“Mongol General: Wrong! Conan! What is best in life?
Conan: To crush your enemies. See them driven before you. And to hear the lamentations of their women.“
I happened to be up at 3:00 AM and I flipped through the channels until I found Conan The Barbarian (2011) playing on SYFY. I missed most of the film but I got to see the final action sequence. And as Conan chased down the villains and strived to save the girl, I realized how different the various big-screen films about Conan have been and decided to write about it.
Conan The Barbarian, originally created by Robert E. Howard, has appeared in three films and two TV shows (one animated and one live-action both with the same name). I have seen all three films. I saw the first two in theaters when they came out. And the third on a video-on-demand service. (I’ve also seen a couple of episodes of the live-action TV show, Conan The Adventurer. It was bad. I’ve never seen the animated series.)
The first film, simply titled Conan The Barbarian, was released in 1982 and starred Arnold Schwarzenegger as the famous barbarian. It had an all-star cast including James Earl Jones, Max von Sydow, Sandahl Bergman, and Mako. The plot follows the life and upbringing of Conan for the first half, and the second half follows Conan’s quest for love and revenge against the evil Thulsa Doom. The film, like many adaptations, takes many liberties with the original source material, but it is generally enjoyable and a fun ride. It is worth watching if you haven’t seen it or haven’t seen it in a while.
The second film, titled Conan The Destroyer was released in 1984 and also starred Arnold Schwarzenegger as Conan. The second film was much closer to B-Movie quality but did bring back Mako as Conan’s crazy wizard friend. It also starred Grace Jones, André the Giant, and Wilt Chamberlain. The plot revolves around the resurrection of an ancient god called Dagon by an evil sorcerer queen. The story reads like a classic Dungeons and Dragons adventure with monsters, an evil wizard, dungeons, betrayal, and a cult. It is a bit of a predictable ride, but it is still fun and worth a watch. This is also my favorite of the three Conan films.
The third and final, so far, film is also titled Conan The Barbarian. It was released in 2011 and starred Jason Momoa as Conan. It also had a great cast including Ron Perlman, Rose McGowan, and Stephen Lang. The plot follows Conan’s life as he seeks revenge on the man who killed his tribe and Conan’s preventing the reunification and activation of a mask that contains the power of a god. The story takes plenty of liberties with the source material but is fun and adventurous. I personally think it is a great fantasy adventure and is as much a Conan film as the first two. I like it and recommend it, but a lot of fans of the original panned it.
In the end, I liked all of the Conan films and recommend them. They are all fun fantasy films and, frankly, I think the first two hold up pretty well. Check them out.