Steve's Impartial Review of Conan the Barbarian
Overview: In the Hyborian Age, an orphaned child sold into slavery as a pit fighter becomes the greatest barbarian warrior ever to walk the earth. Conan, who is the barbarian I just mentioned, must do battle with a variety of evil warriors, snakes, wizards and beautiful babes in his quest for revenge. Along his way he will make some friends and have many stirring battles.
Directed By: John Milius
The Case For: Awesome action from beginning to end, Conan is a classic of not only the barbarian genre, but also all of film. There are plenty of beautiful babes, decapitated heads, giant snakes and sinister warriors from the stygian darkness who want to rob Conan of his life. It is also deeply rooted in mythology and also philosophy (Nietzsche), so be prepared to think as well as enjoy intense action.
The Case Against: If you don't like barbarians or you have a weak feeling when it comes to violence. Also if you hate hot babes and giant snakes.
When Lowtax first sent me an email asking me to write a movie review I was overjoyed. It was a big break for someone like me who only updates once in a while to be able to walk alongside titans of Something Awful like Greasnin, Linguica and Pantsfish. I was super pumped. I imagined finding some movie about aliens that live in toilets and crawl up buttholes and writing a hilarious review about it. But then Lowtax told me what movie I should review first.
He didn't just want me to review the greatest classic genre of movies, the barbarian film. He didn't just want me to review the greatest actor in the history of barbarian films, Arnold Schwarzenegger. Lowtax wanted me to review the greatest barbarian film of all time. He wanted me to review "Conan the Barbarian."
I was torn. I wanted to leap at the opportunity to review a movie for Something Awful, but how could I objectively review my favorite movie? How could I hope to inject the biting cynicism people keep emailing me and telling me I lack? There was no hope for me. I couldn't possibly separate my feelings for Conan from my review of the movie.
Then I remembered an incident that happened in March of 1991. I was a freshman in high school and me and my buddy Keith were sitting at adjacent study carrels in the library. We were chatting and looking at pictures of naked women in the Human Anatomy book, when Keith started talking about Operation Desert Storm. America had just beat Iraq a couple weeks earlier and so everyone was talking about Norman Schwarzkopf, the dude who was in charge of beating Iraq.
Keith said something like, "hey, Steve, what do you think of Norman Schwarzkopf?" Of course I said that he was pretty awesome and Keith agreed. Then Keith pondered, "but man, wouldn't it have been awesome if Conan was in charge of that army? He would have been way better than Stormin' Norman."
I thought about it for a couple of minutes, carefully considering the gravity of the question, before I offered my reply.
"No, Keith," I told Keith, "it would not have been awesome, because Conan, while an able bodied and excellent warrior of Krom and master of many skills most martial, would have little idea of how to lead a modern military force."
I think Keith was pretty amazed to hear me saying that, and I have to admit, I was pretty amazed as well. I had never before admitted that Conan had a single fault, even in our many Conan versus Han Solo arguments, yet there I was admitting that not only was Conan flawed, he was inferior at something to a real dude.
I've since run through my response to that question many times when I'm lying in bed at night and I can't get to sleep, and my conclusion is always the same. Conan is an unstoppable killing machine and an excellent strategist&during the Hyborian Age. Facing the elite Republican Guard of Iraq with tanks, missiles, machineguns and grenades there would be little chance that Conan would succeed. Sure, he would kill a few thousand of them in hand-to-hand combat, but while he is chopping men in half and feeding them their guts there would be other dudes in bunkers raining artillery and missiles down on him.
The other thing is that Conan would have no idea of how to lead a modern military force, like I said earlier. He would devise some scheme where all of the Coalition soldiers would line up behind a trench covered with fig fronds and filled with oil. Then Conan would ride out on a horse and chop the heads off of a bunch of Iraqi officers until they charged at the Americans. But the Iraqis would charge the Coalition army with tanks instead of cavalry or dudes on foot.
Then when their tanks got to the trench Conan would have some dude shoot burning arrows into the trench. But the tanks would drive right through the trench and only a couple would explode, because most tanks are designed to withstand tougher stuff than burning oil.
And all of the Coalition soldiers would be out of their tanks and trucks and stuff with bayonets and knives and the Iraqi tanks would just drive over them. Conan would see this, get super pissed, and just start ripping open tanks and cutting them in half with his sword. It would almost be worth it just to see Conan totally cut loose on some tanks, but in the end a bomb or a sniper or something would bring Conan down.
You see, Conan hates wizards because he feels vulnerable to magic and pretty much in our day and age everyone is a wizard. What do you think Conan would think of your cellular phone or your flashlight? If he saw you playing a Gameboy DS on a park bench somewhere he would probably yell "GARRRRAAR!" and just chop you in half, but then a cop might see it and "cast a spell" on Conan with his revolver or taser or whatever. Conan has trouble with one wizard, a whole world of wizards would just drive him into a killing frenzy.
The irony in all of this is that Norman Schwarzkopf didn't do a good enough job beating Iraq and now Donald Rumsfeld is fighting Iraq and it's the perfect war for Conan to be fighting. I don't want to get into all the political stuff about the new war against Iraq, because that stuff is boring as heck, but I do know if you give Conan a good reason he will go fight a war. You don't need maps and pictures of Anthrax bunkers or whatever, you just need some good reason for him to want revenge.