Oh Arnold, you and your classic lines. I don’t think there is any actor more perfect for action roles than the Austrian bodybuilder. Even though I haven’t seen plenty of his films, his lines transcend through the Internet. You don’t have to see all of his movies to know the best lines in fact I enjoy watching a famous YouTube video highlighting his best zingers.
So based on the Governator’s legend, I had high hopes for “Conan the Barbarian.” Not only was it the actor’s breakthrough performance but a timeless tale in the first place. Unfortunately this “classic” film got lost in translation…or should I say time.
So far I have had little issue with movies made before my time. While I always expect a dip in certain qualities, there are still impressive movies including the original Star Wars trilogy, which still leaves an impact on me today. But when I watched this 80s action flick, the excitement just wasn’t consistently there.
The biggest issue for the film is the pacing. It moves very slowly especially the beginning sections. There is not much dialogue except from the narrator and this goes on for about 30 minutes. It just drags you through the part that should get you excited. I want to root for Conan but I’m left with little character depth. He shows so little emotion, which in some ways lessens your reasons to root for him…and you just saw his parents die!
Now some of the other characters are entertaining including all of Conan’s fellow thieves but that is no excuse for a lesser protagonist. And I know this was one of Arnold’s first films but he can definitely show more depth than that. Even the Terminator displays more heart than Conan.
Another issue for me was the inconsistent tone. While it was never meant to be too realistic, sometimes the film just gets too weird specifically with snakes. Whether it is shooting them with a bow or the main villain turning into one, snakes take this movie over the edge. I mean I understand the symbolism and everything but it was a little much. And plus James Earl Jones turning into a snake never really went anywhere; it’s not as if the final fight involved the transformation.
While I might seem a little harsh on this movie, I will not call it a terrible film. Instead I will chalk it up to not holding up 30 years later. I’m sure at the time it was exciting but nowadays it just does not have the exciting pace and tonal consistency that I prefer (seriously these are usually issues with the film assignments I’ve disliked). While the music was great, the older cinema style just couldn’t transition to present day. I would have thought this would be ripe for a remake but it seems like there already was one…and I got the feeling it was not good. Arnold had a lot of great films ahead of him but except for a few funny quotes, “Conan the Barbarian” just does not carry over to the twenty first century.