fails, and he leaves her, she follows him anyway, and saves his life when his abortive attempt to infiltrate Thulsa Doom’s cult ends in his crucifixion. When Conan lies close to death, Valeria swears to him that nothing can separate them; that if he needed her, she would return to him even from beyond the grave - a promise which, in due time, she keeps. In short – she’s way too good for him. Now, I don’t want to oversell Bergman’s contribution here. Her acting isn’t much better than Arnold’s; but still, it’s effective. And unlike Arnold, Bergman has to deal with dialogue – Valeria is a lot chattier than either of her male comrades (which isn’t saying much, granted). While her delivery leaves a bit to be desired, she does get some memorable lines, such as her initial encounter with Conan ("Do you know what horrors lie beyond that wall?" "No." "Then you can go first!"), and her attempt to talk him out of his quest ("All my life I have been alone. Many times I have faced death with no-one to know…."). If only she'd spent one less week working with the swordmaster while preparing for this film, and one more week working with the dialogue director---well, we might have really had something.
What acting chops this film has lie elsewhere – first of all, with Max von Sydow as King Osric. Von Sydow’s appearance is little more than a glorified cameo, but he makes the most of it, sitting almost without moving and letting his effortlessly-delivered dialogue sweep over his muscle-bound co-stars. The real star of Conan The Barbarian, however – and the film’s biggest problem – is James Earl Jones as Thulsa Doom. Jones towers over this film like a colossus, his acting ability and his charisma – and that wonderful voice - combining to create an unforgettable character – and to throw the production completely off-balance. Doom is by far the most interesting thing about this story; and frankly, I would rather have spent more time with him, and less with Conan & Co. Conan may be a one-note character, but Doom is not. When we first see him, he is the leader of a band of brigands who pillage the countryside and deal in slavery. When he appears next, he is the head of a new and powerful movement (which is called a "cult", not a "religion", so we know it’s bad), and possessed of magical powers. How did he get from one extreme to the other? Did he always have such powers? (It’s possible that he did: in the opening scene, Doom effectively hypnotises Conan’s mother into standing still and letting him kill her.) How has his cult grown from "just another snake cult", to have spread across the land? Is it Doom’s powers alone that draw his followers to him, or is there more to it? Questions such as these nag at the viewer, no matter how much the screenplay struggles to deflect attention from them. A significant moment comes when King Osric describes the loss of his daughter, and he mourns that, "There comes a time when the jewels cease to sparkle – when the gold loses its lustre – when the throne-room becomes a prison." It never occurs to him, or course, that it may have been precisely this feeling that drove his daughter to Thulsa Doom. Instead he complains that, "She seeks for the truth of her soul – as if I could not give it to her!" Well, Osric, obviously you couldn’t.
(to be continued)
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|Subject: Re: Some reviews of the Milius' movie Thu 12 Jun - 4:07|| |
Unsurprisingly, the threat to Osric’s daughter is ultimately couched in sexual terms – "She is to be his!" – which shies away from the issue of her needs being spiritual rather than physical.
Indeed, spiritual matters generally are not handled very respectfully in Conan The Barbarian, which implies - not to put too fine a point on it - that religion is for wussies. Conan’s relationship with his god, the subterranean Crom, seems more like something you’d find in a buddy picture than that of worshipper and idol. "Valour pleases you, Crom, so grant me this one request: grant me revenge!" Conan famously prays at one point. "And if you do not listen, then the HELL with you!" Similarly, the wizard's dealings with the spirits of the plain are also couched in terms of quid pro quo. "Do the spirits owe you any favours?" Valeria demands of him, as she and Subotai fight to save Conan's life. The wizard paints Conan's skin with magical symbols (shades of Kwaidan), but when the spirits do arrive, it is not these symbols that save him, but the courage and strength of the two thieves, who literally fight them off. This is a world where the mystical can be conquered by anyone who can handle a sword or throw a punch. Conversely, Thulsa Doom's followers, who do worship, who do seek something beyond the merely temporal, are depicted as helpless and delusional. Their spiritual questing is foolishness at best; at worst, a weakness to be exploited - which the power-hungry Doom proceeds to do. A certain ambiguity enters the story here, as it is not entirely clear whether the cultists are drawn and controlled by Doom’s magical powers, or simply by the force of his personality – the latter a distinct possibility. Whatever the ultimate cause, Doom’s own motives are clear enough: his megalomania feeds upon his followers’ subjection.
When a woman commits suicide at Doom’s mere word ("Come to me, my child," he says gently to a woman standing upon a ledge above him, and she instantly does, very directly), it is as frightening as it is convincing – and was even more so, I imagine, at the time when this film was released. Only four years earlier, the world sat stunned at the revelations of the Jonestown massacre, when 913 people died in a mass murder-suicide at the command of their leader, Jim Jones. Doom’s cult, marked by both cannibalism and willing human sacrifice, is certainly intended to echo its real-life counterpart.
The film boasts three showdowns between Conan and Doom, each fascinating in its own right. The first comes when Conan, unwisely ignoring the pleas and arguments of his companions, sets out alone to infiltrate the cult, and gives himself away by flashing one of the relics stolen from the Tower of the Serpent. Savagely beaten, Conan ends up at Doom's feet, spitting accusations (and blood) at him over the fate of his people. (JEJ gets a classic moment here: as Doom listens to Conan, his expression changes not to one of guilt or shame, but rather dawning enlightenment. Ohhhh, that's who you are!) Doom's response to Conan's transgressions against himself (and more on that subject later) is to have him nailed to the Tree of Woe, where he can think about what he's done - and, presumably, die. Valeria and Subotai have other ideas, however, and when Conan has recovered from his injuries, the three of them break into Doom's stronghold (one of the film's truly great sequences), and successfully re-capture Osric's daughter. It is during their escape that Valeria is fatally injured (Doom turns a venomous snake into an arrow), and soon afterwards, Doom himself comes after Conan, who must save the princess from meeting the same fate as Valeria. After this, Doom sends his men to finish off the barbarian and his companion, leading to a climactic set-piece that is simply astonishing, as Conan and Subotai ("Two stood against many," Conan prays to Crom) must do battle against overwhelming odds. This scene is suspenseful, exciting, wonderfully choreographed and horrendously bloody. (It also features our final, brief glimpse of Valeria, as she fulfills her oath.) Conan is left standing at the end, but only just. We cannot wonder that Doom is somewhat surprised to see him when, with the help of the repentant princess, Conan confronts the cult leader once more as he addresses his followers. This scene, as much as any other, encapsulates the film's main theme, as Doom tries to reason his way out of the situation, calling Conan "my son. For who is your father if not I?" he asks, arguing that it is hatred of him, the desire for revenge, that has shaped Conan's life and made him what he is. Unfortunately for Doom, Conan - like the film itself - has little patience with philosophical debate. Although for one brief moment it seems as if Doom's powers will control Conan as they did his mother, the sword is soon in the barbarian's hand; and we discover, in graphic fashion, that Doom was wrong: steel is stronger than flesh....
Perhaps the thing that stands out most about Conan The Barbarian, when seen from this distance, is that it is not a film for children. It is full of brutal violence, copious bloodshed, gratuitous nudity, and sex scenes, including an orgy. (Not a very convincing orgy, but it's there.) In contrast, most of the imitations that followed it opted for a more "family" approach, with broad humour and bloodless fights abounding. (The gratuitous boob shot hung around for quite a while longer, however.) In keeping with this shift in focus, the "sorcery" part of the designation began to predominate over the "sword", with special effects (a great many of them extremely lame) becoming fore-grounded. In contrast, Conan strives for a sense of relative realism, with the magic scenes and special effects kept strictly to the margins. No doubt this was a conscious choice, but there is also a feeling that John Milius was not as comfortable with these scenes as he was with those of violence. (In fact, you get the impression that Milius' philosophy is remarkably close to Conan's own: when you've got a sword in your hand, why bother with that namby-pamby magic stuff?) A woman transforms during sex, first into a wolf-demon, then into a fireball; we never know why. A giant python glides towards Conan: he kills it, bloodily, before it can do anything. Thulsa Doom turns himself into a snake - how? Why? The arbitrary nature of these scenes does not detract too much from the film as a whole, but they do seem out of place in a production that otherwise projects a thorough sense of purpose. The only other place where this wavers somewhat is with the sketchy depiction of Conan's childhood. Once captured by Thulsa Doom and his men, the boy is chained to some huge (grinding?) wheel; and there, we are left to assume, he spends the next ten or fifteen years of his life - a fairly pointless (and profitless) way for slave traders to run their business, I would have thought. (Another thing we're left to assume is that, offscreen, the young Conan gets to push that darn wheel clockwise every now and then: as an adult, he's not just buffed, but nice and symmetrical.) After becoming a champion fighter, and finishing his training, Conan is given his freedom by his owners (we never do learn why), and sets out on his quest to find his parents' killers. From there the film really gets down to business. As Conan enjoys his first taste of freedom, our narrator worries in voiceover that perhaps, like an animal, he has been kept in captivity too long. The screenplay follows this with some entertaining vignettes of Conan's "re-adjustment", as he marvels at "civilisation", drunkenly punches out a camel (Mel Brooks shoulda sued), and avidly wolfs down meat on a stick that he bought at a market, an act which horrifies his more worldly-wise companion, Subotai. Once Conan gets his first clue to the identity of his parents' killers, however, the film sobers, and produces a string of truly memorable action set-pieces. Also memorable - more than memorable, remarkable - is the film's production design. Meticulously rendered, exquisitely detailed, the look of this film is a pleasure from beginning to end. And there is one more thing about Conan The Barbarian that demands attention, and that is the score by Basil Poledouris. You may not notice it at the time, but a considerable portion of this film's running time is taken up with people walking, running or riding across the desert. That these scenes, far from being dull, seem exciting, imperative, is due to their being backed by Poledouris' most famous work, a sweeping, vaguely Wagnerian mixture of brass and woodwind, drums and chimes, interspersed with soaring choral interludes. With this music thundering out of your speakers, a guy doing nothing more than wandering across a patch of dirt can suddenly seem immeasurably heroic. Hell, listen to this music often enough, and you might feel like taking on a psychotic cult leader or two yourself....
Footnote: If this piece seems overly sympathetic to Thulsa Doom, well, there's a reason. Time to come clean: it's not just JEJ's dominant performance that won me over, but the specifics of his cult. You see, I like snakes. In fact, I love them. (Like Henry Fonda in The Lady Eve: "Snakes are my life!") Of all the bloody scenes in this film, it is Conan's gruesome butchering of Doom's pet python that bothers me the most. John Milius may be contemptuous of Doom's followers, but I understand. I mean, c'mon! - this is a guy who not only surrounds himself with snakes, he can turn himself into one! And he has his very own "Mountain Of Power"! Man, I am so-oo-oo there....
My highlight from this film isn't any of the obvious ones. It's Doom's outraged speech to Conan when the barbarian makes his abortive attempt to infiltrate the cult. Pacing up and down, Doom says bitterly, "You broke into my house - stole my property - murdered my servants - and my pets. And that is what grieves me the most: you killed my snake!!" Amen, bro'! Amen!
|Cromulus The Destroyer|
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|Subject: Re: Some reviews of the Milius' movie Thu 12 Jun - 4:11|| |
Osrics daughter was put under a spell, we only see some of this in the final movie and it isnt altogether coherent. I think with the loss of Stone's magical elements its hard to understand Milius rewrite and final cut up movie(I mentioned this in my Stone script review). So much of the 2nd and 3rd draft was cut from the movie which takes away alot-- and Doom in the movie is nothing more than obsese Black pimp from the 70's pushing drugs and prostitution.
Still the movie is awesome and i love every minute it.
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|Subject: Re: Some reviews of the Milius' movie Thu 12 Jun - 5:50|| |
A NEGATIVE REVIEW:
I'm not sure how I can adequately convey how disappointed I am in Conan the Barbarian. The film was directed and co-written by John Milius, based on Robert E. Howard's pulp stories. Milius wrote the original screenplay for Apocalypse Now. He intended it as a pro-war film. An extreme right-wing conservative, Milius was rejected from the military for his asthma. He's been making up for it ever since. This is the guy who was the inspiration for the John Goodman character in The Big Lebowski and called Francis Ford Coppola "Mein Führer,” intending it as a compliment. The creation of Apocalypse Now was, of course, completely chaotic. George Lucas was briefly involved in the initial conception of the film and wanted it to be a sort of satire of trying to smash an ant with a jackhammer and having the ant win. In the finished product, director Francis Ford Coppola seems to mesh the two influences together. Apocalypse Now is profoundly and absurdly over-the-top. To a satirical extreme. But there is something grizzled, harsh and archetypical about a lot of it as well. Something unironically manly. The movie was a masterpiece.
While I have very little doubt that John Milius has a sense of humor about himself, the comedy in Apocalypse Now was subtle and organic. It didn't have a self-aware, "I'm half-kidding" tone to it. One of the compliments that is frequently paid to Conan the Barbarian is that Milius does not ever go for a camp effect, and the humor is subtle. Well, kind of. The humor in Conan the Barbarian is certainly not what we would think is camp, but it operates like camp. It is distancing Milius from having to treat his creations with complete reverence. There is a scene in the film where a camel spits on Conan and he knocks it out. The scene is humorous because we know that the camel didn't mean to spit on Conan. It doesn't know any better; it's just a camel. When Conan knocks him out, it’s evidence of his inability to effectively rationalize his violent nature. This robs Conan of free agency, and as Milius’ ideal. Or rather, if Conan was a Milius ideal, it shows that Milius doesn't take himself very seriously. Even more problematic is a scene where the villain crucifies Conan to a tree for the vultures (or some ravenous birds) to get him. The image then reminds of the Prometheus myth, and possibly the Christ myth. The implication is that Conan is being punished for giving the world of mortals or commoners the gift of knowledge, fire or salvation, I guess. He's making deity accessible to everyone. This doesn't make any sense in the context of the movie, but never mind that. I'm worried about the part where Conan snaps the necks of these birds with his teeth. More than anything, this scene proves that Milius is winking at us and isn't taking his film completely seriously. I argue that we need to. If Milius is going to reference Christ and Prometheus he has to be able to 1) lend the allusion some sort of relevance and 2) go along with it completely by not having Conan kill any vultures.
And yet, I have to say that the film isn't camp. The Conan universe is dark, grim and joyless. There aren't any characters who are assigned the task of being the comic relief, although there is a Mongolian thief that comes fairly close. The film contrasts with the sequel Conan the Destroyer which was deliberately campy, even going as far as having a giant monster swing Conan around by the legs while the usually non-emotive Schwarzenegger’s eyes widen with terror. That was a fun movie. Conan the Barbarian is a curiously timid thing that doesn't want to leer into over-the-top laughable lunacy, but refuses to become an easily targetable Milius cock opera. The film is neither, whereas Apocalypse Now managed to be both. The best thing in the film is Thulsa Doom, the villain. He's played by James Earl Jones, and seems to get just a smudge more dialogue than Conan, who has close to none. It can't be said that Doom has very much screen time either. But unlike Schwarzenegger's Conan, the time that Doom does have counts. When we first see him, it’s after he raided Conan's village. He gets off his horse and takes off his helmet. He looks at Conan's mother with something that looks like understanding. It's warm and intimate. He then casually lops off her head. The mother reminded me of Irma Raush's idiot village girl in Andrei Rublev. She's a creature whose mind has been turned to mush by a cruel age. She can only exhibit frustration, but not resistance, at the evil Doom.
Doom later becomes the leader of a snake cult. The members of the cult have an aim to become "empty.” Or rather, to become entirely passive and to become shells. Some unusually alert critics have offered that Milius is parodying Christianity or "hippyism" with this cult. Yes, the point is that this cult is bereft of passion and emotion. Christianity is about the elimination of wrath, lust, greed, et cetera: the very things that Nietzsche pointed out make us human. What is the ideal Christian if not disaffected from these emotions and unquestionably obedient to his master? That isn't to say that this cult is non-sexual. There is a remarkable amount of sex; it is just that the sex is entirely disaffected from passion. The tone is best set about two thirds of the way through or so, when we see the inside of Doom's temple and walk in on an orgy. Everyone is having sex, but it's a slow, leisurely type of sex. I realize that the sexual element of the snake cult is more "hippy" then Christian. It's "free love" without guilt or connection. Pleasure here is pursued very much for its own sake, the cult members lost in their haze of peace of mind. I'm reminded of Pasolini's The Gospel According to St. Matthew, the Christ character speaking and acting without inflection. It is at this point that we see Doom turn into a serpent. There aren't any special effects in this sequence. It is done completely through editing. The effect is remarkable. Pasolini used this same approach towards the miracles in The Gospel According to St. Matthew, and the results have a similarly minimalist nonchalance to them. The transformation is not really commented on, and I think Milius knows that if he were to do so, the power of the sequence would be greatly diminished. The serpent is very obviously a phallic symbol and the agent of original sin. It could not be any other sort of cult but a snake cult, as the presence of the snake provides for a highly explicit sensuality. Sex is foremost on the mind when conjuring up memories of the temple. In one of the film’s most disturbing scenes, Doom explains to Conan how power achieved through violence is inferior to his own methods: "Steel isn't strong boy, flesh is stronger! Look around you. There, on the rocks; that beautiful girl. Come to me my child..." She obeys him and falls to her death. "That is strength, boy! That is power! What is steel compared to the hand that wields it?" The point of course is that Doom believes that true power comes from destroying the will of your opponent, which is the said evil of the pacifism of Christianity. The raw power of this scene, however, comes from seeing a beautiful girl unthinkingly and willfully give herself to the will of Doom. Combined with the murder of Conan's mother, this scene seems to suggest a powerful and uncontrollable sexual power through Doom. It's hard not to imagine an off-screen personal harem for him, after witnessing these casually arrogant demonstrations of his influence. James Earl Jones is not typically thought of for his sex appeal, but here it is extremely apparent. This is one of the best and most exciting performances that I have ever seen. To think that it is in the very place where you wouldn't imagine looking for it.
(TO BE CONTINUED)
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|Subject: Re: Some reviews of the Milius' movie Thu 12 Jun - 5:51|| |
After his family is murdered, Conan was sold into slavery. He worked on the Wheel of Pain, presumably grinding grain, and developed into Arnold Schwarzenegger. At that point he's taken off wheel detail and becomes a gladiator. As a gladiator we are told that "he finally knew who he was.” Conan was then created by Doom; he gained his identity and his strength by Doom's hand. At the end of his "flesh is stronger” speech, Doom tells Conan this: "Look at the strength in your body, the desire in your heart, I gave you this! Such a waste." With James Earl Jones as the villain, this line facilitates a connection with Star Wars. The father figure is attempting to turn over his nemesis, the son. Both are gods as opposed to men. The strength in his body, the desire in his heart, have all made him into a being superior to mortal man. The film is preceded by Nietzsche’s "What doesn't kill me, makes me stronger." Conan has spent more time not being killed than most. At their final showdown Doom argues this to Conan: "My child, you have come to me, my son. For who now is your father if it is not me? I am the wellspring, from which you flow. When I am gone, you will have never been. What would your world be, without me? My son." Conan chops off Doom's head and throws it down the steps towards his followers. They then adopt Conan as their new leader. The ending is said to mirror the ending of Apocalypse Now. In that film the execution of Kurtz by Williard implies that Williard has achieved the same state of mind as Kurtz. He has become Kurtz. However, as Doom is Conan's figurative father, there is much more to this execution. I do not feel that this battle is Oedipal. Conan is not fulfilling a destiny in taking Doom's place. Rather it reminds me of how the Gods destroyed their creators the Titans. Conan killed God, and then became his own God.
Some have expressed discomfort with seeing this Aryan archetype behead a black man and toss the head down a staircase with contempt. The scene is racist, they say, as it adopts the imagery of white supremacists. The truth is, of course, much more complex. The color line here seems rather blurred, and Doom does not adopt the stance of racial inferior to Conan as much as an equal deity. As with Batman and the Joker, we are to read Conan and Doom as being two sides of the same coin. They represent opposing sets of values and ideologies. Conan seeks to obtain power through force. Doom is more interested in obtaining power through religion and superstition. While a gladiator, Conan learned to read and studied poetry and philosophy. As a barbarian, he proves to have very little use for it. Conan seems to represent a rather aggressively willful anti-intellectualism.
I'm not sure that I can agree with those who argue that Conan represents libertarian virtues, meaning that he believes that all men should be free to do as they will, and this freedom is the greatest virtue. In another one of the film's most quoted lines, this is what Conan says is best in life: "To crush your enemies, see them driven before you, and to hear the lamentation of the women!" Destruction of his enemies, the ascertation of power through force is what Conan virtues. It is also very much worth noting that Conan got his beliefs from his owners and his father. As he was conditioned to think this way, it's fairly difficult to argue that he is all about freedom. The dichotomy of Conan and Doom's political views is not incredibly pronounced. They both want power and power is the greatest good for both of them. Both are libertarian in the sense that neither believes that they must follow any particular law. The place that they differ is in that Conan is passionate, and Doom is dispassionate. Doom and his followers have almost philosophized away their ability to feel anything. Conan is a more primal being and is more in check with his humanity. Because Conan is without any particular ideology other than "crushing your enemies is good,” his murder of Doom strikes a very curious note. Like Maximus in Ridley Scott's Gladiator, Conan seems to destroy the villain more to satiate his own personal vengeance than for the greater good. Indeed, what greater good could there be? The ending then clunks with insignificance. It's simply one man destroying the killer of his family as opposed to an all-out battle between good and evil.
The relationships with women in Conan the Barbarian are often more disturbing than the lack thereof. Conan has sex with three women during the course of the film. The first is a slave who his owners gave to him to breed with. She appears to be so terrified that he practically rapes her. The second is a witch who he throws into a fire as she begins to attack him during the act. She turns into some sprites or something and then flies away to which Conan replies with a numbskulled "Crom!" The third is Sandahl Bergman, a fellow barbarian. This may be the most normal relationship, although she literally does all of the talking. Brian J. Wright of the Cavalcade of Schlock says that the sexual encounters are respectively dominant, submissive and equal in regards to Conan. While this is true, I'm not sure that it necessarily means that Conan has learned to respect women. His relationship with Bergman seems awfully malnourished and given that he never talks to her, the intimacy of their relationship is called seriously into question. It would of course be incredibly absurd to wonder what exactly the two get out of each other. Conan the Barbarian is not interested in human relationships, except maybe that between Doom and Conan, and this is romance simply for the story's sake. She gets shot with a snake arrow and dies. Conan solemnly cremates her. "He won't cry, so I cry for him," his friend explains. Their relationship won't go down in history as one of the great romances.
The biggest problems with Conan the Barbarian exist in its poorly written structure. The trip to the witch's house is completely gratuitous and adds very little to the finished product, unless you subscribe to that thing about Conan learning to respect women. Most of the relationships seem to exist simply for their own sake. Not only the romance with Bergman but the relationship with the thief and the wizard. Oh yeah, the wizard. The wizard character in the film seems to only get six or seven scenes tops and does nothing much of note (except bring Conan back to life after the crucifixion). He narrates the film, helping to paper in all the gaps in the narrative. After he meets Conan he stops the narration, and so any attempt at using the narration to give the film a richer "mythological" or "legendary" tone become bunk. The film ends with a coda resolving the plot, and telling us to basically look for more Conan adventures. (According to those who have listened to the audio commentary, Milius and Schwarzenegger want to make a third Conan movie, and they appear to be quite serious. Do they realize that the last time Schwarzenegger played the part was like twenty years ago?) The said plot has something to do with Conan and friends rescuing a king's daughter from Doom, and Doom trying to get a magic stone from Conan. This is all quite unnecessary, as the core of the film is simply Conan trying to gain revenge on Doom, and Doom preventing him. I guess the other characters need some sort of motivation to fight Doom, but they seem to just barely be there anyway.
The snake transformation and the use of the snake arrows aside, the special effects are underwhelming. The sprites and monsters are animated and superimposed on the film like that Monster of the Id in Forbidden Planet. They look really bad. The good special effects in Conan the Barbarian are the ones that don't really use special effects and rely on somewhat clever editing. The sex and violence indicated by the R rating have been celebrated simply for existing, as they probably should be. Most of these fantasy movies tone down the goods so they can appeal better to kids and teenagers as they tend to make up the largest audience. Here's some proof: upon learning that the film was going to have this much sex and violence, the Mattel toy corporation retooled their Conan action figure into He-Man. However as much sex and violence as I got, it never seemed to be enough. I wanted the film to go far, far over the top, but it seemed awfully restrained. As the film is generally downbeat, there isn't much pleasure or exhilaration to be taken from these elements. The film seems to be more Doom than Conan then: cold, dreary and lacking in any real electricity. I wonder if we can have an R-rated swords-and-sorcery film that can be a lark with no awed reverence. Conan the Barbarian is made worse but is much smarter and probably more entertaining than the profoundly overrated Gladiator. Whereas Gladiator did nothing to acknowledge the absurdity of its material and failed to produce anything profound, Conan the Barbarian dances around the absurdity of its material while not quite getting around to producing anything profound. There is lots of good stuff in Conan the Barbarian, but Milius seems to be marred by some sort of hesitation. This film needs a clearly defined idea behind it and lots of refinement.
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Registration date : 2007-08-28
|Subject: Re: Some reviews of the Milius' movie Thu 12 Jun - 6:20|| |
Shadow's Title: "Beefcake, Boobs, Blades and Blood"
The character of Conan began life in December of 1932 when he first appeared in Weird Tales magazine. Created by Robert E. Howard, the character would go one to be his most famous creations, surpassing others like Solomon Kane and Kull the Conqueror. Howard would only turn out Conan stories for next three and a half years or so, until his death from suicide in June of 1936. However, in a fashion similar to H.P. Lovecraft and his Cthulu mythos, other authors would pen tales of the famous Cimmerian as the decades went by, generating more interest in the character and making him live beyond the years of the famous pulp magazines. In fact, it wasn’t until many years later and in the comic book medium that Conan saw the height of his popularity.
In the late 1970’s Italian movie producer Dino de Laurentiis had found success with the first Superman film, directed by Richard Donner. This spurred the producer to seek other comic book properties to translate for the silver screen. Next up was 1980’s semi-successful Flash Gordon, a campy romp that harkened back to the serial days of yesteryear and starring the likes of Sam Jones, Max von Sydow and Timothy Dalton. Upon completion of that project, de Laurentiis turned his eye toward Conan and the violently dark fantasy world he inhabited. This film would also go on to be a success, spawning a sequel and making a superstar out of Austrian body builder Schwarzenegger, whose film career took off like a rocket and ultimately leading him to the California State Governorship. This movie also inspired a host of knock-offs. The early 80’s were flooded with cheap sword and sorcery epics, but none could ever match the sheer audacity and boldness of the first Conan.
Over twelve thousand years ago was the Hyborean age, when the continents of Asia, Africa and Europe were one great landmass. In this time before recorded history, "shining kingdoms lay spread across the world like blue mantles beneath the stars."
In the Northern Kingdom of Cimmeria, a small village goes through it’s day to day routines, when they are set upon by a vicious group of raiders. All the adults are killed, while the surviving children are sold into slavery. Once such child is Conan. He eventually grows to adulthood and is bought by a man who makes a gladiator out of him. Conan excels at this and quickly ascends the ranks of brutal sport. Eventually he is taught to read and write, tutored by the war masters of the East and given his freedom. At this point he sets out to exact his revenge upon those who murdered his people.
He meets up first with Subotai, and then Valeria. Both are thieves and together the trio break into the tower belonging to the Snake Cult of Seth. Conan learns that it is the leader of this cult, a sorcerer known as Thulsa Doom, that was behind the deaths of his people. Soon, a local king enlists his aid in rescuing his daughter from Doom’s mountain of power. Conan sets out alone, having his own personal reasons for visiting Thulsa Doom.
Conan – One of the few survivors of a massacred village, he was sold into slavery as a child. Eventually he would become a masterful, yet brutal warrior and attain his freedom. Setting out on a quest for vengeance against those responsible for the death of his people, he has many interesting adventures. Ultimately he has his revenge and later becomes a king by his on hand. Played by Arnold Schwarzenegger (The Terminator films, Predator, Total Recall), the current Governor of California.
Thulsa Doom – He is the leader of the Snake Cult of Seth. He has a thirst for power and in his younger days he killed many people – including Conan’s village, in his quest to answer the riddle of steel. The master of the hypnotic mojo, he can also transform himself into a giant snake among other serpent-related tricks. Played by James Earl Jones, who owns the coolest voice in Hollywood, having provided the vocals for the likes of Darth Vader, Mufasa and the CNN logo.
Subotai – He is a thief and archer who becomes Conan’s first travelling companion and the one who introduces Conan to cities and civilization. It must be from him that Conan learns his thieving skills. Subotai is a pretty faithful companion. Even when Conan leaves him behind to venture on his own, Subotai comes looking for him and ends up rescuing him. He even joins him in the big battle at the end, when he could easily have bugged out of the whole affair.
Valeria – She is another thief who meets Conan when she chooses to rob the Snake Cult on the same night as he and Subotai. They join forces and get away with the treasure. Soon after, they fall madly and passionately in love with one another. Later when Conan is near death, she promises to pay whatever the cost will be in order to save his life. Sadly, this involves getting shot and killed by the most unusual arrow ever used on screen.
The Wizard – Another of Conan’s companions. He doesn’t appear in the movie until nearly halfway through it, but as the chronicler of Conan’s tale, his voice is heard throughout the film, narrating events. He uses his magic to help keep Conan alive after the latter was crucified on the Tree of Woe and also takes part in the climactic battle against Thulsa Doom’s forces. He is also the only character in the film aside from Conan that turns up in the sequel.
King Osric – The ruler of Shadizar. Once he was a powerful Northman, he is now old and sodden. He enlists Conan and his companions to rescue his daughter from Thulsa Doom’s mountain of power. Played by Max von Sydow (Flash Gordon, Dreamscape, Judge Dredd), I kept expecting him to call for The Bore Worms.
Rexor – Thulsa Doom’s second in command. He conducts bizarre rituals where naked young women throw themselves at giant snakes. Is that an allegorical representation of something – naked women and giant snakes? Nah, couldn’t be. In battle he uses the sword stolen from Conan’s father, though in the end it does him no good.
Thorgrim – He is one of Thulsa Doom’s two right hand men. He uses a GIANT warhammer in battle. I don’t think he ever uttered a single word throughout the entire film, though there were plenty of grunts and screams. Despite his Thor-wannabe look, he is ultimately no god of thunder.
The Princess – The daughter of King Osric. Like so many impressionable youths, she falls under the sway of the charismatic Thulsa Doom. At first she does not wish to be rescued, but after Doom attempts to kill her, she has a change of heart and helps Conan in the end.
Note: this summary is based on the Collector’s Edition DVD, which features some restored footage and runs a bit longer than the theatrical version.
The film opens with text quoting from Friedrich Nietzsche – "That which does not kill us makes us stronger." A few credits roll by then we hear the voice of The Wizard, who goes on to say:
"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 bear 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."
Now the kick ass score from Basil Poledouris kicks in and we are treated to scenes depicting the forging of a sword as the remaining credits unfold. We see a young Conan and his parents taking great care in crafting this fine weapon. Finally, when the credits end, we see Conan’s father talking to him and relating to him some legends about the god they worship – Crom, and the enigma of steel.
Now we see some riders bearing a serpent standard coming over a snowy hill. Scenes of these men are intercut with shots of Conan’s people going about everyday life in their village. Conan, we see, is off by himself in the woods fishing. He catches sight of an advance scout for the riders and then sees the group closing in on his village, though no one has spotted him. Soon enough the villagers see what is thundering down upon them and take up arms to defend themselves. Now we get several minutes of the raiders massacring the villagers. Conan manages to reunite with his mother as his father goes out to fight, putting up a valiant effort. However, in the end he is torn apart by dogs and the adult villagers are all slain with the exception of Conan’s mother, who stands guard over her son.
With the village in flames and the people defeated, the leader of the raiders approaches on horse and dismounts. It’s Darth Vader!!! Well, James Earl Jones, who provided the voice for the Sith Lord. Here he is Thulsa Doom, though we won’t learn that for a while yet. His two lieutenants hand him the sword wielded by Daddy Conan and then he approaches Conan and his mother. She is holding up a sword to fend off the raiders, but Doom uses his hypnotic mojo on her and she lowers the weapon. He turns to go then suddenly spins around and swings Daddy’s sword, which cleanly removes mom’s head. Conan can only watch in sadness as his mother’s headless body falls to the ground beside him. Doom fixes him with a stare and then leaves.
Now we see all the village children being rounded up, chained together and set off on a forced march. Something tells me that they are not on their way to summer camp. The Wizard’s voice is heard again, talking about how it was never known why the raiders came. The children were taken north while Doom rode south, the memory of the village lost in the ashes. We see the kids marched overland until they come to a barren landscape dominated by a strange contraption. A large turnstile with several large logs as spokes sits in the middle of nowhere and the children are each chained to a spoke and made to push it. The DVD back cover says that this was a contraption that was used to grind grain and research reveals it to be called The Wheel of Pain. Various shots depict the passing of years and the aging of the children, until we finally see a single youth pushing the entire turnstile. He looks up and we see that Conan is now an adult and ripping with muscles. After a few more shots of him pushing the gizmo, a rider approaches and soon Conan is led of by him, chained to his horse. It seems this guy has bought Conan as a slave.
Conan is taken to a fighting pit where he is thrown in with another buffed dude. The other guy seems to know what to do and starts beating the crap out of Conan. Finally, Conan fights back and defeats his opponent – quite violently I might add. Once more The Wizard’s voice is heard in a narration that explains how Conan went on to become a renowned pit fighter, basking in the bloody praise heaped upon him. During this speech we are treated to a montage of Conan fighting in the ring and messily disposing of one opponent after another, utilizing a variety of brutal looking weapons. In time he is taken to the East where he is trained by warmasters in the use of the sword. He is also taught how to read and write with various texts and philosophies made available to him. Being such a stud, he is bred to various women, no doubt in hopes of creating more excellent fighters. All of this is shown in a few short scenes and we get the impression that a few years pass.
Then one dark and stormy night (how is that for a cliché) his owner breaks his chains and sets him free. Why does he do this? I have no idea. The Wizard’s voiceover suggests that he was like a wild animal that had been caged too long, but for whatever reason, he was now free. He runs off into the night, but before too long is being pursued by a pack of wild and feral dogs (or wolves). He eludes them by climbing a large pile of boulders, but slips and falls into a hidden cavern. He manages to get a fire going and does some exploring. He finds the burial tomb of some ancient king or warrior. He helps himself to the dead guy’s sword. Well, that guy ain’t gonna be needing it anymore, right? Believing the sword to be a gift from his god Crom, he emerges from the cavern to find it is now day and uses the weapon to remove the manacles still on his ankles. We can still hear the dogs barking, but one assumes that he quickly ran them off, as the next shot shows him jogging through the wilderness.
As he’s wandering the countryside, he comes across a lone cabin. A sultry woman invites him in to warm himself by her fire (I’ve heard of euphemisms, but boy!). So he goes in, relaxes and has a drink like she’s running some primitive motel six. The woman starts mumbling about how she knew he would come – a warrior from the north who would one day be king by his own hand and who would crush the snakes of the earth. At the mention of the word snakes, Conan tells her that he seeks a standard made of snakes. She seems to know what he is after and says that there will be a price. The next thing you know, these two are screwing like horny rabbits. The woman (whose level of hospitality has really improved my opinion of her) starts calling out the name Zamora! Not what I would expect from a woman in the throes of passion, but hey…whatever floats your boat. She babbles some other stuff, but the emphasis seems to be on that Zamora name (which a little research reveals to be the name of an ancient kingdom of the Hyborean age). The screwing continues and the light in the cabin changes from red to blue. The woman then goes nuts, her eyes turning wild and her teeth suddenly looking like a hacksaw. She attacks Conan (so much for her hospitality rating) but he just rolls over and throws her into the fire. She seems to jump out momentarily, then transforms into a small ball of flames and bounces her way out of the cabin and off into the night.
So morning comes and Conan emerges from the cabin. He doesn’t seem the slightest bit fazed by events of the previous evening. A voice nearby calls for food. Conan investigates and meets Subotai, a thief and archer whom the Witch had chained up so she could feed him to the wolves. The two hit it off and begin traveling together. One night over a campfire dinner, they talk about the gods to which they pray. Conan mentions Crom and says that when he dies he will go before Crom and be asked about the riddle of steel. If he does not know the answer, Crom will cast him out of Valhalla. Ahem…Valhalla? So…Crom is the god of the prehistoric Vikings? I thought their gods, like Thor and Odin, lived in Asgard? Maybe Crom just monitors who gets into Valhalla without actually hanging around there? Maybe the Viking gods came in later and kicked Crom’s ass out of Asgard and made him the doorman for Valhalla? Maybe nobody really gives a rat’s ass?
(TO BE CONTINUED)
Number of posts : 4015
Registration date : 2007-08-28
|Subject: Re: Some reviews of the Milius' movie Thu 12 Jun - 6:22|| |
Anyway, The two travel together and eventually arrive at some city, or what was called a city in the Hyborean age. Cities are new to Conan and he takes it all in wide-eyed. Then they are off again to a new city. Everywhere he goes, Conan asks about a snake standard until a drug peddler points him toward the tall towers of the Snake Cult that seem to rise in every city, before selling the duo some Black Lotus. High on drugs, the two stumble around and this is when Conan stumbles into a camel and then belts the creature for being in his way. Animal Rights group really got peeved about this scene at the time.
So, the two decide they are going to break into the local snake tower and divest the owners of any jewels and riches they may be hoarding. As they approach the tower they run into Valeria, who at first mistakes them for guards and vice versa. Soon, it is apparent that she is there to rob the place as well. Birds of a feather flock together, so the trio decides to scale the walls of the tower as a group. At the top they find a shaft that descends the height of the tower and more – reaching down to sub-levels below ground. Quietly they descend and on one of these lower levels they see members of the Snake Cult performing some kind of ritual. Valeria opts to stay and explore while Conan and Subotai descend even further. They climb down into a stinky pit littered with bones and crawling with rats. A small passage leads to another large chamber where a huge snake is resting. There is also a huge jewel nearby and they quietly sneak up to it and snatch it. However, sweat from Conan’s brow drops onto the snake, waking it. They go to leave, but Conan sees an emblem of the snake standard above the doorway and is reminded of the standard bore by the raiders who massacred his village. He takes that as well, but is unaware that the big-ass snake is now awake and moving towards him. It attacks, but he and Subotai dispatch it rather quickly…and again, rather messily.
Meanwhile, Valeria has disguised herself as a cult member. The cult ritual seems to involve stripping some gal nearly naked and having her jump into the pit with the big snake. She does a free fall and goes POW on the hard ground. She then screams when she sees what is left of the snake. I take it she was supposed to be a sacrifice to the snake, and must have considered it an honor to be gulped down by it. Idiot. So now the cult is in a panic and Valeria sees Conan and Subotai escaping back up the rope to the top of the tower. She manages to evade the cult, and by tying a rope around the neck of some poor fool, and using him as a counter weight, she rides a rope to the top. At the top, the three thieves opt for the quickest way down the outside of the tower – they jump. Luckily, there is a big pool of water in which to land.
The trio now celebrates their good fortune. They take their newfound riches and live it up in grand style. As they do this, Valeria and Conan grow closer...and it ain’t too long before they are screwing, too. More scenes follow that convey the idea that is not some cheap affair. The two have genuinely grown rather fond of one another. Time goes by and exactly how much boozing, partying and shopping the three do is unclear, but finally there comes a point where they are just exhausted from it all.
Long about now, some of the local king’s guards show up and haul them off to see their boss. King Osric the Usurper at first seems pissed because Rexor of the Snake Cult has come to him and threatened him because of what happened in the snake tower. However, the king holds no great love for the Snake Cult and salutes the three for what they have done. He goes to talk about Thulsa Doom and the Snake Cult. The snake towers seem to be popping up all over the known lands. He shows them a dagger called The Fangs of the Serpent, which is shaped like two snakes coiled around one another. It was used by a son to kill his father. The king is grieved because his own daughter has fallen under the spell of Thulsa Doom and the cult. He wants the trio of thieves to rescue her and return her to him, offering as many jewels as they can carry in payment. Once the three are alone, Valeria and Subotai don’t wish to undertake the king’s quest. Valeria values what she has found with Conan and does not wish to throw it away. As they embrace, Conan looks at the emblem of the snake cult. When morning arrives, Valeria wakes to find herself alone.
So Conan rides East towards Thulsa Doom’s mountain of power. Through desert and snow he makes his way, meeting people along the way who point him further East when he inquires about the Snake Cult. He even runs into The Children of Doom, followers of Thulsa Doom on a pilgrimage to the mountain of power. Eventually Conan comes across a Stonehenge-like location near the sea, complete with large boulders and rocks formed into patterns and an altar atop a small hill. Skeletons abound and the entire place seems to be some burial ground for ancient kings and warriors. Here he meets The Wizard, whose voice has been interrupting the movie from the beginning. The Wizard gives him the low down on the local area and Conan leaves his belongings with him so he can disguise himself as a pilgrim on a camel.
Conan rides to a large encampment of Doom’s followers. Some are singing, some are praying and some are burning incense. Think of it as a prehistoric Woodstock – without the rock music. In the distance Thulsa Doom’s mountaintop fortress can be seen. Conan settles in with the hippies…er…followers and when morning arrives everyone is off on foot to Doom’s fortress. Leading the way are some of his priests, who pass out white robes to all the pilgrims. One such priest approaches Conan. Conan feigns shyness and gets the guy alone, where he savagely beats him over the head and takes his priest robe. There is an ultra creepy sexual undertone to the whole exchange, all on the part of the priest. Read into that what you will.
So now disguised as a priest, Conan makes his way with all the others to Doom’s fortress. The fortress itself is mostly underground, with only a large wide stairway and an entrance adorning the mountainside. Still, even that is pretty damn big. All the followers cram the staircase and take seats on the steps. As Conan approaches, a guard stops him but he hands over the snake emblem he took from the snake tower. The guard lets him by, but takes the emblem over and shows it to Rexor and Thorgrim. Atop the stairs, King Osric’s daughter emerges from the entrance, holding snakes in her hands, then Thulsa Doom himself appears and speaks. Rexor and Thorgrim close in on Conan and he is unmasked as an infidel. He is hauled off, kicking and screaming while Doom watches from above.
He is taken to a courtyard where Rexor and Thorgrim beat the hell out of him, leaving him bloody and bruised. Thulsa Doom arrives and questions him. He inquires into the whereabouts of the jewel stolen from the snake tower, but he is more upset about the death of his pet snake. Conan accuses him of killing his parents and his people. Doom admits that it was probably when he was younger, when he searched for steel and prized it above gold and jewels. Conan mentions the riddle of steel and this gets a reaction from Doom. He claims to know the answer and will share it with him. "Steel," he says, "isn’t strong. Flesh is stronger." He turns and calls to a girl standing high on a cliff overlooking the courtyard. She responds to his beckoning by jumping to her death. That to Doom is power. The strength and power of flesh. What is steel compared to the hand that wields it? After some more blathering, he finally orders that Conan be crucified on The Tree of Woe.
Next we see Conan hanging from a lone tree in the middle of nowhere. As he rests against it, nails through his hands, vultures begin to circle. One even lands on his shoulder and starts pecking at the flesh on his chest, but our Cimmerian friend just lunges out, grabs the bird’s neck with his mouth and begins shaking it back and forth, then letting it drop to the ground dead. Time passes and we see a figure approach in the distance. As it nears, Conan begins to laugh. It is Subotai!! His archer friend frees him and takes him back to The Wizard’s place, where Valeria awaits. Sadly, it seems that Conan is in pretty bad shape and will most likely die. The Wizard states that the spirits of the place will exact a heavy toll if he is to intervene, but Valeria assures him that she will pay them. When night falls, Conan is all wrapped up in a black robe and tied to the ground. The Wizard paints various runes and sigils over his exposed flesh as the winds begin to pick up. He says that soon, "they’ will try to take him. Indeed, soon enough a storm blows in and these small little spirits arrive and try to make off with Conan’s body. Valeria and Subotai try and stop them while The Wizard just cowers in his shack in fear, no doubt prepared to shit his pants if the need arises. Finally, after much struggle, the little demons are driven off into the night and the winds calm.
Morning arrives and Conan awakens. As he opens his eyes Valeria promises nothing would prevent her from fighting at his side, even if she were dead and he still lived…she would find a way. Soon afterwards Conan is swinging his sword around, getting the feel for it again. At night the three thieves plan to visit Thulsa Doom’s hideout, using some caves on the other side of the mountain. Valeria and Subotai try to get Conan to agree to only rescuing the princess and saving the death of Thulsa Doom for another day, but he says nothing. Soon they ride off and make their way to the secret entrance to Doom’s lair. They apply white and black paint to their bodies and make their way in.
Inside they follow a group of men carrying a huge pot through some dark caves into an opulent chamber where there is a massive orgy/party underway. People are writhing around in ecstasy with Thulsa Doom and the Princess nearby overlooking it all. The big pot is set down and people line up to get some of the vile green shit that is in it. Whatever it is, the main ingredient seems to be people, as a human hand is pulled from the bowl and munched on by one woman. WAIT! It’s green colored….and it is made from people – it’s Soylent Green! Soylent Green is people! Well, it is Soylent Green soup or something similar. Still…Soylent Green is Peop…er…sorry, wrong Republican in this movie. Anyway, the three thieves make their way into various positions throughout the room. While they are doing this, Thulsa Doom is slowly transforming into a snake. What a cool party trick!
Eventually Subotai comes up from behind the guy stirring the pot of Soylent Green and taps him on the shoulder. When the dolt turns around, he gets his throat sliced open by Subotai’s sword. This is the signal to move and the other two thieves spring into action, slicing and dicing guards and partygoers as they make their way toward The Princess. Valeria sets some curtains on fire and soon the place is going up in flames. Conan tries to get to Doom, but the now transformed bad guy has slithered off through a small hole in the wall. Along about now Rexor and Thorgrim arrive and when Conan sees them, he overturns the massive stone pot of Soylent Green, letting it spill all over the place. Rexor recognizes him and they approach to do battle. Thorgrim is wielding a gigantic hammer, and at one point after swinging it around, it hits a pillar, which crumbles to the floor. When the dust clears, the three thieves have gone, taking The Princess with them. They fight their way back to their horses and mount up. As they are riding away, Thulsa Doom, now back in human form, watches from the cavern entrance. He takes a small snake in his hand and straightens it. The critter stays rigid and using it like an arrow, Doom fires it at the fleeing group where it strikes Valeria.
The three ride on, but stop a short time later. Valeria moans something about telling The Wizard that she would pay the gods. Conan pulls the snake-arrow from her and then holds her as she dies. I guess those spirits did exact a pretty hefty price for not taking Conan. Next we see Valeria laid out on the stone altar back at The Wizard’s place. Conan lights the wood stacked under her and POOF. Up she goes in flames. Conan, Subotai and The Wizard look on as the night sky is lit by Valeria’s funeral pyre. As day breaks, Conan sits thinking. Now he has really got to be pissed at old Doom. First his parents and people, now his lover. Behind him The Princess is chained to a rock. She warns Conan that Doom has seen the fires and will be coming to kill him.
Note - It is at this point that the movie enters it’s final segment, so if any of you really feel the need to watch this film and not know the ending ahead of time, skip the rest of the summary.
(TO BE CONTINUED)
Number of posts : 4015
Registration date : 2007-08-28
|Subject: Re: Some reviews of the Milius' movie Thu 12 Jun - 6:22|| |
Now Conan and Subotai are preparing for battle. The burial grounds where The Wizard lives are lined with spears in the dirt, traps are set and all sorts of various preparations are made. Even The Wizard gets into the act, donning some truly ill fitting armor. Soon enough, horses and riders can be seen in the distance riding ever closer. As his foes come charging toward him, Conan offers up a prayer to Crom. He asks for revenge against his enemy.
The riders arrive and what follows next is a true bloodbath. Axes, swords, spears and arrows are used to remove men from their horses. The blood can literally be seen flying through the air. As the battle rages on, Thulsa Doom watches from a hilltop not too far away. With most of the bad guys dead Conan now faces off against Thorgrim and Rexor, dodging in and out of all the large rocks and boulders in a game of cat and…er…cat, while Subotai and The Wizard deal with the remaining forces of Doom.
At one point Thorgrim sees a helmet just on the other side of a boulder and brings that giant hammer down on what he believes to be Conan’s head. However, it is a trap, and it sets of a tightly wound gear that snaps into place, swinging a large sharpened stake around at Thorgrim that impales the unlucky bastard. Conan appears and watches Thorgrim squirm around in his death throes, but then Rexor arrives to fight. These two now battle and soon Conan is on the ground with his back to Rexor. As Rexor swings his sword in a killing blow, a figure steps out of nowhere and blocks the strike with another sword before hitting Rexor across the face. As Rexor stumbles back, Conan looks at the new figure. It is Valeria! She’s decked out in some shiny armor and asks him, "Do you want to live forever?" He turns and picks himself up, but when he looks again, she is gone. It appears she kept her vow to fight at his side no matter what. Conan now closes on Rexor and quickly makes short work of the guy, breaking his sword, slicing open his stomach and finally landing a killing blow across the chest – blood flying the whole time.
With all his men dead, Thulsa Doom goes to leave. The Princess calls for him not to abandon her. How does he respond? By pulling out another snake, straightening it into another arrow and firing it at her. What a loving guy! However, Subotai is there to block the arrow with a shield. He and The Wizard laugh as Doom rides off. Conan picks up Rexor’s broken sword and sees that it was the one that once belonged to his father. He holds it aloft with his own sword in the same pose that he once used when victorious in the gladiator pits.
Next we see Thulsa Doom on a platform, overlooking the broad staircase that leads to his mountain fortress. It is night and his followers are all stretched out below, bearing torches that light up the valley floor. He begins speaking to them, droning on with his made up religious rhetoric. Conan, with the help of The Princess, sneaks back into Doom’s fortress using the back door. I guess she has had a change of heart after almost being killed by Doom. Conan makes his way to the platform behind Doom.
Doom turns and sees him as he slowly approaches. He tries his goofy religious talk on him and attempts that hypnotic mojo of his, but Conan snaps out of it and swings his sword – landing a blow on Doom’s neck. Blood sprays everywhere. He lands another blow. More blood and Doom falls to his knees. Then coming up behind him, Conan grabs Doom’s head and swings a third time. More blood and Doom’s body falls while his head remains clasped in Conan’s hand. Conan holds it up high for all of Doom’s followers to see, then throws it out over the stairs, where it bounces down a ways before stopping.
Then for some reason, all of Doom’s followers line up and extinguish their torches in a small pool of water before leaving. Next we see Conan sitting on the stairs by himself, The Princess a distance away by the pool. He descends a few stairs, grabs a brazier on a chain, then swings it around his head a few times and releases it towards the top of the stairs. It lands and set the fortress on fire. Soon the entire place is ablaze, lighting up the night sky. As he leaves, Conan takes the hand of The Princess and leads her away. In the distance, the morning sun breaks through the clouds, heralding a new day and a new beginning.
Next we see an image of Conan sitting on a throne. The Wizard’s voice breaks in again and narrates, the text of his words scrolling up the screen:
--So, did Conan return the wayward daughter of King Osric to her home. And having no further concern, he and his companions sought adventure in the West. Many wars and feuds did Conan fight. Honor and fear were heaped upon his name and, in time, he became a king by his own hand…
And this story will also be told.
Fade out. The End.
Conan the Barbarian is a film with balls. It debuted at a time when explicit displays of blood and violence were still not the norm for action and/or most horror flicks. That it can take that violence, and coupled with the scarcity of dialog in the film, make the story an engaging look at one man’s quest for revenge in a brutal prehistoric world, is a testament to all involved.
When viewed within context of existing Conan stories by creator Robert E. Howard, the film is somewhat of a patchwork affair, taking various ideas, characters, locations and names from the Hyborean age and melding them into a storyline that simultaneously has little and everything to do with the character. The look and feel of the people and world in the movie are most certainly recognizable as Conan, yet there is an odd emptiness that can be felt on occasion by many fans of the character’s literary origins. Something perhaps lost in translation from written word to silver screen.
Visually, the film is stunning to look at. No small accomplishment given the desolate and barren landscapes that make up the bulk of the scenery. Wide-open desert has never looked so beautiful on film. Coupled with the great production design, and the audience is treated to a cinematic world every bit as real as our own. Twenty years before Peter Jackson got his hands on The Lord of The Rings, the Conan team had effectively created and presented an authentic fantasy world, albeit a much more primitive and brutal one than Tolkien’s Middle-Earth. It is that harsh brutality that sets Conan apart from similar efforts in both literature and film. While the more romanticized, optimistic and dare I say, cookie cutter approach used in modern fantasy may be more popular with the masses, it is the stark, gritty world of Conan that comes across as much more realistic in terms of historical comparisons. The Hyborean age truly seems like it could have existed at one point, and with the exception of magic and monsters, there is not much to set it apart from real history. It is this feeling that really pervades the film and probably the one single reason why it is so enjoyable.
Still, there are many things that contribute positively to the film. Usually in movies such as these, the actors get no special notice, having turned in adequate and in some cases, truly subpar performances. Anyone who has seen Jeremy Irons chew up the scenery with his overacting rampage in Dungeons and Dragons will know what I mean. Here, though the two leads are excellently portrayed. James Earl Jones is awesome as the charismatic, yet dangerous Thulsa Doom. He totally sells the audience on the idea that this guy can be totally loving one moment and a split second later, one hundred percent homicidal. Yet, it is murderous in that calm, reflective fashion that almost belies insanity that really makes the character shine for the small amount of screen time that he gets. The complete and total lack of caring for the lives around him adds not only to the savage feeling of the setting and film, but transforms him from a cardboard cutout villain, to a antagonist with a quiet edge.
Surprisingly Arnold Schwarzenegger turns in a great performance. Not that his thespian skills at this point in his acting career (or ever were for that matter) are at the top of the game. No, it is the demands of the character that let him shine in his first starring role. I must confess that I have read very, very little of the original Conan tales by Robert E. Howard, so I have absolutely no idea if the character was as solemn and quiet as his movie version or if he was a talking dynamo who yaked his enemies to death. I’m sure he spoke more than he does in the movie, yet in the same fashion that the film takes a hodgepodge of Conan lore and molds it into something new, likewise the film Conan is his own person…and being quiet, brooding and aloof is who he is. Schwarzenegger achieves this very well, and though it may not have been the hardest assignment given an actor, he still stands out because of it. This film didn’t help create a movie superstar for nothing, after all.
As thin as the plot may be, and as sparse as the dialog is at times, acknowledgements must be made to the writing team. There are some wonderful lines in the movie that will live on well after it is over, but beyond mere verbiage, there is the lack of words that helps make this film stand out. What I mean by that is this – it has become a horrifyingly all too common trend in Hollywood action films, even those with a historical or fantastical setting, to imbue the project with humor in the form of witty dialog. In other words: one liners. Schwarzenegger himself would later be extremely well known for the one liners he spouted in his films. Yet compare this film to say…The Scorpion King, another film starring a muscle-bound actor who first appeared in the public’s attention due to his sporting (or pseudo sporting, depends on how you view wrestling) career, and which features many similar elements: a barren land, a quest for revenge, magic, a bad guy who commands a huge following and lots of swordplay, all set in an ancient world that never existed. A full twenty years seperate the two films, yet the latter was positively loaded with inane dialog and horrendous one liners. It completely and totally detracts from the feel of the film by ripping the viewer out of the past and planting him right back into the present by using such contemporary speech and speech patterns. In the case of Conan, the film eschews such idiocy in favor of gritty realism, which I much prefer anyhow and I applaud the producers for not going down the easy road of forced humor. True, that trend really hadn’t gotten off to too much of a start in those days, but I’m thankful none the less.
(TO BE CONTINUED)
Number of posts : 4015
Registration date : 2007-08-28
|Subject: Re: Some reviews of the Milius' movie Thu 12 Jun - 6:22|| |
One cannot talk about Conan the Barbarian without mentioning the impact it made on early 80’s cinema. Every now and then a film comes along that manages to present something new…or at least something no one has seen in quite a while, so it is like new. Raiders of the Lost Ark springs to mind. Sure there were action movies in the decades before it was released, but nothing had truly brought back the sense of breathless adventure and excitement of the old cliffhanger serials of the 30’s and 40’s. With the success of Raiders, everyone in Hollywood sought to jump on that gravy train by churning out similar films and TV shows centering on such wild exploits. That trend continues to this day. Likewise, the commercial success of Conan the Barbarian saw a glut of cheap and cheaper copies in the years immediately after it’s release. These included films such as The Beastmaster (which was itself based on an earlier literary work), The Sword and the Sorcerer, Red Sonja (which also co-starred Sandahl Bergman), the David Carridine vehicle Circle of Iron, the idiotic The Barbarians, the ever decreasing in production value Deathstalker series and the truly abysmal Yor, the Hunter from the Future to name but a few of the titles that flooded theaters and later, video rental stores in the mid 80’s. Despite that wave of Sword and Sorcery films, the original Conan still reigns supreme at the top of the heap.
Lastly, there is one element to Conan the Barbarian that still resonates to this day, though some people may not realize it. It this: the booming, thunderous and exceptional score by Basil Poledouris. Not only does it sweep the listener away with it’s epic Carmina Burana-like feel and almost regal undertones, it’s more subtle moments lend an incredible amount of emotional drive to the film's narrative. If there is one thing about the movie that has endured over the intervening years, it is the music as it has been used on countless occasions in the time since, mostly in trailers for new films (Gladiator comes to mind). In my opinion it truly is one of the best film scores ever, and music lovers should check it out.
Action – There is a lot of action here, mostly in the form of one sword fight after another – especially during the early pit fighting montage. At the climax we get some horses thrown into the mix for the big final fight.
Castles – The movie is set thousands of years in the past, so naturally castles will make an appearance. Some are your usual kind, like Osric’s digs; while others are more cosmopolitan – namely Thulsa Doom’s temple/lair/fortress/orgy center. Then there are the Serpent towers which are castle-ish in design and function.
Desert Hijinks – A great portion of this film takes place in locales that are best described as dry and arid. In fact, except for the beginning I don’t think more than four or five trees were ever seen at once…if that.
Extreme Violence – This film goes for a more realistic depiction of fighting with swords that a tamer PG rated film: blood and severed body parts are everywhere. Even the fistfights are brutal and bloody.
Ghosts – Not a ghost in the traditional sense of the word, Valeria returns briefly from the dead to help Conan during a fight. Plus the spirits of the dead appear at one point to take Conan away.
Gore – There is a lot of blood in this film, though the gore elements are limited to some severed heads rather than going full out with entrails and guts flying all over the place. Still, the blood factor is high.
Magic – When was the last time you saw a man turn into a snake? Such a trick is either accomplished through science or magic…and since I didn’t see any chemistry sets in this film, that leaves one choice.
Nature Run Amok – Thulsa Doom has a thing for snakes and likes to breed them big. Some of his pets get rather large – one appearing to measure at least fifty feet in length, if not more.
Nudity – Scattered glimpses of bare chested women throughout the film. Also a shot of Conan’s ass when he gets it on with a witch. Lots of skin here, as well. Conan pretty much goes through the bulk of the film without a shirt. Valeria’s outfit is pretty threadbare as well. In fact, a lot of people in this film run around with very little covering them. Thank god Mako or Max von Sydow were not among them.
Romance – When Conan meets fellow thief Valeria, it is nearly love at first site for both of them. Things get more complicated as the film unfolds.
Sex – Conan gets lucky quite often in this film. First with some women he is bred to, then with some witch woman he meets while wandering the countryside and finally with Valeria. There is also a big orgy at Thulsa Doom’s pad, though no humping can actually be seen.
Swords – The swordplay here is through the roof. Every battle or fight employs swords or some other sharp, stabbing or slicing weapon. This subgenre of films isn’t called "Swords & Sorcery" because of all the gun battles.
•Walking in circles for years will make you buffed.
•Kill enough people and others will bring you women with whom to have sex.
•Ancient weapons only need to be banged a few times to make them usable again.
•Witches are highly combustible.
•Giant snakes make good pets.
•Wizards always live alone…as well they should. They don’t look like they bathe too often.
•Birds taste better when they’ve been cooked.
•People ran everywhere in the ancient past.
•The spirits of the dead can be easily thwarted with a simple knife.
•Snakes can be utilized as arrows.
04:15 – All hail the mighty blue screen!
09:08 – Cry havoc and let slip the dogs of…mauling.
18:05 – I bid Fifty Quatloos on the newcomer!
22:45 – What is this, a peep show? Get lost you pervs!
25:13 – Cry havoc and let slip the dogs of…chasing.
30:42 – It’s like the setup to a prehistoric porno!
33:10 – I hope Zamora doesn’t mean "wrong hole."
37:47 – Lizard on a stick…yuck.
39:40 – Somebody call PETA!!
47:00 – Somebody call PETA again!!
60:50 – Oh lord, prehistoric hippies. Get a job!
64:45 – Just don’t oil the horse and feed the sword.
67:20 – This guy is just creepy.
75:07 – Incoming!!
77:08 – Somebody call PETA!!
80:10 – Now that is a party.
95:25 – Soups on!
109:35 – Let the bloodbath begin.
113:06 – Do you think he got the point?
120:52 – Heads up!
Unanswered Questions & WTF Moments
Why did Conan’s owner let him go? Ok, he was like a "wild animal that had been caged too long." I get that, but if he was such a prize, and obviously brought the guy lots of money, why give him up? Did he just respect Conan that much? I don’t see people who own race winning thoroughbred horses setting them loose in the wild.
If everyone in Shadizar new that Conan, Subotai and Valeria were the ones that had broken into the snake cult’s tower, then why didn’t Rexor or some other cult member try and kill them? If King Osric could find their drunk asses, I’m sure Rexor could.
If Osric had enough wealth to make each of the three thieves rich enough to be kings themselves, then why did he look so ratty? He looked like a homeless beggar and his throne room resembled an outdoor market! If he had that kind of wealth, he should spruce the place up a bit.
What was in that brazier at the end? I’m thinking napalm. Either that or the steps leading to Thulsa Doom’s Mountain of Power were made by Dura-flame. They went up in flames faster than Michael Jackson’s hair!
Number of posts : 4015
Registration date : 2007-08-28
|Subject: Re: Some reviews of the Milius' movie Thu 12 Jun - 7:37|| |
Steve's Impartial Review of Conan the Barbarian
Thursday, August 10, 2006
by Steve "Malak" Sumner
Overview: In the Hyborian Age, an orphaned child sold into slavery as a pit fighter becomes the greatest barbarian warrior ever to walk the earth. Conan, who is the barbarian I just mentioned, must do battle with a variety of evil warriors, snakes, wizards and beautiful babes in his quest for revenge. Along his way he will make some friends and have many stirring battles.
Directed By: John Milius
The Case For: Awesome action from beginning to end, Conan is a classic of not only the barbarian genre, but also all of film. There are plenty of beautiful babes, decapitated heads, giant snakes and sinister warriors from the stygian darkness who want to rob Conan of his life. It is also deeply rooted in mythology and also philosophy (Nietzsche), so be prepared to think as well as enjoy intense action.
The Case Against: If you don't like barbarians or you have a weak feeling when it comes to violence. Also if you hate hot babes and giant snakes.
When Lowtax first sent me an email asking me to write a movie review I was overjoyed. It was a big break for someone like me who only updates once in a while to be able to walk alongside titans of Something Awful like Greasnin, Linguica and Pantsfish. I was super pumped. I imagined finding some movie about aliens that live in toilets and crawl up buttholes and writing a hilarious review about it. But then Lowtax told me what movie I should review first.
He didn't just want me to review the greatest classic genre of movies, the barbarian film. He didn't just want me to review the greatest actor in the history of barbarian films, Arnold Schwarzenegger. Lowtax wanted me to review the greatest barbarian film of all time. He wanted me to review "Conan the Barbarian."
I was torn. I wanted to leap at the opportunity to review a movie for Something Awful, but how could I objectively review my favorite movie? How could I hope to inject the biting cynicism people keep emailing me and telling me I lack? There was no hope for me. I couldn't possibly separate my feelings for Conan from my review of the movie.
Then I remembered an incident that happened in March of 1991. I was a freshman in high school and me and my buddy Keith were sitting at adjacent study carrels in the library. We were chatting and looking at pictures of naked women in the Human Anatomy book, when Keith started talking about Operation Desert Storm. America had just beat Iraq a couple weeks earlier and so everyone was talking about Norman Schwarzkopf, the dude who was in charge of beating Iraq.
Keith said something like, "hey, Steve, what do you think of Norman Schwarzkopf?" Of course I said that he was pretty awesome and Keith agreed. Then Keith pondered, "but man, wouldn't it have been awesome if Conan was in charge of that army? He would have been way better than Stormin' Norman."
I thought about it for a couple of minutes, carefully considering the gravity of the question, before I offered my reply.
"No, Keith," I told Keith, "it would not have been awesome, because Conan, while an able bodied and excellent warrior of Krom and master of many skills most martial, would have little idea of how to lead a modern military force."
I think Keith was pretty amazed to hear me saying that, and I have to admit, I was pretty amazed as well. I had never before admitted that Conan had a single fault, even in our many Conan versus Han Solo arguments, yet there I was admitting that not only was Conan flawed, he was inferior at something to a real dude.
I've since run through my response to that question many times when I'm lying in bed at night and I can't get to sleep, and my conclusion is always the same. Conan is an unstoppable killing machine and an excellent strategist…during the Hyborian Age. Facing the elite Republican Guard of Iraq with tanks, missiles, machineguns and grenades there would be little chance that Conan would succeed. Sure, he would kill a few thousand of them in hand-to-hand combat, but while he is chopping men in half and feeding them their guts there would be other dudes in bunkers raining artillery and missiles down on him.
The other thing is that Conan would have no idea of how to lead a modern military force, like I said earlier. He would devise some scheme where all of the Coalition soldiers would line up behind a trench covered with fig fronds and filled with oil. Then Conan would ride out on a horse and chop the heads off of a bunch of Iraqi officers until they charged at the Americans. But the Iraqis would charge the Coalition army with tanks instead of cavalry or dudes on foot.
Then when their tanks got to the trench Conan would have some dude shoot burning arrows into the trench. But the tanks would drive right through the trench and only a couple would explode, because most tanks are designed to withstand tougher stuff than burning oil.
And all of the Coalition soldiers would be out of their tanks and trucks and stuff with bayonets and knives and the Iraqi tanks would just drive over them. Conan would see this, get super pissed, and just start ripping open tanks and cutting them in half with his sword. It would almost be worth it just to see Conan totally cut loose on some tanks, but in the end a bomb or a sniper or something would bring Conan down.
You see, Conan hates wizards because he feels vulnerable to magic and pretty much in our day and age everyone is a wizard. What do you think Conan would think of your cellular phone or your flashlight? If he saw you playing a Gameboy DS on a park bench somewhere he would probably yell "GARRRRAAR!" and just chop you in half, but then a cop might see it and "cast a spell" on Conan with his revolver or taser or whatever. Conan has trouble with one wizard, a whole world of wizards would just drive him into a killing frenzy.
The irony in all of this is that Norman Schwarzkopf didn't do a good enough job beating Iraq and now Donald Rumsfeld is fighting Iraq and it's the perfect war for Conan to be fighting. I don't want to get into all the political stuff about the new war against Iraq, because that stuff is boring as heck, but I do know if you give Conan a good reason he will go fight a war. You don't need maps and pictures of Anthrax bunkers or whatever, you just need some good reason for him to want revenge.
In the movie Conan the Barbarian, Conan goes on a quest to find Thulsa Doom (James Earl Jones) because Thulsa Doom destroyed Conan's village and killed both of Conan's parents when he was a boy. Then when Conan finally finds Thulsa Doom, the dude nails Conan to the Tree of Woe and leaves him to die. Conan is stuck on this tree for a long time and he's almost dead and this vulture comes and starts eating Conan and Conan just wakes the heck up and bites the crap out of the vulture. That's so Conan.
Then Conan's friends rescue him and they go looking for Thulsa Doom again and Conan finds out that Thulsa Doom's cult is a big ploy to get people to have sex and then get eaten and that Thulsa Doom can turn into a snake. On top of all that, Thulsa Doom kills Conan's woman, so he has like 50 to 60 reasons to get revenge against Thulsa Doom.
So Conan has Thulsa Doom's daughter and she is super fine and he chains her up to a rock and Thulsa Doom sends an entire army to go get her back. And guess what? Conan kills all of them. He has some help from Subotai, his buddy, and a wizard who is sort of like Yoda, but it's 85 to 90 percent Conan. But Conan doesn't stop there, because Thulsa Doom is still alive, so he convinces Thulsa Doom's daughter to show him the back way into Thulsa Doom's evil hippie temple and in front of like a bazillion cultists Conan resists Thulsa Doom's hypnotism and chops his head off. He even throws it down the steps at the cultists!
So in 1980 or 1981 or whatever, say the Kurds are Conan's friends and Saddam rides in there on a bunch of horses and just gasses the crap out of Kurdia. Conan is just a little boy and he sees Saddam and his two evil sons and he is enraged, but Conan has to spend two decades having the imperfections beaten out of his steel spirit in Iraq. He fights in pit fights against, I don't know, Iran or whatever, and then come 2003 he finds out that Saddam is eating people. Dude, I know, crazy, but it's not that far off. I remember something about rape rooms and Saddam having a bible written in his own blood.
America gets fed up with all of that and - oh yeah, Conan's girlfriend worked at the World Trade Center so he's still mad about that too - and America led by Donald Rumsfeld's army just kicks Iraq's butthole inside out. No problem, right? But then you see what happened because we have like the sweetest missiles and robot airplanes and helicopters, but then some bad guys with a sack full of gunpowder just set it next to an old rusty lawn chair and blow up a truck full of soldiers.
Iraq War Two has turned into house to house close-quarters fighting and sudden ambushes. Sound familiar? And then there are the beheadings. Blam. Who is better at that than Conan? Those bad guys would have their video recorders out and some poor dude all tied up to a rock. They'd bust out their ceremonial snake daggers and start chanting like druids and walking towards the dude who is like going, "no, no!" or maybe he's even hypnotized.
Then, right as they raise their daggers up to start cutting the poor dude's head off, the shadows come alive and Conan (who is all painted to conceal himself like an ancient commando) chops one of them in half. He grabs their big pot full of human soup and dumps it on a bunch of them and then throws a 5,000 pound soup pot through another wall. Then the beheadings really start! Conan is hacking and slashing his way through insurgents and surgents alike. He finds a room full of RPGs and mortars and he just goes "RAAAAAA!" and slams his sword down on the floor and they all explode at once.
These jokers don't have any tanks or laser guided machineguns or anything, they're just dudes with knives and gunpowder running around downtown Iraq. That is the perfect frigging environment for Conan to just waylay the crap out of the whole deal. He can just storm through every building and dungeon, hacking up anyone who has a dagger, and after like ten hours or so every single bad guy is either dead or is now part of Conan's army. When it's all over Conan will just disband the army and go off to some rocky outcropping to contemplate what he has done and how strong he has become.
I guess that my point is, Conan may seem like he is trapped in the past, but he and the film both are as relevant now as they were when they first appeared. I also think that because I am able to entertain doubts about the ability of Conan to lead the Coalition against the Republican Guard, I am properly prepared to review the movie. I have deducted some points from the special effects, because those seem sort of old especially when the demons appear when Conan is being brought back from the land of the dead. I also deducted a couple points from acting because I was kind of disappointed with the way some of the cultists acted at the temple. They just seemed too relaxed and I know they were supposed to be drugged by the cannibal soup that they were going to become soon, but they were still a little too laid back about commando Conan and his buddies attacking.
Special Effects: 9.8
Music / Sound: 10
|Subject: Re: Some reviews of the Milius' movie || |