Red Sonja (1985)

13 Apr


Smith’s Verdict: *

Reviewed by Tanner Smith

“Red Sonja” is one of the most epically bad movies I’ve ever seen. The production is clumsy, the acting is unbelievably stiff, the dialogue is laughably awful, the special effects are terrible…and it’s a joy of a watch. This is one of those “so-bad-it’s-funny” movies. Many, many things are handled the wrong way, and in that way, it’s never boring. It’s a laugh-a-minute movie, only the laughs are unintentional. I can’t recommend the movie to anyone I respect, hence the one-star rating, but if you do happen to come across it on TV or something, give it a watch just to see how bad it is. Now how’s that for a non-recommendation for a recommendation?

It’s a sword-and-sorcery adventure tale, and those rarely do well to begin with.

The protagonist is a tall, striking female warrior named Red Sonja (Brigitte Nielsen). As the movie opens, her “fairy godmother” (I use quotations because I have absolutely no idea what this unfinished smoke effect is supposed to be, and it doesn’t return anyway, so it doesn’t matter) reminds her (and informs us) of her backstory, and how her family was killed by the evil Queen Gedren (Sandahl Bergman). This spirit grants Red Sonja the strength to become a great warrior.

I’m going to stop right here for this motif of homosexual undertones (or they could be overtones)—it’s highly possible that Queen Gedren is a lesbian. Whether that’s the intention of her character, I do not know. We just know, from that spirit, that she slaughtered Sonja’s family because she “wanted Sonja for herself.” (This is told over a clip of Gedren seductively motioning for Sonja to come to her.) Does anyone want to tell me what the deal is? I just came up with the conclusion and that’s why she continues the rest of the movie searching for her.

Anyway, years later, Queen Gedren is seeking the evil talisman, which looks like a giant radioactive green Jawbreaker, that can give power to the whole world. Oh, and apparently, only women can touch it—men who touch it just disappear, or jump-cut, from existence. Red Sonja is out to stop her from gaining control of it, and also to gain vengeance for her family’s slaughter. Aiding her is a strong male warrior named Kalidor (Arnold Schwarzenegger), a bratty little prince (Ernie Reyes, Jr.) whose kingdom was just attacked, and the prince’s loyal bodyguard Falkon (Paul L. Smith).

Of course, Sonja and Kalidor are attracted to each other, but Sonja has sworn an oath that the only man that may have her is one who has defeated her in battle. But as Kalidor points out, just as we do, if a man can defeat her in battle, where’s the fun in a relationship? You can’t honor the acting by Brigitte Nielsen and Arnold Schwarzenegger, as they both do equally terrible jobs. But you have to love their “dueling accents” battle as opposed to their badly-choreographed actual battle.

The dialogue is laughably atrocious, full of magic mumbo-jumbo and lines like “In order to be a great swordsman, you must have a great sword.” “Red Sonja” is such an entertaining watch and a fun movie to review, because I get to pick out my favorite moments to pick on. I almost forgot to mention the badly-constructed creature effect of a “vicious” sea monster that attacks Sonja and allows Kalidor to ride on him while supposedly fighting him. And get this—that “creature” turns out to be a “machine,” as they find out, and poking out its eyes will kill it. How can you not love such stupidity! And what about the giant statue that stands near Red Sonja’s training camp. I guess it’s supposed to be Buddha, but here’s the thing—he looks like he’s going to the bathroom. I am not making this up—he’s crouching down in a relieving position.

You may already get the point of this review—I am not recommending “Red Sonja,” but it’s just so spectacularly silly.

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