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Conan The Barbarian (1982) - Appreciations & Criticisms


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#1 guilalah

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Posted 28 January 2010 - 08:22 PM

Hi, I thought I should start a general purpose opinion thread on Milius 1982 'Conan the Barbarian'.

Comments specifically regarding how CtB should have been different should go to the existing thread

'MILIUS FILM: How would you change it?'

'Milius Film: How would you change it?'

#2 guilalah

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Posted 29 January 2010 - 01:03 AM

I was somewhat disappointed with CtB when I saw it in the cinema, back in the time of its release. I was frustrated with its portrayal of Conan.

However, the film has grown on me over time, and I do enjoy seeing it once or thrice in any given year.

I especially enjoy the visual story telling and the music. I've become very fond, over the past fifteen years, of silent cinema, and I find that some of the things I value in film are more in evidence in CtB than in most modern films.

I have read criticisms of the lighting. I do think that sometimes the lighting is a bit heavy handed.

As for Milius rather free adaption (to put it lightly) of Howards material, I'm rather more accepting of this now than I was in my adolescence. I've seen that a film may hew closely to a fine book and yet be poor (though it can be good), or depart greatly from it's source and be fine cinema (or not). Though it would, as a fan of REH and Conan, tickle me to see a close adaption of his work, my main concern is that 1) Howard's own works and words are accesible in print, and 2) films drawing material from Howard are worth seeing on their own terms.

Also, I buy into Aristotles idea that the essential part of a drama is its action, and that the characters are revealed in the action. I think the essence of CtB is Conan avenging his parents and clan against a man(?), Thulsa Doom, who had a formative influence on the course of his life and, in the end, accepting Doom's influence without being determined by it. So -- accepting that the action is essential and the character relatively accidental -- I accept that Milius needed a somewhat(!) different 'Conan' than Howard's; and -- judging that the resultant film was ... not great, certainly ... but good, and rewarding my repeated viewing -- I judge that Milius did right to (greatly) mutate Conan for this film.

If Milius feels that he did great research on REH and got a deep knowledge of REH's Conan, and that the film was faithful to REH -- well, that is the intellectual sin of a man; but I do not hold it against the film.

#3 guilalah

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Posted 29 January 2010 - 01:06 AM

Apologies, I really should have put '(1982)' into the post's title-line -- in case subsequent films are title 'Conan the Barbarian'. If any moderator has the power to effect this change, feel free.

#4 drush9999

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Posted 29 January 2010 - 02:16 AM

I especially enjoy the visual story telling and the music. I've become very fond, over the past fifteen years, of silent cinema, and I find that some of the things I value in film are more in evidence in CtB than in most modern films.


That's pretty spot on to how I feel about the film, it's a visual feast with great music. Wish there was a music only track on the DVD, to turn off the dialogue and Arnold grunting :D
The film was my first foray into the world of Conan. I noticed when I finally read the original stories that I was surprised how different REH's Cimmerian is. Arnold makes the literary Conan look like Einstein, he's just plain dumb in the movie.
Having said that I do enjoy this movie immensely, and gets regular rotation at home. Think the character Subotai is fantastic, wish they could have got the same guy for the sequel.

Edited by drush9999, 29 January 2010 - 02:17 AM.

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#5 matsellah

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Posted 29 January 2010 - 02:17 AM

I think the consensus here is, if it had been called anything other than 'Conan,' it would rank as one of the best Sword & Sandal movies of all-time.

And, in all fairness, that's a well-earned assumption.

In my own opinion, it's because of the 'artistic license' imposed, that makes this film such a thorn. I was 21 when it was released and was well-steeped in REH by then. Within the first 10 minutes, I was completely angered and frustrated. The rest of the movie did little to quell those emotions. To this day, I still can't watch it without tsking and swearing.

By and large, the most unctuous elements of the film were the sidekicks; the adventure buddies. REH's Conan worked mostly alone and did not suffer fools gladly. When he was partnered in crime, it was with men and women who were self-sufficient and competent. Leaders themselves. Yet Milius saw fit to surround Schwarzenegger's Conan with not one, but two men who would be helpless without the aid of others.

Not much more can be said about Schwarzenegger's acting ability at that time.

Those are my primary detractors.

As for the scope of the film, it's hard to argue. The cinematography was breath-taking, the design was amazing and the score is unequaled. In this respect, the film earns it's kudos as one of the best S&S movies ever.

But (in my eyes) it was not - nor ever be - a movie about Conan.

Edited by matsellah, 29 January 2010 - 02:22 AM.

"Their present king is the most renowned warrior among the western nations. He is an outlander, an adventurer who seized the crown by force during a time of civil strife, strangling King Namedides with his own hands, upon the very throne. His name is Conan, and no man can stand before him in battle." ~ Orastes, 'The Hour Of The Dragon'

"Damned degenerates!" ~ Conan 'Xuthal Of The Dusk'

#6 indestructibleman

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Posted 29 January 2010 - 02:29 AM

last summer i finally saw this in the theatre.

i love this film. i think what makes Milius's Conan great is the same thing that makes Howard's Conan great. it's actually about something. it's not just escapist fantasy. CtB is a Nietzschean parable.

Of the three metamorphoses of the spirit I tell you: how the spirit becomes a camel; and the camel, a lion; and the lion, finally, a child.

Conan the slave is a camel.

What is difficult? asks the spirit that would bear much, and kneels down like a camel wanting to be well loaded. What is most difficult, O heroes, asks the spirit that would bear much, that I may take it upon myself and exult in my strength? Is it not humbling oneself to wound one's haughtiness? Letting one's folly shine to mock one's wisdom?...

Conan the thief and revenge taker is a lion.

In the loneliest desert, however, the second metamorphosis occurs: here the spirit becomes a lion who would conquer his freedom and be master in his own desert. Here he seeks out his last master: he wants to fight him and his last god; for ultimate victory he wants to fight with the great dragon.

and when he denies Thulsa Doom and kills him he becomes a child. he no longer has anything to prove and can be his own man.

But say, my brothers, what can the child do that even the lion could not do? Why must the preying lion still become a child? The child is innocence and forgetting, a new beginning, a game, a self-propelled wheel, a first movement, a sacred "Yes." For the game of creation, my brothers, a sacred "Yes" is needed: the spirit now wills his own will, and he who had been lost to the world now conquers the world.

like Howard's Conan, Milius's Conan embodies values that are important to the writer.

the film is sadly let down by Arnold's performance, but i really like the direction. the cinematography and music are excellent. it is not Howard's Conan, but i think it is an excellent film in its own right.

#7 Libaax

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Posted 29 January 2010 - 04:04 AM

I think the consensus here is, if it had been called anything other than 'Conan,' it would rank as one of the best Sword & Sandal movies of all-time.



I saw it 15 years before i read REH story.

IMO its a crappy B-film that would have been forgotten if it was not a famous name like Conan in the title.


Over here its remembered as whatever was Arnold doing before he got big with action films. It hurt Conan name much more than it did in US,NA.

So dont be too sure with consensus here....

Edited by Libaax, 29 January 2010 - 04:05 AM.


#8 matsellah

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Posted 29 January 2010 - 04:20 AM

Libaax, it's all opinion and speculation. You've been here what...

The 'consensus' is over the long term, by what has been posted over the past 7 years. I stand by what I said.

Edited by matsellah, 29 January 2010 - 04:23 AM.

"Their present king is the most renowned warrior among the western nations. He is an outlander, an adventurer who seized the crown by force during a time of civil strife, strangling King Namedides with his own hands, upon the very throne. His name is Conan, and no man can stand before him in battle." ~ Orastes, 'The Hour Of The Dragon'

"Damned degenerates!" ~ Conan 'Xuthal Of The Dusk'

#9 Axerules

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Posted 29 January 2010 - 04:21 AM

http://www.barbarian....com/ctbds.html
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#10 Libaax

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Posted 29 January 2010 - 04:33 AM

Libaax, it's all opinion and speculation. You've been here what...

The 'consensus' is over the long term, by what has been posted over the past 7 years. I stand by what I said.



Of course many like it, just like many people who claim their childhood fav is still the best. For many it was what made them a Conan/REH fan. Even if the thought is almost horrific to me.

I have seen my share of people who dont like. Go watch the other Conan movie threads about the old films.


'consensus' seemed a bit strong.

#11 matsellah

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Posted 29 January 2010 - 05:41 AM

We're on the same page here. Read my post again. I Did Not Like the movie.
"Their present king is the most renowned warrior among the western nations. He is an outlander, an adventurer who seized the crown by force during a time of civil strife, strangling King Namedides with his own hands, upon the very throne. His name is Conan, and no man can stand before him in battle." ~ Orastes, 'The Hour Of The Dragon'

"Damned degenerates!" ~ Conan 'Xuthal Of The Dusk'

#12 Ironhand

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Posted 29 January 2010 - 09:20 AM

What I hate about the movie is that although it was not about Conan, it seems to have become THE SOURCE for all subsequent Conan movies. Now tell me that Milius would not be perfectly happy with that state of affairs. <_< For that reason the movie is criminally dishonest despite whatever technical excellence it has. :angry:
"Did you deem yourself strong, because you were able to twist the heads off civilized folk, poor weaklings with muscles like rotten string? Hell! Break the neck of a wild Cimmerian bull before you call yourself strong. I did that, before I was a full-grown man...!" - Conan, in "Shadows in Zamboula", by Robert E. Howard
"... you speak of Venarium familiarly. Perhaps you were there?"
"I was," grunted [Conan]. "I was one of the horde that swarmed over the hills. I hadn't yet seen fifteen snows, but already my name was repeated about the council fires." - "Beyond the Black River", by Robert E. Howard

Read my Conan screenplays at The Scrolls of Ironhand (in particular my transcription of THE FROST GIANT'S DAUGHTER in Act II of "The Snow Devil") at
http://www.scrollsof...d.us/index.html or at
http://www.delicious...ic=ConanProject

#13 norse_sage

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Posted 29 January 2010 - 10:51 AM

I appreciate that movie for it's philospohy and score. The visuals however do NOTHING for me. I don't understand the praise it gets there. It is none the less a great standalone sword and sorcery movie.

But for all its virtues as a standalone movie, as a Conan movie it is IMO a disaster, and I hate it for the immense and irrepairable damage it has done to the public perception of Conan.

Because of that movie, the general audience suffers the delusion that Conan is a borderline retarted brute.

Because of that movie, people think Schwarzenegger was the "perfect" Conan and that no one can possibly replace him.

Becuase of that movie, Conan is seen as an original creation of Milus and/or Marvel comics.

Because of that movie, the new movie is shaping up to be a disaster too - but as a Conan movie, it cannot possibly be worse than the Milius movie. Yes, it can wel be worse as standalone movie, but not as an adaptation of Conan.

If I ever met Milius, I would be torn between wether I should commend him for the excellent Rome, or punch him in the face for what he did to Conan and REH.

To hell with that movie.

Edited by norse_sage, 29 January 2010 - 11:04 AM.


#14 Odoakris

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Posted 29 January 2010 - 12:31 PM

So you guys are assuming that if the new movie sucks, then the blame is all on CTB? Isn't that a bit harsh? I mean, shouldn't the producers, writers and director of a new movie know better? Shouldn't they do their research?
In my opinion, CTB is no B-movie. Milius injected it with lots of symbolism and deeper philosophical meanings, which elevate the movie above all other "barbarian" movies. Indeed, CTB was not true to the writings of REH, but personally I have yet to see a better S & S movie...

#15 norse_sage

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Posted 29 January 2010 - 02:23 PM

So you guys are assuming that if the new movie sucks, then the blame is all on CTB? Isn't that a bit harsh? I mean, shouldn't the producers, writers and director of a new movie know better? Shouldn't they do their research?
In my opinion, CTB is no B-movie. Milius injected it with lots of symbolism and deeper philosophical meanings, which elevate the movie above all other "barbarian" movies. Indeed, CTB was not true to the writings of REH, but personally I have yet to see a better S & S movie...


That movie is indeed the best sword and sorcery movie there is, and no one has argued that. That was never the issue. The issue is that it is not a worthy adaptation of Conan.

While that movie is elevated compared to other sword and sorcery movies, it is most certainly not elevated one bit when compared to the source material it allegedly is an adaptation of. Milius replaced the depth and philosophy provided by REH with his own, and he added less than he took away.

The producers are indeed the ones to blame for the new movie. They are the ones who should have chucked any Milius influence out the window and instead adapt the source material properly from scratch - something better producers did when making for instance ?Batman Begins? and ?Casino Royale?. But they didn?t. On the contrary, doing a new take on the Milius movie is clearly the keymotivation - which points to the tremendous and continued damage the Milius delivered to the perception of Conan.

#16 Odoakris

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Posted 29 January 2010 - 02:55 PM

The producers are indeed the ones to blame for the new movie. They are the ones who should have chucked any Milius influence out the window and instead adapt the source material properly from scratch - something better producers did when making for instance “Batman Begins” and “Casino Royale”. But they didn’t. On the contrary, doing a new take on the Milius movie is clearly the keymotivation - which points to the tremendous and continued damage the Milius delivered to the perception of Conan.


Hmmm... I recently watched the Pathfinder movie with the audio commentary track of Marcus Nispel and he mentioned over and over again that he intended to shoot that movie without any dialogue at all. He wanted to tell the story with the images only... He also mentioned to be a big fan of Frazetta and he also talked a few times about Schwarzenegger being a friend of his. Apparantly he once had talks with him about a movie that he wanted to shoot shoot with him...

All this leads me to believe that Marcus Nispel is indeed a big fan of CTB and probably influenced by it...

Edited by Odoakris, 29 January 2010 - 03:12 PM.


#17 Officer Aggro

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Posted 29 January 2010 - 05:34 PM

I think the consensus here is, if it had been called anything other than 'Conan,' it would rank as one of the best Sword & Sandal movies of all-time.


Yep, I'd agree with that. I still love the movie, as it was my very first introduction to Conan when I saw it in the theater at the age of 8, but I eventually came to realize that it's not true to REH's vision. Most people think that's who Conan is, and they've never even heard of Howard, which is a real shame. Aside from that fact, it's a very well-made film with one of the greatest soundtracks.
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#18 Tarim69

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Posted 29 January 2010 - 08:22 PM

I always LOVED this movie.

I read the original Howard stories quite a bit later.

I still like the movie. No its no a faithful adaptation, but its still one of the best sword and sorcery films ever made.

#19 guilalah

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Posted 29 January 2010 - 09:28 PM

THANKS to whom ever appended 'The 1982 Film' to my post title!!!

I'll catch up to the many replies this week-end.

#20 Seamvs

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Posted 30 January 2010 - 01:48 AM

I think the consensus here is, if it had been called anything other than 'Conan,' it would rank as one of the best Sword & Sandal movies of all-time.



I saw it 15 years before i read REH story.

IMO its a crappy B-film that would have been forgotten if it was not a famous name like Conan in the title.


Over here its remembered as whatever was Arnold doing before he got big with action films. It hurt Conan name much more than it did in US,NA.

So dont be too sure with consensus here....


Trouble is, I might have never known REH if this was named something other then Conan. I completely disagree with the statement that it hurt Conan. People who don't like these types of movies will always dis them and chances are they wouldn't read REH. Did anybody over there even hear of Conan before the movie? I can understand questioning the movie because of the variation from the source but I can't understand saying that it hindered Conan in any way. In fact it only helped to put it out there to the public, and it was good enough to have people seek out the source.
I would be more inclined to agree with you if you where talking about Conan the Destroyer but as much as I despised that movie I don't even think that could have hurt the good name of REH.

Edited by Seamvs, 30 January 2010 - 03:53 AM.

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