Film Review | Red Sonja

A woman and a warrior that became a legend

Director: Richard Fleischer

Starring: Brigitte Nielsen, Arnold Schwarzenegger, Sandahl Bergman

Genre: Action/Adventure/Fantasy

Release Date: November 1985

Plot: The fearless female warrior Red Sonja (Nielsen) sets out to avenge her family’s murder and rid her kingdom of the tyrannical rule of evil Queen Gedren (Bergman).

Despite being based on a character from the Marvel comics Conan the Barbarian and featuring Schwarzenegger, who had played Conan in two films by this point, surprisingly this isn’t a spin-off, which to me seems a strange choice given how prominent he is compared to Nielsen on most of the advertising material I have seen for the movie.

Arnold Schwarzenegger and Brigitte Nielsen in Red Sonja (1985)

Schwarzenegger might well have been given top billing, but it’s Nielsen that deserves all the praise, she kicks some serious ass throughout, striking down all men with both her sword and her wit, while Arney pops up from time to time to help her win a fight or two and then awkwardly flirt.

Although not to the same level as the previous two films in the shared universe, Red Sonja still manages to entertain with well-choreographed fight scenes, interesting costume design and wonderfully over the top acting.

Brigitte Nielsen and Ottaviano Dell'Acqua in Red Sonja (1985)

There are, however, some aspects of the film that clearly don’t work or at least haven’t aged well, the first being almost storyboard nature of the film, with the characters seemingly jumping from set-piece to set-piece, with only a couple of travelling scenes in which the characters can do slightly more than fight, argue or flirt, resulting in next to no character development or world-building.

This may well be down to the budget constraints that clearly affected the production, something that also leads to a lot of the action taking place off-screen and alluded to in conversation, taking away from the overall fantasy aspect, further unhelped by the inconsistent tone the film processes, jumping between campy and dark throughout.

Red Sonja (1985)

In reality, this is Conan III just with another name and a smaller budget, which can be easily seen when compared to its predecessors, this, however, isn’t to say that Red Sonja is a bad movie, sure it’s not going to win any awards, but the cast a crew clearly put in the work to do the best with what they’ve got.

3 Panda

If you liked: Conan the Barbarian, Warcraft, The Dark Crystal

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