Conan the Barbarian has conquered a lot of mediums. Books, comic books, television…but I think it is hardly an exaggeration to say that the Arnold Schwarzeneggar films heavily defined the public’s perception of the character.
As a young boy, Conan’s family is slaughtered by a snake cult led by Darth Vader’s voice. Thulsa Doom lets his men sell young Conan into slavery. Conan grows up to be super strong, going from slave to popular pit fighter. This affords him rewards. Eventually, he is free and goes to find Doom. He makes friends with the mystic Wizard and the beautiful warrior Valeria.
Conan’s world is full of magicians and demons. Thulsa can transform himself into a snake and commands his people to perform human sacrifices. There is not a lot of depth to this character, and really, the story does not call for it.
Robert E. Howard’s Conan was on the high end of the “noble savage” trope. This film aims more for the brute force savage. Granted, they try and make sure he has a sense of goodness. In one early scene, he is offered a nearly slave girl. His first action is to give her a blanket to cover herself.
This Conan is a man of few words. Even in the opening scenes with his parents, there is no real dialog. This may have been a bit of necessity, as Schwarzeneggar was very fresh to acting.
Conan the Barbarian is one of the better barbarian films of the early eighties and remains pretty entertaining.