My god. What the hell did I just watch?
Alright, so Zardoz
is a science fiction film from 1974, primarily famous for featuring Sean Connery wearing red underpants, bandoliers and little else. It’s famous for that for two reasons; number one, because once you’ve seen the costume
, it will be burned into your retinas for all time, and two, because there’s very little else in the movie that one can describe.
So what is the plot? Alright, let’s see what I could discern. Sean Connery’s an ‘exterminator’, one of a bunch of horse riding barbarians in a post-apocalyptic world. He worships a giant flying stone head called ‘Zardoz’, which speaks to the Exterminators, telling them “The gun is good! The penis is evil!” before vomiting out weapons for them in exchange for grain. Connery sneaks aboard the Zardoz head by hiding in the grain shipment, and after shooting the pilot, flies back to its base, the ‘vortex’. The Vortex, it turns out, is home to a bunch of people made immortal through advanced technology, who maintain the last surviving human technologies and culture. They’ve grown bored with immortality, however, and desire death. They can’t die, though, because they erased the knowledge of the machine that keeps them alive from their memories. Connery works out where the machine is, though, and how to destroy it. He then shuts down the barriers around the vortex, allowing his fellow exterminators to overrun the vortex and slaughter everyone there.
The problem is that that’s only about half the movie. The rest of it is a series of half-thought out ideas that are dropped as soon as they’re introduced, random non-sequiturs, and Sean Connery wandering through various locations wondering just how the hell he got roped into this film. The actual plot starts taking a backstage to random scenes involving characters we’ve never seen before or since. The final confrontation between Connery and the machine that controls the Vortex (the ‘tabernacle’) consists almost entirely of lines that seem to be referencing plot points that aren’t actually part of the film, before becoming a sequence of Connery wandering through a hall of mirrors, being confronted by the disembodied heads of the other main characters! Entire scenes are devoted to the trial of a Vortex inhabitant, his statements being broadcast to the rest of the community, and including such brilliant lines as "My thoughts leak out in Second Level, through the head wound of my third death." This character never appears in person, never interacts with any other character, and serves no purpose whatsoever save padding. And he's just the most obvious of the amount of irrelevant meaningless detail that goes into this film. Granted, the film never gets boring, but only in the same way that the Star Wars Holiday Special is never boring - you spend the whole time in a state of shock trying to work out how this incoherent mess will manage to top its own incompetence next.Zardoz
seems to want desperately to be the next 2001
, and in pursuit of that goal, it throws in every half-baked idea and surreal bit of imagery it can come up. The problem is the only coherent idea the film has is “Immortality would get boring after a while”, and that’s neither as original or as deep as the film maker obviously think it is.
(The other major problem is that – well, Connery and most of the main actors do a decent enough job with the crap they’ve been given. Unfortunately, the same cannot be said for any of the extras and minor parts, all of which seem to have been given to actors who wouldn’t be good enough to appear in infomercials…)
My advice? Watch the trailer
instead – it includes most of the highlights of the movie (flying stone heads, Connery looking ridiculous, seemingly deep statements that are actually utterly meaningless.) Make up your own story to tie all of it together – it’s more than the film’s makers were willing to do.
I have seen Zardoz
, and it doesn’t work.