John Milius deserves some credit for taking this comic-book/pulp-novel adaptation fairly straight, which is no mean feat when you have hulking but warmhearted barbarians (Arnold Schwarzenegger), displaced California beach girls (Sandahl Bergman), and leaders of Busby Berkeley snake cults (James Earl Jones) populating your universe. But once he's settled on a fundamentally serious tone, Milius has nothing to say: this 1982 film only hints at the romantic heroics of The Wind and the Lion and has none of the personal quality of Big Wednesday. And whatever Milius may boast to the contrary, he is too civilized to indulge in the whooping slaughter Conan's fans demand. What's left are some virtuoso action scenes suspended in a murky screenplay, backed by Milius's usual exquisite deep-focus effects.
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