Retrospective – Barbarella (source Wikipedia)
Numerous retrospective reviews have discussed Barbarella‘s plot and design. According to The A.V. Club‘s Keith Phipps, “Mario Garbuglia keeps throwing inventive visuals and remarkable sets at the heroine” but “the journey itself is an unrelenting trudge”. Sean Axmaker of Video Librarian called the film’s “set design and wild color triumphing over story and character”. Taylor noted a lack of “plot impetus”, suggesting that Vadim may have been “preoccupied with the special effects, though they are [and were] rather cheesy”. Kim Newman (Empire) gave Barbarella three stars out of five, calling the film “literally episodic” and writing that the episodes spend “more time on the art direction, the costuming and the psychedelic music track than the plot”.
About its sexual elements, Brian J. Dillard wrote that the film’s gender roles were not “particularly progressive, especially given the running gag about Barbarella getting her first few tastes of physical copulation after a lifetime of ‘advanced’ virtual sex” in his review on AllMovie. Phipps found the film “a missed opportunity”, noting that the source material was part of “an emerging wave of European comics for adults” which “Vadim film[ed] indifferently.” David Kehr of the Chicago Reader found the film “ugly” on several levels, particularly its “human values”. Newman summarized the film as “cheerful, kitsch and camp”, with “a succession of truly amazing fashion creations with all the confidence of a generation that thought sex was, above all, fun”. Newman compared the film to 2001: A Space Odyssey and Star Wars, writing that Barbarella makes them seem “stuffy” by comparison. Charles Webb’s review for MTV noted that Barbarella suffers when described as a “camp classic”, since there was “so much to like about Fonda’s work here and the movie as a whole”; “Fonda brings naivete and sweetness to a part that requires a certain level of comfort going bare onscreen, while the hostile planet Lythion is a parade of inventive and odd ways to imperil our heroine.”