copyright © Jedo Dre 2011

Conan the Brabarian is a film where the bad is quite bad and the good is really good.

The acting ranges between heaven and hell. It is Arnold in the main role, and not just any Arnold but a relatively early Arnold, so his acting leaves much to be desired, his charm notwithstanding. He is not the worst however. Some actors got even poorer and more poorly dubbed lines attached to them. The boy at the beginning of the film does not say anything at all, just stares all confused, even when his most beloved ones die. Someone forgot to tell this kid to begin acting.

However, this movie does the smart thing by limiting the amount of dialogue for those who cannot act and saving the speeches for those who can: James Earl Jones, Max von Sydow and Mako Iwamatsu.

Now we come to the most painful part of the film. The writing can be pretty good but there is a lot in this movie that either does not make much sense, is unintentionally funny or just plain stupid. Quite a few scenes, although have a point and purpose to them, contain nonsensical events. Conan wraps a fur around a naked woman but then immediately takes it off. Then for some reason he decides that a random dead guy in a cave is his God. A woman helps him only to immediately try and kill him. And the dialogue…oh dear. The creators actually try to make the phrase "You wanna live forever?" a catch phrase for one of the characters. Stupid dialogue contrasts strongly with some really good lines from James Jones' villain, Thulsa Doom.

There are a number of things about the story that are good. There is more to this movie than just a collection of action scenes. There is a theme about the power of mind body versus the power of weapons and about blindly following leaders. The story is not too formulaic. For example although the movie does have a romantic interest for Conan, she does not start like a typical lady character and does not play out like one. And despite the odd writing for certain scenes and dialogue there is an overall structure to the story that makes sense and flows well.

The art in this film is epic and it is what defines this film. Misty forests, snowy mountains, deserts and huge sets combined with some of the best costume design create an unforgettable looking film. Those outfits are really something with the big fur mixed with leather, Nordic runes and Arnold's glistening muscles. A lot of these costumes look like one of a kind and it seems that Conan himself carries a whole wardrobe because he is in something new every day.

The weapons can get a chapter of their own. They are important to the story so care was taken with their appearance. Conan's sword has become a recognizable icon, but there are also various Asian fist blades and bows.

The best thing however that really makes this film for me is its music. There may be a little too much of it. It cannot help itself but play over everything, pumping on and on, but it can stay as long as it wants as far as I am concerned. String section, French Horns, piercing trumpets and the everlasting heavy thundering base drums come together to make this film feel truly epic. The main theme for this movie ended up on my mp3 player, then in my custom soundtrack for Elder Scrolls Morrowind and the subsequent Elder Scrolls games. When those drums start roaring, I know right away where I am - in the far away steppes, with the wind on my left shoulder and my sword on my right shoulder.

Despite its flaws Conan the Babarian is one of my favorite movies of all time. The things that are bad about it are entertainingly bad and the entertaining things are properly entertaining. As soon as you start buckling under the poor dialogue, the movie throws a great looking scenery with an epic theme at you and sucks you right back on board. It is largely about the adventure atmosphere brought on by the great looks and music. This movie could have easily been a really bad adventure film, but it ended up in the right hands and it shines. It has so much character. It is an eternal dragon breathing fire. I am in awe of this movie's art and feel of adventure.

Please be aware that while there may be women who will like this, at its core this is a very male-oriented movie. Those biceps are not flexing for the ladies. This is a power-fantasy movie through and through, power-porn if you will.

Conan the Barbarian