As soon as I saw it on Netflix, I put it on my watch list to be viewed later by myself, because, honestly, what self-respecting wife is going to watch a 33 year-old movie starring the future governor of California and a man who made a killing off of reading the Bible? Not my wife, so I was relegated to watching it on my own.
Barbarian is still pure in its fantasy, but follows a more linear story than Destroyer. In Barbarian, we find out what happened in Conan’s life that turned him into the eponymous barbarian. Turns out it was James Earl Jones setting fire to his village and murdering Conan’s mother with a backswing to the neck. This is what drove Conan to be a great warrior. He then spent the rest of his formative years as a slave child, endlessly pushing a rotary mill. Over the years of labor and tiptoeing his way around the corpses of his young companions not badass enough to meet the challenge, he developed the pecs, abs, and biceps of a world-class body builder.
He learned to fight in duels to the death (spoiler: he wins) and finally, after years and years of silence, we finally get to hear Conan speak of what is best in life – and it truly is, I suppose (actually, the first time we hear Conan’s voice is of Arnie’s over-dramatic grunting as he is being attack, and it’s pretty funny).
The rest of the film is Conan seeking revenge on Thulsa Doom who is now the leader of a cult of snake-worshipping, scantily clad women who are willing to sacrifice themselves for some bizarre, unexplained reason. Conan stole his way into the cult, met a couple of colorful characters, fell in love, slaughtered an orgy, felt the heartbreak of loss, and then finally got his revenge. Was it worth it?
For the average moviegoer, no it was not. This is misogynistic claptrap with cheap special effects, a boring story, unrealistic dialogue, and non-existant character developement, but for those of us that are willing to ignore all that and just enjoy watching a huge dude swing a sword around for a couple of hours, it is a must-see. And since, like Arnie himself, it is so damned old, it is easy to find.