Friday, January 22, 2010

Red Sonja: The Movie

So I watched the Red Sonja movie recently so that I could blog about it. I haven't seen it in years so I was looking forward to it. Maybe it wasn't that bad?

It took me about a week of real time to get through the first twenty minutes. I would watch a minute and then my eyes would go red with rage and my writing brain would scream about everything that is wrong with it and I would pass out from sheer hatred. Eventually I got past the horrible beginning and I stopped passing out. I even started enjoying it at some point.

There are two huge problems with the the Red Sonja movie. Problem one is the star, Brigitte Nielsen, does not in any way look like Red Sonja. I would argue that 80% of Red Sonja's appeal as a character is her flowing red hair and generous bosom. Brigitte Nielsen had a straight gold red mullet and less than ample endowments. Part of this comes from her really impressive physique and part of it comes from the lack of the Wonder Bra being invented. It was also the 80's where the media though androgyny was hot. Thorne's Red Sonja was a sword wielding hot chick. Brigitte Nielsen was a sword wielding hot boy.

The second problem with the Red Sonja movie is the lack of story from the original source material. In the comics, Red Sonja wanders around and gets into trouble. There is no great story to steal from like they did for the Conan movie. With an abscence of material, the movie seeks to fill in the blanks in a pretty laughable manner.

I am not sure what is more offensive about the beginning about the movie. Is it when Red Sonja is trained by an Asian cliche of a master? Is it when Red Sonja's family was killed because she wouldn't submit to a lesbian Queen? The 80's were truly a terrible time for tolerance.

Once Red Sonja gets past the worse 30 minutes in movie history, the movie is not bad for a b-movie fantasy adventure. Seriously. Quit snickering!

Look, we have a cast of amusing heroes. There is this toddler Prince who is Asian so of course he knows kung-fu. His kingdom is destroyed but he has a loyal henchmen who he abuses to comic effect. Small child abusing a fat man is movie gold.

We have the evil Queen herself who is magnificent. She wears a lot of black clothes, lives in a castle decorated pre-Hot Topic Goth and a sniveling toad of a general. She even has a giant spider as a pet! How cool is that?

We also have Conan, I mean Prince Kalidor who stalks Red Sonja and helps out with his bulging muscles. Okay, Prince Kalidor is not my favorite character but I got a weird satisfaction in watching Arnold play second fiddle to a woman in a movie genre that he perfected. It is like watching Gandalf playing an apprentice to Harry Potter. Oh wait, didn't I see that movie?

Anyhoo, the plot of the movie is about the Locknar from Heavy Metal movie being used to destroy kingdoms off screen. Red Sonja and her rather crappy adventuring party have to stop the Evil queen and by Crom, we have all seen this movie before. The thing is, if it wasn't called Red Sonja and was called something like "Bitchy Boy Woman" we would all list this as one of our cult favorites.

But because this is Red Sonja, we want more. We want beauty and savagery and no annoying kids. We want Red Sonja to not get disarmed in every single combat in the movie! We want the chainmail bikini. We want a woman so sexy that we debate losing an arm in challenging her. Instead we have a very butch angry woman who quite frankly makes me want to reccomend therapy rather than seduce her.

So yeah, the movie sucks. Worse than sucking, it ruined the franchise for quite a while. For fans of fantasy, it is our League of Extraordinary Gentlemen movie. It is a crippling ax blow to the neck of Red Sonja fandom.

But you know, as a shitty movie it has its moments. What was your favorite moment?


  1. "if it wasn't called Red Sonja and was called something like 'Bitchy Boy Woman' we would all list this as one of our cult favorites."

    That is gold.

    I barely remember this, but do remember loving evil queen Sandahl Bergman (who was arguably the best part of Conan the Barbarian too).

    I like Brigitte Nielsen, but could do without her films. Maybe the abandoned She-Hulk could have been good? Her photos with Helmut Newton certainly are.

  2. Sandahl Bergman was wonderful in this movie. She really adds a layer of inspired crazy to this movie.

  3. Great review. I wonder why Hollywood thinks they have to start with an orgin for everubody. We didn't need an orgin to enjoy the bulk of characters we enjoy now-it seems like a layover from the Golden age of comics and to a lessed degree the Silver age-but I'd wager most of us don't need them to appreciate a good story.

    Yes, disapointment at the mullet and lack of figure. And I have to laugh at the Locknar comment-that was sitting in the back of my brain and never spoken till now.

    And bad as the movie is it still has moments I like-Brytag, and I enjoy how exciteable my kids get at the machine beast in the water. They are 4 and 3.

    When it comes to casting-I think I would have liked someone like (I'm trying to think 1985 here) Kim Basinger is where my mind goes first.

  4. Hey Shon I just recognized your pic-one of my favorite movies-awesome.

  5. I think a big problem in the '80s was the physicality of women. Athletics were not as common. Jack Hill, who made Coffy and Foxy Brown, talks about how hard it was to match other women up to Pam Grier, who was quite athletic. Today we'd have a thousand choices, but then it was hard to get someone who was not too doughy.

  6. The poroblem was the 80's stank. :)

  7. Oh my favorite moment was when Sonja killed Britag. by Slicing open his fat belly.

  8. David- Yeah, six string samurai is how I feel every day at work.

    Britag was an interesting villain. Like everyone else, he disarmed Red Sonja.

    Mikeyboy- God, the 80's did suck.

  9. I also thought for a long time that someone should make RED SONJA in CONAN III...ala HIGHLANDER 2 the renegade version and Just tinker with the title and credits and dub AHnolds voice over with Ahnold saying " CONEN " when his name is asked of him. I think this would be a great underground dvd.

  10. pardon me- "make RED SONJA into CONAN III"

  11. Man, everything about the film was so, so cheesy. And it's all available for your guilty viewing pleasure on Youtube (until whoever owns the rights discovers it and yanks it off).

    Speaking of origins for Sonja, I think the Dynamite take on her origins (and the reason she's such an untouchable bad ass) are right up there with Conan's origins (Dark Horse has been doing a fine job filling those out a little more than REH ever had a chance to). I wonder if the film version is going to be true to the current comic incarnation or if this will just be a whole 'nother take on the character.