Before watching the movie:
I always thought this was an action movie. I expected Arnold Schwarzenegger to basically just run around all buff and kill people and there would be a plot that facilitates that. Looking at the box, it seems this is more of a fantasy, and it’s apparently based off a comic book, which from my experience with non-spandex comics means this is going to be much deeper than Mortal Kombat with Austrian accents.
More ways I was wrong on the other side of the link.
During/after watching the movie:
This movie starts fairly quietly, and continues that way. It’s not an epic, and it’s not an Action blockbuster. It’s the tale of a man’s struggles to make himself great. Conan’s village was sacked by James Earl Jones’s eviler Caucasian twin, who kills Conan’s father. Conan is sold into slavery and becomes the strongest and smartest slave ever. In fact, he’s given his freedom basically because his owners figure if he ever decided he wanted it, he could take it by force. Then he sets out to make a name and fortune and take vengeance upon Jones’s ersatz white man, who is also the enemy of the elderly king who offers Conan great wealth to rescue his daughter from.
Schwarzenegger actually doesn’t sound so bad. This is at the very beginning of his Hollywood career, and he’s been coached pretty well. If you told me he didn’t understand what he was saying and just delivering readings he’d been given, I’d believe you, but he’s not distracting at all. His accent is only as thick in this movie as it is in real life now.
More than other Schwarzenegger movies, this one made me stop on multiple occasions and think, “this is the current governor of California.” Mainly because of all the sex scenes. I’m told that at the time, sex scenes were expected of an R-rated movie, and there are at least two random hookups before the more impassioned scene with the chief love interest, a thief he at that point just met and had one successful heist with. Also, the good guys infiltrate what turns out to be the bad guys’ orgy. This R is more from the sex than the violence. In fact, I can’t remember a single standout fight scene.
As a fantasy, there is of course some magic presented. Some hand-drawn effects are really good for their time, but they share a movie with James Earl Jones turning into a snake by showing hands sliding up into sleeves, and then a snake wearing his headdress. Couldn’t they have done a little better, even in the early 80s? It doesn’t help that it comes out of nowhere just as part of a religious rite.
I thought that this was one kind of movie I’m not too interested in seeing, and it turned out to be an entirely different kind of movie I’m not typically interested in seeing. Overall it wasn’t bad, but I have a whole list of complaints and nothing I really enjoyed.
See this movie: because it’s part of the modern canon of popular films. Really, it’s there for a reason.
Don’t see this movie: if watching Conan’s encounter with the witch will undo years of psychotherapy.