is neither a mindless sci-fi action movie nor a serious SF-as-ideas film a la Tarkovsky
. It's... hard to describe, on account of the fact that it really doesn't make a lot of sense
. Still, some sort of plot description might help.
It is the year 2293 AD. A post-apocalyptic Earth is inhabited mostly by the "Brutals", simple soil-tilling serf types, who are in turn overseen by Exterminators. These Exterminators worship the god Zardoz, a huge, flying, hollow stone head that dispenses weaponry and ammunition by the truckload. One day, an Exterminator named Zed gets swept up into the hollow stone head and finds himself under possession of the Eternals, an elite class who long ago discovered the secret to immortality and removed themselves from all that penis-having to the rarified heights.
Life has become so meaningless that Zed is hailed as manna from heaven. Some, however, see him as a dangerous threat to their status as higher beings. As it turns out, a lot of the Eternal scientists are female. They argue all this for awhile. Then others start clamouring for Zed to kill them and end this awful tedium.
Fun fact: Writer-Director John Boorman
wanted to adapt The Lord of the Rings
, but that fell through. It's that project which inspired Zardoz
. It's a trippy dystopian fantasy full of psychotropics, philosophical something-or-another, and lots of gratuitous female nudity. It's definitely a Cult Classic
, and frequently considered more 70's
than That '70s Show
Zardoz has examples of:
- Age Cut: The final shot takes it further than most, aging two characters and their newborn son repeatedly until the adult son walks off and the parents remain until they're nothing but skeletons.
- Age Without Youth: The exiles, aged as punishment and left in an old folks home.
- After the End: Apparently this takes place after a nuclear war.
- And I Must Scream: The Apathetics are a subset of the Eternals who have become so tired of immortality that they literally cannot do anything anymore.
- Blessed with Suck: The Eternals' immortality. At first that seemed like a good idea until boredom set in and with no way to end it.
- Body Horror: The immortals punish the criminal by speed-aging the offender. The more you resist, the closer you get to endless senility...
- Breaking the Fourth Wall: Arthur Frayn's opening prologue.
- Bury Your Gays: Friend is clearly intended to be bisexual at the very least. He's also the one who gets made an example of.
- Cargo Cult
- The Chessmaster: Arthur Frayn, who created Zed and brought him to the vortex to destroy the Eternals.
- The Chosen One: Zed, chosen by Frayn to end the Eternals' misery.
- Crapsaccharine World: The Vortex.
Zed: This place is built on lies and suffering!
- Creator Cameo: Boorman appears as one of the Brutals that gets shot in the head.
- Crossdresser: The Renegades need to get Zed away from rioting Eternals that want to kill him....so they dress him up in a wedding dress.
- Crystal Spires and Togas: Subverted, in that the film presents this as a Dystopia, too.
- Cultured Badass: Zed is quoting T.S. Eliot by the end of the film.
- Dating Catwoman: Zed and Consuela. She sees him as a threat to the Eternals but also clearly wants to have sex with him.
- Defector from Decadence: Friend, who winds up with the Exiles before helping to destroy the Eternals.
- Domed Hometown: Where the Eternals live.
- Dude, She's Like, Apathetic!: Zed graps one particularly good-looking Apathetic, throws her down on the hay, and starts pawing on her. Friend urges him to take her, but he stops.
- Dystopia: The eternals aren't enjoying themselves.
- Fan Disservice: Sean Connery spends much of his time wearing a red speedo with matching crisscrossing bandoliers and black thigh-high boots. And then there's a scene where he disguises himself by wearing a wedding dress...
- Fanservice: In that very special 70's but-nudity-is-just-natural sort of way.
- Gambit Roulette: Arthur Frayn's plan as Summed up by Oancitizen:
"So his plan was... herd a bunch of working class Brits into, breeding someone genetically able to think on the Eternals level; lead him to a library. Hope, that he taught himself how to read properly. Hope, that he came across the one specific book that inspired the whole Zardoz shtick. Hope, that he would stow-away on the Zardoz head and shoot him. Then hope, that the head would crash back inside the vortex. Hope, that the other Eternals didn't kill him immediately, and teach them all that they know; in the hopes that he would figure out how to destroy the tabernacle an therefore all the Eternals. In other words, the exact kind of plan you expect for a man who draws on his goatee."
- Go Out with a Smile: Friend. "It's all a joke."
- Gun Porn: Note the scene where a fountain of guns spills out of the giant floating head.
- Hall of Mirrors: The Tabernacle is represented in this way.
- He Who Fights Monsters: Zed quotes the Trope Maker, Friedrich Nietzsche.
- Immortality Hurts: Because no Eternal can die, the only available punishment is aging the offender into senility.
- In Medias Res: The scenes after the prologue. It cuts to Zed after he's gained knowledge and shed his Exterminator identity.
- Jerkass: Friend...before turning into a Jerkass Woobie.
- Kill 'em All: No sooner do the immortals get their immortality mechanism destroyed than they mostly get slaughtered by a bunch of Exterminators. They couldn't be happier.
- Kill the God: Zed was programmed to shoot Frayn.
- Kinetic Weapons Are Just Better: The gun is good.
- Large Ham: Arthur Frayn.
- Low Culture, High Tech: The barbarian class.
- Mind Rape: This happens to Zed.
- Mind Screw: The whole movie, from beginning to end.
- Mishmash Museum: The Tabernacle.
- Mr. Exposition: The floating head of Arthur Frayn at the beginning.
- Nietzsche Wannabe: See He Who Fights Monsters.
- Novelization: By writer/director John Boorman with Bill Stair. Clears up quite a lot of the incoherent story and adds some backstory, including Zed's childhood.
- Prophetic Name: Friend.
- Public Domain Soundtrack: They get a lot of mileage out of Beethoven's Symphony #6.
- Rage Against the Reflection: Zed shooting his former Exterminator self inside the Tabernacle.
- Rage Helm: The Exterminators wear grimacing Zardoz masks.
- Real Men Eat Meat: According to Zed, the brutals hated having to start cultivating wheat for the Eternals.
Zed: Zardoz betrayed us! We were hunters, not farmers!
- Revolvers Are Just Better: As noted, Zardoz is very big on this, to the extent that his version of 'showering blessings' involves automatic rifles.
- Ring of Power: All the Eternals have them.
- Sean Connery Is About to Shoot You: Well of course he is. The first scene ends this way.
- Scenery Porn: The rolling Irish hills sure are gorgeous.
- Science Fiction: A very broad use of it anyway.
- Screw You, Elves!: Zed is extremely angry at how the Eternals live in relative comfort while everyone else suffers.
- The Seventies. Very much so.
- Sex Is Evil:
Zardoz: The penis is evil! The penis shoots seeds, and makes new life to poison the Earth with a plague of men, as once it was.
- Shout-Out: A salute to The WiZARD of OZ becomes a pretty major plot point.
- Slap-Slap-Kiss: More or less the film's entire attitude to romance.
- Straw Feminist: The future women (and possibly men) who speak constantly about how horrible and violent sex was, but at the same time, obviously want to get into Connery's pants.
- Stripperiffic: What else would you call Connery in this movie? Striphorrific?
- Trickster: Arthur Frayn.
- Trrrilling Rrrs: Arthur Frayn.
- Two-Faced: Friend is either half-geriatric or slowly succumbing to being aged. Half of his face is old while the other is unchanged.
- Turned Against Their Masters: The Exterminators eventually slaughter all the Eternals, except for Consuella and a few others who escape to make new lives outside.
- Twist Ending: Zardoz is... The WiZard of Oz.
- Unintentional Period Piece: Even though the movie's set in a Post Apocalyptic future, its 70s influence shows everywhere.
- Watch It Stoned: Boorman admits he used drugs during filming.
- What Do You Mean, It Wasn't Made on Drugs?: It WAS.
- Who Wants to Live Forever?: The Eternals long ago succumbed to ennui.
- Xtreme Kool Letterz: Some of the text displayed by the Tabernacle, such as "Karatz" (carrots), "Solt" (salt) and "Lethur" (leather).
- Your Princess Is in Another Castle: The scene where Zed reveals how he learned Zardoz was actually The WiZard of Oz makes you think the movie's wrapping up when, in fact, there's still almost an hour to go.