Usually, Throwback Thursday is ScienceFiction.com’s ongoing column dedicated to the great science fiction of the past, but let’s change that up. Today, it’s going to be about the “meh” science fiction of our past as we look at ‘Zardoz’, a.k.a the Sean-Connery-wears-a-red-diaper-in-an-uncomprehensible-plot movie.
Truthfully, ‘Zardoz’ has many of the things that create good sci-fi. It has an interesting concept, mystifying imagery, and asks questions that we as a society need to answer (namely, what do we do when our needs are fulfilled?). Yet, even with all of that, the pacing and the storytelling make it a difficult watch, especially if you feel like taking sci-fi seriously. That being said, watch it like a B-movie, and you are sure to have a great time.
‘Zardoz’ takes place in two hundred years in our future where the world is divided between “Eternals” and “Brutals”. Eternals live forever off the backs the Brutals provide, who provide food for them (likely a commentary on capitalism). The Eternals are unhappy, bored, and democratic to the point of tedium. The Brutals are wild, violent, and murderous. Essentially, boil down your stereotypes of the rich and what the rich think of the poor, and you’ve got a pretty good idea of the metaphor in the movie. Zed (Sean Connery) is a Brutal that somehow ends up in the world of the Eternals. Later you find out an Eternal actually engaged in a eugenics program to produce a super man that could bring down the world of the Eternals, but boy does it take a long time to get there. The plot doesn’t really seem to start until an hour into the movie (the movie is an hour and forty-five minutes long, mind you).
It should be no surprise how the plot goes from there. Zed does as he was bred to do, and the world has to find a new equilibrium, which it only really addresses in a quick montage at the end.
Despite narrative issues, ‘Zardoz’ really does have interesting ideas, though are none are executed in a really mind-blowing way. It’s slow to start, slow to explain, and has no real tension to keep you invested. But bust out a glass of wine, invite your friends over, and you’ll probably enjoy the half-naked Sean Connery trying to act as someone other than James Bond (this is his first film after he finished his Bond films). You’ll marvel at the costume choices and guffaw at some of the acting choices. It’s amusing, sometimes thought-provoking if you want it to be, and pretty much what you expect of an artsy-sci-fi film of the 70s. So, if you’re curious, check it out!