Active Ingredients: Weirdness and creativity; Funny costumes
Side Effects: Dense mythology and philosophy; Tedious
Unapologetically strange and risible, John Boorman’s cult classic Zardoz is, at least, a very different film-watching experience; if you think you’ve seen it all, this is one to seek out. Despite its amusingly dated production design and philosophy, and its tripped-out visual flourishes, Zardoz boils down to a rather reductive and facile rehash of familiar cautionary tales.
There’s a dense mythology to Zardoz’s futuristic world, but basically it’s about Sean Connery as an uncivilized brute who ends up among a society of immortal beings who’ve shed the base instincts of humanity. The Immortals are enthralled by Connery’s muscles and hairy chest: he’s awoken animalistic desires in them they’ve forgotten centuries ago. When he learns how far the society has gone to eradicate “negative auras” and human imperfections Connery sets about introducing mortality to the hippy/communist world.
It’s all laughable humdrum, of course, which is fine as long as the film returns to its weirdness and silliness and moves quickly. As we get more bogged down in the construction of the Immortal’s society and long sequences of performance art, however, the film tries its audience’s patience. As an example of camp and comically-overdone 70’s aesthetic it’s enjoyable, but it doesn’t achieve the potent social allegory it strives for.