Monday, April 30, 2012
In the year 2293, Zed (Sean Connery) is an Exterminator, a merciless killer who hunts down Breeders, people who spread the seed of life poisoning the earth. Zed also worships Zardoz, a giant floating stone head that declares, "The gun is good. The penis is evil." One day, Zed sneaks inside of Zardoz and ends up in the Vortex, an encased society of immortals known as the Eternals. As a "Brutal," Zed threatens the very existence of the Vortex.
Maybe Zardoz would have worked better as a novel like Brave New World or 1984. The ideas are certainly intriguing enough, but the way they're realized is ridiculous. Consider this: 1984 had at its center Winston Smith, a relatively normal guy we could relate to or at least understand. Brave New World begins with essentially a history lesson explaining this weird new society. Zardoz has neither; it just flings us right into the swing of things without bothering to properly introduce us or get us acclimated.
We meet Zed and already he's defying the order of things by climbing into Zardoz, but we don't learn this (or his name) until much later and in flashback. We open in the hilly countryside with a party of horsemen dress similarly like Zed, praying to Zardoz and receiving guns. Five minutes, we leave this cast of characters and are dropped literally into another strange section of society. Very little of the narrative or the background is explained in a coherent manner or given a proper context. To the audience, it's just a lot of weird shit.
I liked some of the ideas present in Zardoz. We learn the Eternals were originally the elite of society who shielded themselves with mankind's intellectual achievements when the world went to hell in a hand basket, and they use a false idol, Zardoz, to control the rest of humanity which has descended into barbarism, a rather interesting take on The Time Machine's notion of two opposite societies. Eternals who rebel are aged into senility forever because they can't die, and I've always been a fan of stories in which the "uncultured" outsider clashes with the established order. But seriously, when the leaders of the Vortex start going on about the evil of Sean Connery's erection (no joke), any seriousness or credibility vanishes.
Zardoz is unlike any other sci fi movie I've ever seen, and it's memorable, albeit for all the wrong reasons. Today, most bad sci fi movies are terrible in all the same safe and commercial way, but Zardoz is bad in a way all of its own. For that reason alone, it's actually worth seeing.