Conan the Barbarian ★★★½

This review may contain spoilers. I can handle the truth.

This review may contain spoilers.

A surprisingly compelling film, the main stars here are Arnold Schwarzenegger's arms, Basil Poledouris's soaring score, and Duke Callaghan's gorgeous cinematography. The screenplay feels at times fragmented; sometimes it seems to come from a desire to show & not tell, which I can appreciate, but a few more lines of exposition here or there--even from the dreaded voice-over narrator, a device I'm well-known for LOVING--would have been welcome. The end feels a bit anti-climactic, and there's very little resolution or even acknowledgement of "the riddle of steel" in the film's climax; Conan's father's sword shatters, as predicted by Thulsa Doom, yet Conan finds victory in this nonetheless.

It's a 1982 film starring Arnold Schwarzenegger, so it can hardly be described as feminist, but even the women are allowed to participate in the action. Indeed, it's Conan who's damseled and must be rescued by Valeria, and though it's not stated explicitly, the presence of Princess Yasimina in the film's climax suggests she's there to help Conan and seek her own vengeance against Thulsa Doom. Conan carrying her away like a sack of potatoes in the final shot spoils this slightly, of course.

Still, it's easy to see why this film became a classic. There's something inherently appealing about it; perhaps it's the completely un-self-conscious high-fantasy setting and themes. This film isn't embarrassed about what it is or where it comes from, the way so many superhero films today seem to be.