80s Fantasy Movie Review: “The Beastmaster”

the-beastmaster

Yet another epic movie poster. This one looks an awful lot like a Star Wars poster.

I embarked on a quest to watch through Tor’s list of 80s Fantasy. I have only seen an embarassingly small number of the movies on that list, and have decided to rectify that! Next up is “The Beastmaster,” a highly controversial and still well-loved flick. There will be SPOILERS in what follows.

Master of the Beasts

“The Beastmaster” is a movie I have heard people rant and/or rave about for some time. In my viewing of it it was… uneven.

The plot was, in a word, microscopic. The Beastmaster has some special skill thing of communicating with animals and so he goes on a quest to be a voyeur over some women and get revenge kind of. Also he has a sword that looks cool but that he doesn’t use very much. Oh, and ferrets are his secret (and best) weapon. It’s not entirely clear–ever–how the different plot details interweave (or if they do) and why various things happen. There is also no real sense of a wider world beyond what you see in the movie. No lore seems to be in the background. What you see is what you get.

There was one scene that had a hint of mystery, and that was the place of the birdmen or whatever they are supposed to be called. They looked more like weird bats to me, but I don’t think the movie’s lore will be very picky either way. There was something there that could have made an interesting tidbit of story but instead we have pretty much no words spoken and they just happen to show up to help save the day at the final battle. Why? I don’t know, because the Beastmaster has an eagle animal companion or something.

The scenes with the animals were interesting and at times pretty cool. But I couldn’t get over it: I think there has to be something said about the treatment of animals in this movie. Honestly, it was tough to watch a few of the scenes with the ferrets. I mean this wasn’t computer generated stuff–they just almost let some poor ferret drown. It turns out the eagle was also dropped out of a hot air balloon because it wouldn’t fly how they wanted it to, and the tiger they painted black for some reason died due to the paint they used on it. Not a very solid track record.

There was also some unnecessary nudity again. I might come off prudish for pointing this out so much, but 80s fantasy flicks sure liked to have nudity, apparently. I just think that it doesn’t add anything to the film and is a bit vulgar. It didn’t help that the Beastmaster was highly exploitative in his own treatment of women. Oh well, it would be hard to expect more from a guy who abuses animals for a kick.

“The Beastmaster” was okay. It had some entertaining moments, but it didn’t have the feeling of a larger world that other, better films on this list have had.

The Good

+Cool concept
+Neat-looking sword featuring lots of sword waving

The Bad

-Animal abuse
-Unnecessary nudity
-Drawn out for too long
-Microscopic plot

The Verdict

Grade: C-  “Some good ideas and a cool sword waving around aren’t enough to overcome the weirdness, lack of plot, and animal cruelty found herein.”

Links

J.W. Wartick- Always Have a Reason– Check out my “main site” which talks about philosophy of religion, theology, and Christian apologetics (among other random topics). I love science fiction so that comes up integrated with theology fairly frequently as well. I’d love to have you follow there, too!

Be sure to follow me on Twitter for discussion of posts, links to other pages of interest, random talk about theology/philosophy/apologetics/movies/scifi/sports and more!

Time to Watch some 80s Fantasy Flicks– I describe my quest to watch a bunch of 80s fantasy movies. This post also features links to all the reviews done so far.

A Ranking of 1980s Fantasy that would please Crom Himself– The original list of movies that made me embark on this quest.

SDG.

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80s Fantasy Movie Review: “Conan the Destroyer”

Excuse me while I kill everything. - Conan

Excuse me while I kill everything. – Conan

I embarked on a quest to watch through Tor’s list of 80s Fantasy. I have only seen an embarassingly small number of the movies on that list, and have decided to rectify that! Here, I review one not on the list: “Conan the Destroyer.” I felt that it was a good choice to continue the quest because it is also an 80s fantasy movie. There will be SPOILERS in what follows.

Here’s the thing, there’s pretty much no plot or development of characters in the movie. They tried–really they did–at points to give viewers connections to the characters, but overall they didn’t exactly succeed. They’re all fairly one-dimensional.

The sets are really awesome, with all kind of interesting scenery to look at throughout. Fight scenes seem well choreographed with interesting swordplay. There is a good amount of humor found through the film as well, and very little of it falls flat. There is a real feeling of epic in every scene. It feels as though there are world-shattering  events happening, and that each battle is important.

The music is good, but it is pretty much the same theme song repeated over and over with occasionally different inflection.

Conan the Destroyer was fun. There’s just not a lot more to comment on. If you want to sit back and zone out while you watch a bunch of sword fights, this is a great way to do it. Don’t go in hoping for an epic plot, however. It’s not there.

The Good

+Epic feel
+Awesome sets
+Great fight scenes
+Decent humor

The Bad

-Very little plot
-Music good, but repeats a lot
-Slows down in places

The Verdict

Grade: B+ “Who needs plot when you have Conan? Super epic movie with awesome sets and great action. Loved it.”

Guest 1 (My Mother-in-Law): C+ “I was missing dialogue… I thought the dialogue was too brief. I could see that they were trying to make Conan sound and look like a Barbarian, but the dialogue was so brief that one might occasionally wonder if they’re all challenged mentally. Beautiful sets!”

Guest 2 (My Father-in-Law): “It was solid all the way through but never really gripping.”

Links

J.W. Wartick- Always Have a Reason– Check out my “main site” which talks about philosophy of religion, theology, and Christian apologetics (among other random topics). I love science fiction so that comes up integrated with theology fairly frequently as well. I’d love to have you follow there, too!

Be sure to follow me on Twitter for discussion of posts, links to other pages of interest, random talk about theology/philosophy/apologetics/movies/scifi/sports and more!

Time to Watch some 80s Fantasy Flicks– I describe my quest to watch a bunch of 80s fantasy movies. This post also features links to all the reviews done so far.

A Ranking of 1980s Fantasy that would please Crom Himself– The original list of movies that made me embark on this quest.

SDG.

80s Fantasy Movie Review: “The Neverending Story”

Oh 80s posters. I miss you.

Oh 80s posters. I miss you.

I embarked on a quest to watch through Tor’s list of 80s Fantasy. I have only seen an embarassingly small number of the movies on that list, and have decided to rectify that! I have seen “The Neverending Story” before, however, multiple times. It’s been several years, though. What do I think of it this time around? There will be SPOILERS in what follows.

The Neverending Story was a favorite of mine that I didn’t discover until I was in high school. And, I’ll admit, I haven’t watched it since viewing it so many times in the last two years of high school. Thus, it’s been quite a bit of time since I last saw it and it was with some trepidation I watched it again. Would I accidentally destroy all the nostalgia I’d built up for this film?

I’m happy to report that re-watching the movie did not destroy my enjoyment of it. Looks like I didn’t get everything wrong in high school!

First off, the plot hook is great. A bullied kid lacking confidence who has just lost his mother find an escape in an epic fantasy novel. After delving in, however, it seems the novel is strangely aware of the reader, and indeed the world itself depends upon him!

That world itself is full of wondrous creatures and settings–some admittedly off-putting due to dated special effects. Each new scene has a new challenge to overcome, and as Atreyu’s quest to save the world continues, we as viewers feel as though the third wall has broken and we are involved in the story as well; we are just as present as Bastian in this universe.

The story, it must be admitted, is itself fairly standard fare. A hero is chosen to save the world. But it transcends its simplistic premise by interweaving elements of the “real” world and Bastian into the plot, while also presenting enough unique characters and locale to remain interesting throughout. There are some scenes in which the film drags, but these are few and fare between. Even in those scenes, the scenery and detail of costumes are so robust that I didn’t even care how slow it felt like it was moving.

The only real complaint I have about the film is that some of the special effects haven’t held up well at all. That’s not to be unexpected–it is over 30 years old, after all–but it can be distracting at times. But, often enough excellent sets and wonderful costumes are enough to offset whatever difficulties with imagination the special effects cause.

At its root, this is a story mostly about Bastian and the gaining of self-confidence in the face of seemingly overwhelming odds, but it does so much more than that. It’s full of detail, wonder, and magic, as all fantasy should be.

 

Thus, we have the Neverending Story. Presumably it continues because it draws on the readers to construct it themselves; it forms a continuing chain of fantasy that, well, doesn’t end.  The movie, at a deeper level, is a call for those of us viewing it to continue to write the plot: to make our own stories, our own adventures, and our own fantasy. It’s a stirring story that cannot but be charming.

The Good

+Interesting and unique plot
+True sense of wonder
+The world seems very real
+Fun meshing together of the “real” world and fantasy
+Excellent costumes

The Bad

-At times fairly slow
-Some of the special effects don’t hold up well at all

The Verdict

Grade: “A film full of unique plot devices interwoven into a stirring and epic fantasy tale.”

Links

J.W. Wartick- Always Have a Reason– Check out my “main site” which talks about philosophy of religion, theology, and Christian apologetics (among other random topics). I love science fiction so that comes up integrated with theology fairly frequently as well. I’d love to have you follow there, too!

Be sure to follow me on Twitter for discussion of posts, links to other pages of interest, random talk about theology/philosophy/apologetics/movies/scifi/sports and more!

Time to Watch some 80s Fantasy Flicks– I describe my quest to watch a bunch of 80s fantasy movies. This post also features links to all the reviews done so far.

A Ranking of 1980s Fantasy that would please Crom Himself– The original list of movies that made me embark on this quest.

SDG.

80s Fantasy Movie Review: “Dragonslayer”

The existence of this poster makes the world a better place.

The existence of this poster makes the world a better place.

I embarked on a quest to watch through Tor’s list of 80s Fantasy. I haven’t seen many of those flicks, so I figured I’d watch through. Here, I review “Dragonslayer,” which promises to have at least one Dragon being slain. There will be SPOILERS in what follows.

A boy who wants to be a wizard is given the mantle of his tutor when the former sacrifices himself, apparently for naught. Thus embarks an epic quest for the boy to slay the dragon.

I really wanted to love this movie. Who wouldn’t want to love a movie named “Dragonslayer”? But there are many problems here, and the longer I watched the more apparent they became. The movie moves very slowly. It seems like the actors were told that they should pause a few seconds so the camera could focus on them while they apparently deliberated internally for a length of time about whether to do something or not. The plot itself takes a long time to really develop. This isn’t always a bad thing; indeed, it can give a more epic feeling to a movie. But here, it’s as though the movie was artificially lengthened in order to draw it out more.

The plot is not just slow-moving, but it is also paper-thin. It takes a lot to type out all the details, but really this is just a kind of coming-of-age story with a bit of deus ex machina thrown in to slay a dragon. It’s cool at parts, but there’s not enough of substance or background to really give viewers a feel for the world. This is surprising, given how slow-paced the film is. But it was hard to care too much about the plight of the characters when they all seemed set against a kind of generic background. We never get a sense of a larger world in play  Another problem is that the voices of the main characters are really annoying. It’s hard to listen to Galen talk.

The twist in which wizard-man comes back to save everything by blowing up the dragon with… himself… is pretty awesome, but feels a tad contrived. But hey, I like cool things as much as the next person. Let’s just let this be cool. Also, the fact that the princess wasn’t saved was pretty shocking to me. The movie did do a good job in this category: unexpected twists. There aren’t a lot, but those that were there were pretty cool.

The movie has a classic epic premise: damsel in distress from dragon; dragon must be killed. But it just doesn’t go much beyond this classic premise and ends up feeling a bit cliche. Not a terrible movie, but not as epic as it could have been.

The Good

+Some cool scenes
+The plot twists are cool

The Bad

-Voices of main characters annoying
-Never quite lives up to its attempts to be epic
-Paper-thin plot with poorly developed world
-Slooooooooooow

The Verdict

Grade: C+ “I could never quite decide how I felt about the movie. I just never got sold on it.” 

Guest Score and comment: My wife gives the movie a B+ “‘Dragonslayer’ was slow at times but it was a pretty fun movie.”

Links

J.W. Wartick- Always Have a Reason– Check out my “main site” which talks about philosophy of religion, theology, and Christian apologetics (among other random topics). I love science fiction so that comes up integrated with theology fairly frequently as well. I’d love to have you follow there, too!

Be sure to follow me on Twitter for discussion of posts, links to other pages of interest, random talk about theology/philosophy/apologetics/movies/scifi/sports and more!

Time to Watch some 80s Fantasy Flicks– I describe my quest to watch a bunch of 80s fantasy movies. This post also features links to all the reviews done so far.

A Ranking of 1980s Fantasy that would please Crom Himself– The original list of movies that made me embark on this quest.

SDG.

80s Fantasy Movie Review: “Conan The Barbarian”

CONAN

CONAN!

I embarked on a quest to watch through Tor’s list of 80s Fantasy. I haven’t seen many of those flicks, so I figured I’d watch through. Here, I examine “Conan the Barbarian”. There will be SPOILERS in what follows.

Review

“What is best in life?”
“To crush your enemies, see them driven before you, and hear the lamentation of the women.”

Yep, that pretty much sums it up.

Okay, not it doesn’t.

“Conan the Barbarian” is just all-around epic. There’s no way to deny this. From the opening scene to the end, we are treated to an epic quest for revenge and overthrow of a really evil snake-cult thingy. The director apparently decided to just throw in all kinds of awesome moments just because. Conan and gang paint themselves with a cool black camo pattern that doesn’t camouflage them at all in the setting they enter. Why have that detail then? Because they look awesome. And that pretty much summarizes the vast majority of this film. Why do things happen the way they do? Not because of some intricate overarching plot. No, the reason things happen is because they are awesome.

Does this quest for epic always work? No. Some moments fall flat, and the amount of gratuitous nudity is very off-putting for me. However, the number of moments the quest for epic works outnumbers the moments it doesn’t work to such a degree that the epic easily wins out.

Speaking of epic, the music. THE MUSIC! Wow. I can’t tell you how well-suited the music was to this film. It basically made the movie twice as good as it would have been otherwise. You can’t help but be swept away by the Wagner-esque orchestral pieces throughout, and they always add to the atmosphere in just the right way.

The characters, it must be admitted, are very paper-thin. There’s not a lot (any, really) backstory for them. Heck, there’s not a lot of story here at all. Conan’s family is killed by this snake cult. He is enslaved and basically through a life of heavy labor and forced gladiator combat becomes an awesome warrior. Then he is set free and decides to pursue vengeance against the snake cult, who just so happen to be super evil too.

On the way he picks up Valeria, an awesome warrior-thief-woman, and Subhotai, whose skill set is unclear but increases over the course of the movie. Basically the movie feels like an awesome Dungeons & Dragons campaign in movie format. You form the party, throw some reason for them all to be together in there, and set them off on a wild adventure. Meanwhile, the director/Dungeon Master just throws stuff in because it sounds like it’d be cool. Yep, that’s this movie.

I loved it.

The Good

+Super epic music
+BARBARIAN!
+Consistently entertaining
+Multiple awesome moments and quotes
+Genuinely feels like an epic quest

The Bad

-Gratuitous and unnecessary nudity in parts
-Characters and overall story are paper-thin

The Verdict

Grade: “Consistently epic, ‘Conan’ feels exactly like an epic fantasy adventure should.”

Links

J.W. Wartick- Always Have a Reason– Check out my “main site” which talks about philosophy of religion, theology, and Christian apologetics (among other random topics). I love science fiction so that comes up integrated with theology fairly frequently as well. I’d love to have you follow there, too!

Be sure to follow me on Twitter for discussion of posts, links to other pages of interest, random talk about theology/philosophy/apologetics/movies/scifi/sports and more!

Time to Watch some 80s Fantasy Flicks– I describe my quest to watch a bunch of 80s fantasy movies. This post also features links to all the reviews done so far.

A Ranking of 1980s Fantasy that would please Crom Himself– The original list of movies that made me embark on this quest.

SDG.

80s Fantasy Movie Review: “Excalibur”

excalibur-poster

I’m not sure if you can get more 80s epic than this onto a single poster.

I have embarked on a quest to watch a number of 80s Fantasy flicks and share my findings with you, dear readers. Here, I review “Excalibur,” the tale of King Arthur. This is another one I hadn’t seen before, so my reflections are from that perspective. There will be SPOILERS in what follows.

Review

“Excalibur” is really hard for me to judge. At times a grand epic with awesome fights, grand scenes, and epic stories, it threatened to sweep me away in its glories. Unfortunately, at other times it is weird, grotesque, and confusing to the extent that it made me want to skip scenes entirely.

I think the biggest problem with the film is that it bites off more than it can chew. It throws so much of Arthur’s story at viewers that it sometimes feels like a lesson in legend, but it does so in a fashion that fails to grasp several of the moments that it wants to be epic. Much of the story seems unexplained to the point that it is just assumed that you as the viewer know what’s happening, and that you must think it is epic. I admit only a passing familiarity with the story of King Arthur, but this movie made me feel like a complete novice. There’s a lot there, and the scope of it is pretty cool at times, but that same scope is daunting.

Another huge flaw is the weirdness of the move in parts. Unneeded nudity is scattered throughout (and has its own weirdness, like one sex scene that has Bambi featured on screen [not actually Bambi]), and some really gross moments happen (like seeing ravens picking at the flesh of dead men hanging from trees).The music isn’t great, apart from some pretty awesome insertions of O Fortuna into the flick, such as the final battle. The scenery also didn’t seem like it was utilized as well as it could have been.

On the other hand, the fighting scenes are pretty exciting, with numerous notable and exciting battles on horseback and off. The story is pretty epic, despite being really hard to follow throughout. Enemies rise and fall, and the theme throughout seems to be of a dream that humanity cannot quite grasp–spoken to by Merlin–that human hearts contain the potential for great evil that is all-too-often exercised so needlessly. The ending is pretty epic as well.

So yeah, this is gonna be a really tough movie to grade. You know that thing that teachers do in which they can’t decide what grade to give you so they give you A-/B+? I’m about to do that to the nth degree.

The Good

+Progressively gets more epic
+Arthur’s accent is sweet
+Cool round table
+Patrick Stewart is in this
+Really cool plot, if a bit too much

The Bad

-Merlin is too young
-Super creepy/weird/scandalous/unnecessary scenes all over
-The music’s not great (except for O Fortuna)
-Gratuitous weirdness and gross/weird factor

The Verdict

My Score: A-/D- “It oscillates between awesome and ‘what the heck!?'” [Okay, if I was forced at gunpoint to pick a grade, I’d give it a “B” but it is a really strong/weak B. Okay, maybe a B-. An A? D? F? I prefer A-/D-.]

Conclusion

A really epic and really not epic story of King Arthur. I’d watch it again, but only with the ability to skip through about 35% of the movie.

Links

J.W. Wartick- Always Have a Reason– Check out my “main site” which talks about philosophy of religion, theology, and Christian apologetics (among other random topics). I love science fiction so that comes up integrated with theology fairly frequently as well. I’d love to have you follow there, too!

Be sure to follow me on Twitter for discussion of posts, links to other pages of interest, random talk about theology/philosophy/apologetics/movies/scifi/sports and more!

Time to Watch some 80s Fantasy Flicks– I describe my quest to watch a bunch of 80s fantasy movies. This post also features links to all the reviews done so far.

A Ranking of 1980s Fantasy that would please Crom Himself– The original list of movies that made me embark on this quest.

SDG.

80s Fantasy Movie Review: “The Last Unicorn”

80s Movies have the best Posters. Seriously.

80s Movies have the best Posters. Seriously.

I have embarked on a quest to watch a number of 80s Fantasy flicks and share my findings with you, dear readers. Today, we reflect on “The Last Unicorn.” One of the only animated films on the list, I was pretty excited about this one because 80s and Unicorns pretty much are synonymous in some weird sense to me. Anyway, here goes! There will be SPOILERS in what follows.

Review

First off, can we all just agree that Prince Lir is the original brony?

Anyway, “The Last Unicorn” has some undeniable charm that just wriggles its way into you as you’re watching, despite it being absolutely terrifyingly strange. The plot itself is a neat fairy tale: a unicorn discovers she’s the last one in all the land and looks to find out if that is actually true. After being rescued from imprisonment by Schmendrick, an aspiring wizard, she discovers that she must track down the Red Bull, which has apparently chased all the unicorns into the sea for the pleasure of King Haggard. Ultimately, with the help of a pirate cat, Molly, and Prince Lir, the unicorn manages to fight back against the Red Bull and cast it into the sea, releasing all the other unicorns and tumbling King Haggard’s tower to the ground.

At times, the story is genuinely disturbing, at other times it is lighthearted. King Haggard, for example, is extremely disturbed. He once saw a unicorn and it made him happy. So what does he decide to do? Use the Red Bull to gather them all and throw them into the ocean so they will be trapped there forever, such that whenever the wave rolls in he can see them and delight in their misery. I’m not making this up. On the flip side, it’s hard not to take some joy in there being unicorns, a talking pirate cat, and other fun characters to uplift the heart from the genuine darkness of the main plot.

It’s very much like a fairy tale, but that brings its own pitfalls along with it, such as the complete lack of explanation or background to many key plot points (like the Red Bull). Moreover, there is an awful lot of 80s weirdness here. A busty elderly woman/tree attempts to smother Schmendrick after a failed attempt to use magic, for example. Awkward! Another example: the butterfly near the beginning of the movie randomly calls the unicorn “Mary Jane.” It’s the 80s folks.

The soundtrack by AMERICA, in my opinion, leaves something to be desired. It is also a huge part of the movie, as characters just burst into song at random. The theme song is kinda catchy but I’m just not sold on the breathiness of the lyrics or the strange folksy style. Just not my cup of tea.

Despite these criticisms, there is something that just captures you and draws you in as a viewer in this movie. It’s got that haunting sense of loss to it that the best fairy tales have,. Even though it ends happily, I can’t help but feel a sense of loss and even foreboding about it. I have a feeling this one’s going to stick with me a while.

The amount you enjoy this movie will depend on how much of the weirdness you can swallow. I enjoyed it well enough, but I don’t think I’ll watch it again.

The Good

+Pretty animation with some anime style
+Super creepy bad guy
+Catchy theme song even if it’s not the greatest

The Bad

-Weird moments abound
-Music is REALLY 80s/breathy
-Creepy!
-Plot elements largely unexplained

The Verdict

My Score: C+ “Super weird but still has some undeniable allure.”

Guest Verdict (My wife, Beth): B+ “It was a charming and enjoyable unicorn story.”

Conclusion

“The Last Unicorn” isn’t a terrible movie. In fact, I think it’s kind of good… it just really wasn’t my cup of tea.

The Movie poster is not my property and I use it under fair use.

Links

J.W. Wartick- Always Have a Reason– Check out my “main site” which talks about philosophy of religion, theology, and Christian apologetics (among other random topics). I love science fiction so that comes up integrated with theology fairly frequently as well. I’d love to have you follow there, too!

Be sure to follow me on Twitter for discussion of posts, links to other pages of interest, random talk about theology/philosophy/apologetics/movies/scifi/sports and more!

Time to Watch some 80s Fantasy Flicks– I describe my quest to watch a bunch of 80s fantasy movies. This post also features links to all the reviews done so far.

A Ranking of 1980s Fantasy that would please Crom Himself– The original list of movies that made me embark on this quest.

SDG.