this is the best sci-fi movie ever to feature
Sean Connery loping about in a loincloth.
Actually the garment looks more like a diaper...
He also sports a ponytail, ammo belts and thigh-high
pirate boots. A far cry from James Bond's Saville
Row suits to be sure. But if any actor has the
macho screen presence to carry off such an ensemble,
Zardoz is an
ambitious, visually arresting science fiction
allegory from John Boorman, acclaimed director
of Deliverance, Excalibur
and The Tailor of Panama.
Belying what on the surface seems like a fairly
simple, straightforward plot, this is not a movie
that's particularly audience-friendly. (Some find
it just plain silly. Parts do veer perilously
close...) All manner of metaphors and symbolism
are thrown at you — so many, in fact, it'll take
repeated viewing to pick up on all of them. Provided
you don't prefer your movie plots/themes spoon-fed
to you, this should prove a worthwhile experience.
The film is set in the year 2293. Most of
Earth has been ravaged by some kind of cataclysm.
Its cities rubbled, the countryside is a charred,
blasted wasteland. The pathetic remnants of the
human race — "Brutals" who exist on a primitive
level — are hunted down and killed by the Exterminators,
a more advanced group of humans who use horses
and guns. The Exterminators worship Zardoz, a
giant flying stone head that has gifted them with
firearms and what limited knowledge they possess.
Their mysterious god has always had but one simple
commandment: Kill the Brutals. For Zed (Connery),
an Exterminator chieftain, this has always been
But suddenly, everything changes. Mighty Zardoz
has a new edict: the campaign of genocide against
the Brutals will stop. Instead they will be enslaved
and forced to grow food. The resulting crops will
be gathered and placed 'aboard' Zardoz when the
flying head stops by at harvest time. Warrior
Zed, who loves nothing more than the thrill of
the chase and the excitement of the kill, is mystified
and disappointed. What right does God have
to change His mind?
Zed and his followers among the Exterminators
want answers. He stows away in the stone head
when it lands to take on the harvest. While Zardoz
flies through the clouds toward an unknown destination,
Zed explores its interior. Inside he finds naked
humans in some kind of stasis, encased in plastic.
A man in strange garb (Niall Buggy, already introduced
to us as "Arthur Frayn" in the film's bizarre
prologue) suddenly appears. With Visigothian brusqueness
Zed plugs him with his Webley. The man falls to
his death (or does he?) from the open mouth
of the stone head but not before recognizing who
shot him. "You!" he exclaims to a puzzled
Zed as he plunges out of sight. Soon thereafter
Zardoz sails over a lush, verdant countryside,
descending to land by a large house near a lake.
Zed disembarks from the stone to scout out his
environs. A new world of strange wonders awaits
the Exterminator. Zardoz has brought him inside
the Vortex — private enclave of the Eternals,
immortal beings who are intellectual giants compared
to the barbarians who struggle to survive in the
Their compound protected by an invisible force
field, inhabitants of the Vortex lead decadent
lives of unending leisure. Captured, Zed becomes
a catalyst for disruption among them. One faction,
led by the scientist Consuella (Charlotte Rampling),
wants him studied quickly and then destroyed.
The other, championed by Consuella's companion
May (Sarah Kestelman) and the sarcastic Friend
(John Alderton), wish to spare the outlander for
either prolonged examination or simple amusement.
Zed has other plans, however. He already knows
the true secret of his "god" (which is revealed
in a flashback sequence that will throw you for
a loop — the high point of Zardoz's
Swiftian narrative). The Eternals have underestimated
As mentioned, Boorman's movie may well overwhelm
the viewer with heavy concepts. Religion, science,
the nature of Man, class distinction, politics
— they're all touched on in unusual ways. You
should also know that the story doesn't exactly
unfold in a linear fashion. But if you have a
taste for the decidedly offbeat and enjoy science
fiction that actually causes you to think,
then Zardoz could
just be the ticket. To a future that doesn't work.