Tuesday, 15 December 2015

Red Sonja (1985)

Red Sonja is a female warrior, blessed by a goddess with supreme martial skills but required never to lie with a man unless he first defeats her in fair combat.

This is not a good film, which is why it's not recommended, but I still have a soft spot for it despite its flaws.  Those flaws are manifold, but the most pronounced is probably the casting of Brigitte Nielsen.  She may have had the 'Amazonian' physique producer Dino de Laurentiis wanted for Red Sonja, but she's not up to the acting demands of being the film's lead.

Of course, the fact that the film doesn't let Red Sonja be the lead of her own film is its second major problem.  She does get to the kill the villain (a wicked Queen who is regrettably coded as being evil at least in part because she's a lesbian) but otherwise she spends an awful lot of the film being saved by men.  The DVD cover art makes the issue clear, really: Schwarzenegger gets first billing and a much larger portrait, and it's the same in the movie itself.

The film does have its nice touches though, and these make me like it more than I possibly should.  It has an order of warrior nuns who are pretty badass, for instance.  Sure they all die in the first ten minutes, but the staging makes it clear that it's sheer weight of numbers that overwhelm them, as one on one they more than hold their own.  And the film's MacGuffin is refreshingly different: it's the artefact that made the world, but it has absorbed so much power that it is on the very of unmaking all it created.  Also, the sets and costumes are entertainingly bombastic and baroque.

A case in point

The biggest thing to like though is probably the film's recognition that Sonja's vow is kind of perverse - and not in a good way - in that she will only sleep with someone who has tried to kill her.  For the mid-80s, that's surprisingly forward thinking.

Overall, not a good movie, but there are a few good ideas in it nonetheless.

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