After seeing his entire village slain, being sold into servitude and forced to battle for his life in the arena, Conan swears vengeance and seeks out the leader of the snake cult responsible.
Long before Iron Man, The X-Men and Dr. Strange, Conan The Barbarian was one of the first Marvel characters to make it to the big screen. The film adaptation is a strange beast indeed; directed and co-written (with Oliver Stone) by John Milius who wrote the script for Apocalypse Now, it is far from the typical “superhero” movie. Milius’ directorial inexperience is obvious; the pacing is inconsistent and it relies far too much on montage over narrative story telling and characterisation. Some of the performances are also very ripe indeed, the dialogue clunky and some important plot elements left completely unexplained. This would usually be enough to bury a film completely, but Conan somehow manages to survive these many shortcomings. It has a rather pleasing old school B-Movie quality to it and Arnold Schwarzenegger’s formidable physical presence was obviously made for the part. James Earl Jones and Max Von Sydow supply some charismatic supporting performances, there are some striking images, it has a real sense of mysticism and spectacle and the set piece inside the temple is rather well staged.
Conan The Barbarian certainly won’t be to everyone’s taste but it revels in its own strangeness and for that reason alone, feels quite unique in this age of the factory-farmed blockbuster.