I have been seeing stills and even a few clips from “Zardoz” since way back in the 1980s, with the general impression that it was a cheesy B-grade sci-fi movie. And while I appreciate that Sean Connery in a red thong is probably a plus for a significant part of the audience, it’s not doing much for me. So I put off watching this one for quite a few years.
However, “Zardoz” was a much better movie than I expected. Now I’m somewhat disappointed I hadn’t seen it years ago. Interesting philosophical and social issues. Also not a bad SF presentation of things that are starting to happen now, such as this collective mind we call the “Internet”.
I was expecting something much more simplistic, but this was pretty serious art.
Of course, there is plenty to laugh at, if that’s what you’re in it for — the costumes and effects are cheesy, and some of the sexual themes will no doubt inspire some giggles. But since the film is ultimately about sex and death, the link between them, and the problems that removing them would create, they really are necessary to the story.
It is visually challenging, frequently surrealistic, and occasionally stagey. It also requires the audience to do some thinking to keep up with what is going on, as actions are not always explained, even though I never felt lost, so I wouldn’t describe it as incoherent.
In fact, I’m somewhat reminded of the level of the better original “Star Trek” episodes, or perhaps Doctor Who — the demise of a questionable utopia, although neither series would be able to deal head-on with the adult themes this film does, due to broadcast restrictions and propriety (you could probably skirt around these issues with a less explicit version, but it would be a weaker film for it).
Pretty trippy stuff. I recommend it if you, like me, have been overlooking this film because of its reputation. Not for younger viewers, I think — as much for the “death wish” theme as much as the sexuality (which while occasionally explicit, is neither particularly erotic nor prurient).