Conan the Barbarian (2011)
Release Date: August 19th, 2011 MPAA Rating: R
Director: Marcus Nispel Actors: Jason Momoa, Stephen Lang, Rachel Nichols, Ron Perlman, Rose McGowan, Alina Puscau, Shelly Varod, Katarzyna Wolejnio
isually, this new Conan feels authentic, with gallons of blood spattering against tempered steel as muscular men wage war with beasts and each other alike. Yet while the action and carnage might sate the most bloodthirsty of viewers, the film feels rather soulless as the endless battles carry on with no pause for dialogue, character development, or plot. The mishmash tale of revenge and an evil tyrant trying to conquer the world is the very definition of generic and the actors don’t attempt to move beyond the scope of their stereotypes. Conan states early on, “I live, love, and slay. And I am content”. Well, we need a story to be satisfied.
Born of battle and raised to be a fearless Cimmerian warrior, Conan (Jason Momoa) seeks revenge against merciless warlord Khalar Zym (Stephen Lang), the man who razed his village and murdered his father. As Zym attempts to resurrect his dead wife with the aid of his sorceress daughter Marique (Rose McGowan), he discovers the last piece to the puzzle lies in the pure blood of Tamara (Rachel Nichols), a young monk. When Conan rescues the girl from Zym’s henchmen, the barbarian sees his chance to draw out the ruthless king and fulfill his lifelong vendetta.
Everything about “Conan the Barbarian” is unrelenting. While the level of action is commendable, it’s sustained with nary a break, leaving no room to catch your breath and no moment to differentiate one villain or action sequence from the next. It’s as if the movie is one long battle, starting with a blood-soaked killing field birth and ending with the final thrusts of a warrior dueling his nemesis, interrupted rarely by brief conversations. There’s so much butchery, but instead of being creative, it’s generally cruel, and although the story is soaked in legends, secrets, witchcraft, sorcery, rituals, necromancers, gravelly voices, victory cries, satanic monks, and a demonic Queen Amidala (complete with constantly changing hairpieces and attire), none of it is unique. A B-movie vibe presides over the entire ordeal, with unenthusiastic narration, bland transitions and characters striking poster-ready poses (such as swords being raised to the heavens). There aren’t even any original monsters for the barbarian to conquer. The filmmakers have forgotten that adventure can still be exciting even without nonstop predicaments and bloodshed. And are the impossibly white teeth and breast implants an anachronism?
The greatest achievement for this second-rate return to the “Conan” franchise is the scenery, which makes striking use of locations; battlefields, forests, monasteries, deserts, villages, castles, and caves are all given an appropriate Hyborian treatment (with extensive matte painting) and even a hint of Frazetta influences. The makeup is also exemplary, but wasted on unoriginal character designs (save for McGowan who would have been visually interesting had it not been for her expected, over-the-top approach to the role). Sadly, “Conan the Barbarian” has employed a broad-brush fashion to every other element – it secured the go-to director for sanguineous remakes (Marcus Nispel previously helmed the “Texas Chainsaw Massacre” and “Friday the 13th” remakes), the go-to narrator (Morgan Freeman), the go-to production company for violent extravaganzas (Lionsgate) and even cast Ron Perlman, the go-to elder barbarian (he played similar roles in “Season of the Witch” and “In the Name of the King: A Dungeon Siege Tale,” as well as having voiced Conan in the 2007 video game).
– The Massie Twins