Conan: The Barbarian

Rated: R
Runtime: 2 Hours and 9 Minutes

Reviewer: Dale
Grade: B

Here is something about Arnold Schwarzenegger that you might not realize. Even though the man has never played Jesus Christ, he has been crucified at least twice in his cinematic career. Once in "End of Days" and once here. He's been crucified at least three times, actually, if you count the reviews of "Last Action Hero".

But I kid.

What differentiates Arnold's crucifixions from other men's, however, is fairly simple. In "Conan", when he is hanging from a tree, nearly dead, a vulture starts picking at his flesh. How does Arnold respond? He leans in, bites the vulture's neck, and rips its throat out, killing the little bastard.

This sums up Conan's character in a nutshell. The movie begins with a quote from Frederick Nietzche: "Whatever doesn't kill you, makes you stronger." Conan is a living testament to this principle. His family is killed. His village is slaughtered. He is chained to a wheel for twenty years. He is then forced into being a gladiator. And all within the first ten minutes!!!! But does he give up? Does he stop? Does he call it a day? Ask the buzzard.

Unfortunately for James Earl Jones, Arnold is pissed at him. You see, all these offenses I have listed were all perpetrated by Mister CNN himself. James Earl plays a sort of prehistoric variation on Jim Jones, sans the spiked Kool Aid. He is the leader of a cult which deals in human sacrifice and snakes, yet seems oddly like the Hippies of the 1960's. This makes this movie by far the strangest movie ever made about the 1960's Counter-Culture movement. And you can tell that's what it's about. An orgy scene toward the end of the movie is like Woodstock only with snakes and human sacrifice in place of bands like Country Joe and the Fish.

Alas, despite such intriguing social commentary and scenes involving dead buzzards, much of the dialogue is as cheesy as Velveeta. There isn't much an actor can do with howlers like "What gods do you worship?". But Arnold and the rest of the gang slog through as best they can, and even manage to be quite charismatic. The action is very rousing when it finally comes and even though the action is all lumped toward the end, I found that the material, lame dialogue and all, kept my interest quite well. I want to rip this movie apart a little more, but there is just so much fun to be had here that I can't quite bring myself to do it. Ultimately, it more than succeeds based on the high spirits of its cast and crew and the amazing charisma of a young Arnold Schwarzenegger. One of the things I have always admired about Arnie is the way that he totally commits himself to every role. He may not be Laurence Olivier, but he cares about the material. He never seems to be lowering himself to the level of any of the situations or dialogue. If Arnold believes in it, why shouldn't we? In the long run, this goes a long way toward helping every Arnold film. And it is why I have never actually disliked one of his films. A statement that I will be able to keep forever because I never plan to see "Batman and Robin". There is only so much suffering that one man can take.

Whatever flaws "Conan" may have, it is still very worth watching.

Besides, I can't very well give a bad review to a movie that has Arnold knocking out a camel with a single punch.