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Zardoz Reviews

Frequently brilliant director Boorman--always an interesting visual stylist--falls flat on his face with this pretentious piece of science-fiction claptrap that presents its dull ideas in such a confused and annoying fashion as to anger even the most devoted fan of the genre. The year is 2293, and Earth has been divided into two distinct camps. The Brutals are a race of crude, violent people who live in a desolated area known as the Outlands. Their population is kept under control by an elite group of killers known as the Exterminators. The Exterminators worship a pagan god called Zardoz who comes to them in the form of a giant stone head that floats into their domain and spews guns and ammunition out of its mouth. One of the Exterminators, Connery, begins to question his faith in Zardoz and stows away inside the mouth of the giant head to see where it will take him. Before it lands, he spies a man inside the head with him, Buggy, and immediately shoots him. Buggy falls to his death from the mouth of the flying stone head. The ship lands in an area called the Vortex, which is populated by a group known as the Eternals. The Eternals are the sons and daughters of a scientist who had figured out how to sustain life forever. Because they will live forever there is no need for procreation, therefore all the men are impotent. The scientists also developed a supercomputer, known as the Tabernacle, that controls all life-control systems in the Vortex, including a force field that keeps the Brutals out of the Vortex. Among the Eternals, however, are two other subgroups: the Apathetics, people who cannot deal with the boredom of their immortality and have reverted to a catatonic state; and the Renegades, Eternals who have been made old and senile. The Eternals have been using the Exterminators to make slaves of the Brutals so that enough wheat can be grown to feed those in the Vortex. When Connery is discovered in the Vortex, his presence causes chaos. A genetic engineer, Kestelman, wants to study him, while Rampling sees him as a threat and wants him destroyed. Kestelman manages to win some time and discovers that Connery is genetically superior to all Eternals. Meanwhile, another Eternal who has befriended the brute-man, Alderton (cleverly named "Friend"), shows him to a group of Apathetics who immediately become aroused by his presence. During what seems like an eternity of screen time, Connery manages totally to destroy life in the Vortex by figuring out the computer and then destroying it. A group of Eternal women who are pregnant by Connery, including Kestelmen, ride off into the Outlands under his protection, while he wins over Rampling and they run off together and live in a cave. During Connery and Rampling's escape, the now mortal Eternals beg the marauding Exterminators (who have invaded the Vortex because the force field is no longer operative) to kill them. In the cave, Connery and Rampling produce a son, grow old, and die. ZARDOZ (the word is a contraction of The Wizard of Oz, the book that inspired those clever Eternals to trick the Exterminators) is a mess. The first five minutes of the film--where the giant stone head floats into the Outland and spews guns at the Exterminators--are visually stunning. From the moment Connery lands in the Vortex, the film collapses into a frustrating mess of pompous dialogue, bad costuming, dull performances, and just plain lousy narrative storytelling. Director Boorman has made some brilliant films, particularly when he toyed with a genre in order to re-create it. ZARDOZ, however, is pretentious sludge with some memorable visuals. By the end of this insufferable film the viewer is left to ponder the deep philosophical notion that it is better to die than to live forever. Big deal.