‘The epic tale of child sold into slavery who grows into a man who seeks revenge against the warlord who massacred his tribe.’
With the new Conan movie coming out recently, I’ve spent a chunk of the last few weeks delving back into the original stories, movies, and the MMORPG Age of Conan to give myself the best chance for comparison. Conan is one of the best-known characters in fantasy fiction, and a lot of people have tried to capture the spirit Robert E. Howard’s original adventure tales.
So does the original Conan the Barbarian movie still hold up today? In short, yes. Despite a few elements that seem cheesy today, Conan the Barbarian is still a great piece of film. A large portion of the film contains little or no dialogue, letting the fantastic score by Basil Poledouris to carry the story along. This was a fantastic choice by John Milius, at the time of filming Schwarzenegger was hardly known for his thespian skills, and the other actors fall into a similar category (With the obvious exception of James Earl Jones, who is given the bulk of the dialogue). The moving score, combined with some great silent acting allows these characters to develop and communicate with the audience in a way that wouldn’t be possible with dialogue. We feel for these characters, we want them to succeed and we feel for them as everything seems to go wrong.
This technique, combined with some great cinematography gives Conan the Barbarian a truly epic feel. The world that the film creates is very believable, even the crazy elements. As Conan journeys through the world, he meets demons and monsters at every turn, but that is the nature of this world and reinforces that nobody is ever safe here; evil lurks around every corner. The movie runs about two and a half hours, but it still felt as if there were some parts that were skipped over two quickly. The sequence after Conan’s first confrontation with Thulsa Doom at the Tower of Power in particular felt like it could have been fleshed out a bit. But despite a few missteps, the overall story still works very well.
Overall, Conan the Barbarian is one of the best examples of the pulp swords and sorcery subgenre. Some of the elements feel a little dated today, but it’s still definitely worth watching.
What I Liked – Epic feel. Fantastic Score. Great characterisation without dialogue.
What I Didn’t Like – Skipped over some parts too quickly.
Rating – 4 out of 5 (Really Enjoyable)