Conan the Barbarian (1982)

(On Cable TV, April 2017) Conan the Barbarian isn’t a great movie, but it does manages to achieve almost everything it aims for and still stands as one of the best movie adaptation of the classic barbarian fantasy subgenre. Arnold Schwarzenegger brings his considerable charisma to the title role—looking like he came from a Frazetta painting could have been enough, but he happens to be immensely compelling even with his limitations as an actor at the time. The film does take a while to get going: aside from the interminable prologues, it takes time until the band of adventurers is assembled and for the film to find its groove. After that, well, it’s straight-up fantasy escapism. While juvenile, there’s a certain honesty to the way the story strips itself down to id-driven violence and ravishing. My interest in barbarian fantasy being limited, I could only appreciate the success of the execution (and there has been quite a bit worse in that sub-genre) without being particularly moved. So it goes—I’m just glad, on some level, that the ultimate barbarian fantasy movie exists … and that it still stands as the definitive one thirty-five years later. (No, the remake doesn’t count.)

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