I believe Barbarella defies people giving it labels. It simply is and you can’t tell one way or another whether it’s a good or a bad film objectively. It has transcended even the common “it’s so bad it’s good” argument. That’s honestly the best way to describe it because by all senses and purposes Barbarella is awful, nonsensical mess of 60s Sci-Fi, Utopian ideals, filled with weird off beat comedy that you can’t always tell whether or not everything was intentional or not, and female empowerment, all mixed together. And somehow that resulted into something greater than the sum of its parts, that is this unseemly spectacle of incredible levels of kitsch and awe. How else can you explain that the movie inspired the band Duran Duran to take its name from it? Certainly there needs to exist some otherworldly, strange power to the film. Good or bad, who can tell? Nor should you?
There is no point in talking about the plot, as it is so superfluous that you basically keep forgetting it even exists, despite Barbarella numerous times explaining her mission to people. The special effects and aesthetics have aged worse than the mummified body of Tutankhamen. The acting… is unique, to say the least. But that’s certainly what they must have gone for, when casting people such as Marcel Marceau in the film as a scientist, you don’t do that and expect conventional acting. Which leads us to the characters themselves, who are frankly the best part of the movie due to being so off the wall weird and memorable. I mean, you’ve got this band of kids, who apparently are at least slightly cannibalistic, living on their own in the icy wilderness and killing people with their wind up dolls that have razor blade teeth that they use to chew you up. A bit later you get acquainted with a blind angel who is unable to fly until administered some ego boosting sexual healing. Duran Duran, the reason the movie even has something to call a plot, turns out to be a egomaniacal evil scientist with delusions of grandeur and a giant death ray to go along with it. And of course, you’ve also got Barbarella herself, who is some kind of a government super agent, whose sexuality, fully blossomed after being released from the confines of the cold and isolated Utopian mating rituals, is so powerful (this is easily my favorite bit in the entire movie) that even a mad pleasure inflicting torture device is unable to break her. Just wow.
Do I have to say more? I don’t think so.