Movie Review: Conan the Barbarian
Directtor: John Milius, 1982
Pros: genre classic, lots of action, intelligent female warrior-thief
Cons: boring, little character development, limited plot (character driven), Schwarzenegger does the barbarian warrior role well but isn't quite convincing as a thief
Conan (Arnold Schwarzenegger) is taken as a slave after watching the destruction of his village by Thulsa Doom (James Earl Jones)'s warriors. The movie follows Conan's life as he becomes a pit fighter and later a thief, culminating in a job that requires he save a young princess from the religious cult Thulsa Doom now leads.
Several things impressed me about this movie. The lands Conan travels through are populated by diverse races - portrayed by a racially diverse cast. The magician they encounter who narrates the events (played by Mako) is Asian. Thulsa Doom is African American. It makes the world feel real.
I also liked Sandahl Bergman's portrayal of Valaria. She's introudced as a strong, competent warrior-thief. While she's only in the last third of the film, she plays a pivital role in freeing the princess and saving Conan's life. The only thing I found odd about her incllusion was the fact that, aside from the end credits, her name is never used. I only knew who she was by having watched Conan the Destroyer as a child (where she's mentioned by name several times).
There was very little magic, and what there was was done with a realistic slant, so no bad special effects marred the film.
The plot (and I used the term loosely) was drawn out and, despite several fight scenes, rather boring. There was a lot of Conan travelling, trying to find traces of Thulsa Doom with a voice over narration. As for the characters, they're all very two dimensional. There's no development beyond the forging of a few friendships.
Ultimately it's worth seeing as it's a genre classic, but don't expect a modern action movie.