Jump to content
Philly Cheesesteak

Conan the Barbarian

Recommended Posts

The first film to launch Arnold Schwarzenegger into the pop culture zeitgeist, this loose adaptation of Robert E. Howard's Hyborian Age epic of short stories became the model of the stock archetype Ahnuld would come to embody throughout his career: the stoic, rated M for Manly, catchphrase-spewing ubermensch who occasionally screams at you in a thick Austrian accent.

 

The movie itself? Booming orchestral soundtrack, gorgeous set design, an awesome opening narration delivered by Mako Iwamatsu,the stylized graphic violence of 80's genre cinema and James Earl Jones hamming it up as a snake-themed supervillain.

 

Oh, and who can forget one of the best movie prayers of all time?

 

 

I remember someone once calling the movie "what would happen if they shot and filmed some guy's D&D campaign." Well, if that's true, they sure as hell gave it top notch production design.

 

What do you guys think, does Conan the Barbarian have any qualities that deem it worthy for a Canon candidacy? Or is it just a geeky gen. X property we've given, perhaps, a little too much credit? As Amy has opined in the past, is the Canon truly in danger of becoming swamped by gen X nerdbro nostalgia properties? Does that alone disqualify Conan from the Canon?

 

Would love to hear some thoughts on this.

Share this post


Link to post

The best thing Oliver Stone ever co-wrote!

 

Basil Poledouris' score is surely one of the most influential ever, and is still reused today in movies, games, and trailers. Incredibly evocative, stirring music.

 

Fun fact: this was the last major studio film recorded and released to theaters in mono sound.

 

Conan doesn't get the respect it deserves, probably due to spawning an entire genre of crappy imitators, from Deathstalker to Ator the Fighting Eagle to the Barbarian Brothers (to say nothing of Conan's poor sequels). In fact, I'd say it's the only good "low fantasy" movie ever made.

 

This film is also well worth tracking down on disc, in order to hear the amazing commentary by Schwarzenegger.

Share this post


Link to post

The best thing Oliver Stone ever co-wrote!

 

Basil Poledouris' score is surely one of the most influential ever, and is still reused today in movies, games, and trailers. Incredibly evocative, stirring music.

 

Fun fact: this was the last major studio film recorded and released to theaters in mono sound.

 

Really? Damn, that's all kinds of neat!

Share this post


Link to post

Mongol General: What is best in The Canon?

Conan: To crush your vs episode opponent, to see them driven before you, and to hear the lamentations of their supporters!

Share this post


Link to post

Mongol General: What is best in The Canon?

Conan: To crush your vs episode opponent, to see them driven before you, and to hear the lamentations of their supporters!

 

Devin repeats this in the mirror ten times before recording a vs episode with Amy.

Share this post


Link to post

The best thing Oliver Stone ever co-wrote!

 

Basil Poledouris' score is surely one of the most influential ever, and is still reused today in movies, games, and trailers. Incredibly evocative, stirring music.

 

Fun fact: this was the last major studio film recorded and released to theaters in mono sound.

 

Conan doesn't get the respect it deserves, probably due to spawning an entire genre of crappy imitators, from Deathstalker to Ator the Fighting Eagle to the Barbarian Brothers (to say nothing of Conan's poor sequels). In fact, I'd say it's the only good "low fantasy" movie ever made.

 

This film is also well worth tracking down on disc, in order to hear the amazing commentary by Schwarzenegger.

 

I'll put out there that there's simply a lack of respect for the genre that has kept low fantasy from getting out of the kids movie and b movie buckets. I will disagree though that Conan is the only good low fantasy movie ever made. Off the top of my head I would add into that list:

 

Good to Excellent:

Dragonslayer

Excalibur

Willow

Black Death

 

 

Passable or at least entertaining.

The Sword and the Sorcerer

The Beastmaster

Solomon Kane <--- one I really like. I don't recall it getting good reviews though.

 

I'm sure I could add more, but I'm sticking with a pretty narrow "Swords and Boards + Wizards and Monsters but no Elves and Dwarves and other silliness" definition.

  • Like 1

Share this post


Link to post

 

I'll put out there that there's simply a lack of respect for the genre that has kept low fantasy from getting out of the kids movie and b movie buckets. I will disagree though that Conan is the only good low fantasy movie ever made. Off the top of my head I would add into that list:

 

Good to Excellent:

Dragonslayer

Excalibur

Willow

Black Death

 

 

Passable or at least entertaining.

The Sword and the Sorcerer

The Beastmaster

Solomon Kane <--- one I really like. I don't recall it getting good reviews though.

 

I'm sure I could add more, but I'm sticking with a pretty narrow "Swords and Boards + Wizards and Monsters but no Elves and Dwarves and other silliness" definition.

 

Dragonslayer is amazing. First off, it's an underrated gem. Secondly, best practical dragon effects ever. Thirdly, it handles fairly heavy thematic subject matter such as the erasure of native culture and histories, represented by Christianity dominating "pagan Europe" as best represented by the dragon and the wizard.

 

And fun fact, the design for the dragon influenced del Toro's kaiju designs in Pacific Rim. It needs more respect.

 

Excalibur, likewise, needs more respect. Willow I haven't seen in years, so no comment, and Black Death? If you cut some of the filler getting to the village with the dark secret, it'd go from good to great in a second.

Share this post


Link to post

 

Dragonslayer is amazing. First off, it's an underrated gem. Secondly, best practical dragon effects ever. Thirdly, it handles fairly heavy thematic subject matter such as the erasure of native culture and histories, represented by Christianity dominating "pagan Europe" as best represented by the dragon and the wizard.

 

And fun fact, the design for the dragon influenced del Toro's kaiju designs in Pacific Rim. It needs more respect.

 

Excalibur, likewise, needs more respect. Willow I haven't seen in years, so no comment, and Black Death? If you cut some of the filler getting to the village with the dark secret, it'd go from good to great in a second.

 

I honestly get sad at the lack of a Dragonslayer Bluray. I saw it several times in the theater when it was released, and you're right about the heavy themes and overall darkness of the film. Very strange at the time for a Disney release. And Vermithrax Perjorative? What a fucking incredible name for the Dragon.

 

just for fun

 

Rancor07_zpskxz3bmsg.png

Share this post


Link to post

 

I honestly get sad at the lack of a Dragonslayer Bluray. I saw it several times in the theater when it was released, and you're right about the heavy themes and overall darkness of the film. Very strange at the time for a Disney release. And Vermithrax Perjorative? What a fucking incredible name for the Dragon.

 

just for fun

 

Rancor07_zpskxz3bmsg.png

 

That pic just made my day.

Share this post


Link to post

Good to Excellent:

Dragonslayer

Excalibur

Willow

Black Death

 

Passable or at least entertaining.

The Sword and the Sorcerer

The Beastmaster

Solomon Kane <--- one I really like. I don't recall it getting good reviews though.

 

I forgot about Excalibur, I didn't consider that part of the genre because Arthur is a little less "fantasy" to me. There's a lot of excellent stuff in that film, just visually it's pretty amazing. I'm surprised we don't see too many takes on that legend these days; I can't say that I'm enthusiastic about Guy Ritchie's upcoming film.

 

Willow is pretty great, although it doesn't hold up as well as I'd hoped. Still a great film for kids with wonderful FX.

 

I guess I'd still rank Conan above all those, for the seriousness and relatively realistic tone it takes. There's hardly a tongue in cheek moment, and no unintentional laughs -- hard to accomplish in a swords and sorcery film. It never feels pulpy or cheap, in the way that Beastmaster or Dragonslayer do.

 

I kind of miss the fantasy boom of the 1980s, which also gave us films like Ladyhawke, Flesh+Blood, and cheesy indulgences like Legend or Krull.

Share this post


Link to post

 

I forgot about Excalibur, I didn't consider that part of the genre because Arthur is a little less "fantasy" to me. There's a lot of excellent stuff in that film, just visually it's pretty amazing. I'm surprised we don't see too many takes on that legend these days; I can't say that I'm enthusiastic about Guy Ritchie's upcoming film.

 

Willow is pretty great, although it doesn't hold up as well as I'd hoped. Still a great film for kids with wonderful FX.

 

I guess I'd still rank Conan above all those, for the seriousness and relatively realistic tone it takes. There's hardly a tongue in cheek moment, and no unintentional laughs -- hard to accomplish in a swords and sorcery film. It never feels pulpy or cheap, in the way that Beastmaster or Dragonslayer do.

 

I kind of miss the fantasy boom of the 1980s, which also gave us films like Ladyhawke, Flesh+Blood, and cheesy indulgences like Legend or Krull.

 

Don't forget Highlander and The Princess Bride! Oh, and Time Bandits and Baron Munchausen!

Share this post


Link to post

Basil Poledouris' score is surely one of the most influential ever, and is still reused today in movies, games, and trailers. Incredibly evocative, stirring music.

 

Yes, yes, yes! Poledouris remains one of the most interesting and relevant composers of all time. Considering that Conan the Barbarian was inspired by opera, Poledouris' score was simply perfect.

 

I watched this film for the first time last night, and I really think it deserves being considered for the Canon. The set designs and photography alone should qualify it: it has that look of old-school epic, smacking of classic Hollywood. Reminded me a bit of the first Superman, with its comparatively slow pace BUT spectacle-filled action set-pieces.

 

However... I do have a couple of problems with the film. In particular, it seems to have a cavalier approach to race relations (I am almost sure that James Earl Snake is the only black person on screen throughout the entire movie, and the few Asian characters which appear are... challenging).

 

But even with that huge caveat, it's a film that probably deserves consideration. Arnie's performance is actually more nuanced than people give him credit for, the script does a bleak and ubermench-driven plot in a way which is entertaining and avoids the murkiness that Zack Snyder keeps pumping out, and it is always - always - a visual spectacle. I would definitely consider this for an episode.

Share this post


Link to post

I forgot about Excalibur, I didn't consider that part of the genre because Arthur is a little less "fantasy" to me. There's a lot of excellent stuff in that film, just visually it's pretty amazing. I'm surprised we don't see too many takes on that legend these days; I can't say that I'm enthusiastic about Guy Ritchie's upcoming film.

 

There really should be a King Arthur pic in the canon, but really the only choices are Excalibur and Disney's Sword in the Stone.

 

Please don't come at me with "what about Camelot" because yeah, I'm aware of it.

Share this post


Link to post

 

There really should be a King Arthur pic in the canon, but really the only choices are Excalibur and Disney's Sword in the Stone.

 

Please don't come at me with "what about Camelot" because yeah, I'm aware of it.

 

In the "But I just haven't seen it so no comment" sort of way or the "I'm rather dismissive towards it" sort of way?

Share this post


Link to post

 

However... I do have a couple of problems with the film. In particular, it seems to have a cavalier approach to race relations (I am almost sure that James Earl Snake is the only black person on screen throughout the entire movie, and the few Asian characters which appear are... challenging).

 

I don't think it's that bad. At least, not on a "Breakfast at Tiffany's" level. James Earl Jones is not necessarily codified as "evil" for his skin colour. In fact, I'd be willing to argue the writing behind his character is rather race-blind, any (incredibly imposing and intimidating) man could have pulled it off. Besides, I think you can tell he's really enjoying the opportunity to ham it up on camera, and Vader doesn't count: that's just a voice acting role. Here's Jones in the flesh showing off his onscreen villain chops. I dig it.

 

As for the Asian characters, in all fairness, without Conan the Barbarian we wouldn't have had Mako playing Iroh in Avatar: The Last Airbender.

  • Like 1

Share this post


Link to post

 

In the "But I just haven't seen it so no comment" sort of way or the "I'm rather dismissive towards it" sort of way?

 

The second one. I've seen Camelot plenty of times (I've even seen it live), but I'd just rather a straight-up Arthurian story than the musical version in the Canon. Personal preference, is all.

Share this post


Link to post

 

I don't think it's that bad. At least, not on a "Breakfast at Tiffany's" level. James Earl Jones is not necessarily codified as "evil" for his skin colour. In fact, I'd be willing to argue the writing behind his character is rather race-blind, any (incredibly imposing and intimidating) man could have pulled it off. Besides, I think you can tell he's really enjoying the opportunity to ham it up on camera, and Vader doesn't count: that's just a voice acting role. Here's Jones in the flesh showing off his onscreen village chops. I dig it.

 

As for the Asian characters, in all fairness, without Conan the Barbarian we wouldn't have had Mako playing Iroh in Avatar: The Last Airbender.

 

I broadly agree with what you're saying - I would not endorse the film if I thought the race issue was foregrounded. And it was great fun watching James Earl Jones ruling over the two blonde ubermensch henchmen who looked like they belonged in a hair-rock band. It was more the fact that the only black person on screen is the one who transmutates into a snake. With so many characters and extras, couldn't there have been a few more black faces on screen? It didn't feel like you typical racist writing, lore like lazy casting around the edges.

 

The Asian characters, on the other hand, have that whiff of exoticism which Asian characters tend to suffer from in these films. Especially the witch Conan finds in the yurt at the beginning.

 

Like I said, it did not ruin the film for me, but it was noticeable. The Asian characters, in particular, made me roll my eyes - and that broke the suspension of disbelief a couple of times.

Share this post


Link to post

 

I broadly agree with what you're saying - I would not endorse the film if I thought the race issue was foregrounded. And it was great fun watching James Earl Jones ruling over the two blonde ubermensch henchmen who looked like they belonged in a hair-rock band. It was more the fact that the only black person on screen is the one who transmutates into a snake. With so many characters and extras, couldn't there have been a few more black faces on screen? It didn't feel like you typical racist writing, lore like lazy casting around the edges.

 

The Asian characters, on the other hand, have that whiff of exoticism which Asian characters tend to suffer from in these films. Especially the witch Conan finds in the yurt at the beginning.

 

Like I said, it did not ruin the film for me, but it was noticeable. The Asian characters, in particular, made me roll my eyes - and that broke the suspension of disbelief a couple of times.

 

It's a fair point.

 

I almost want to pull a Devin and use the old "well, you see, it's based on early 20th century pulp fiction material where exoticism was just one of the tools of the trade," (see: arguments laid down in Gunga Din and Temple of Doom) but that line of reasoning is sort of a magnet for trouble.

  • Like 1

Share this post


Link to post

Also, I had initially wanted to propose this as a vs. episode between Schwarzenegger's two most defining early films... until I realised just about everyone and their mother would have voted for The Terminator, no questions asked. Didn't seem fair. So I thought I could promote Conan just on its own.

Share this post


Link to post

Also, I had initially wanted to propose this as a vs. episode between Schwarzenegger's two most defining early films... until I realised just about everyone and their mother would have voted for The Terminator, no questions asked. Didn't seem fair. So I thought I could promote Conan just on its own.

 

They're probably gonna do the Terminators sooner or later, since it just came up again.

 

At least I think it did. How did Terminator come up in an episode about The General?

 

1982 - Conan the Barbarian

1984 - The Terminator

1985 - Commando

1987 - Predator

1990 - Total Recall

1991 - Terminator 2: Judgment Day

 

It just boggles my mind every time I think of this period. Arnie made all of these great movies in the space of a decade.

 

(Also Twins and The Running Man were decent)

Share this post


Link to post

 

They're probably gonna do the Terminators sooner or later, since it just came up again.

 

At least I think it did. How did Terminator come up in an episode about The General?

 

1982 - Conan the Barbarian

1984 - The Terminator

1985 - Commando

1987 - Predator

1990 - Total Recall

1991 - Terminator 2: Judgment Day

 

It just boggles my mind every time I think of this period. Arnie made all of these great movies in the space of a decade.

 

(Also Twins and The Running Man were decent)

 

Don't forget Kindergarten Cop. Man, a lot of people are fond of that movie.

 

I almost want to argue most of those movies you listed deserve a Canon nomination, but I get the feeling Devin and Amy would only select one or two at best.

Share this post


Link to post

I almost want to pull a Devin and use the old "well, you see, it's based on early 20th century pulp fiction material where exoticism was just one of the tools of the trade," (see: arguments laid down in Gunga Din and Temple of Doom) but that line of reasoning is sort of a magnet for trouble.

 

Yeah, that's the point. That said, this felt a lot less problematic than Temple of Doom (I haven't seen Gunga Din)

Share this post


Link to post

 

Yeah, that's the point. That said, this felt a lot less problematic than Temple of Doom (I haven't seen Gunga Din)

 

The Canon episode or the movie itself?

Share this post


Link to post

×