Directed by Marcus Nispel
Starring Jason Momoa, Stephen Lang, Rachel Nichols, Ron Perlman, Rose McGowan
So, I love the original Conan The Barbarian but I see it in a realistic light. The film was a campy fantasy adventure with a shopworn plot featuring a lead actor that barely had a grasp on the English language. The thing is that the movie rose above its limitations back then to become something fun and memorable, mostly due to the lead actor who was charisma plus. His ensemble, while not exactly great actors were still fun and entertaining. This remake didn’t have much to live up to production wise but it still needs to be able to make a mark the way the original film did.
This film tells the story of a young Barbarian trying to prove himself to his clan and become a true warrior. During his training his village is ravaged and his people killed by a warlord seeking a part of an artifact that will not only allow him to bring back his dead wife but make him the most powerful man on the planet. Conan, still a child, watches his father get tortured and killed and he is left alive to bare the burden of what he and his people went through. He grows up and becomes a nomad fighter, defending the innocent while looking for the men responsible for the murder of his family.
Like the original film the plot here is shopworn and completely predictable from scene to scene. A movie like this isn’t about surprise endings though; it’s like a good D&D game. The movie is about the journey. In this journey there are beautiful women, many evil doers to fight, witches, and even a tentacle monster! The action is shot with a reckless abandon that makes it all exciting even if the gore in the film often feels a little too forced. Did ancient people all have really soft heads? I ask because they are often cracked open like eggs with very little effort. To that end, be warned, this film is a gory work with plenty of blood and brains. There’s also ample nudity, which was a staple of fantasy films of the 80’s but is still surprising in the PC world we live in nowadays.
To the man that stepped into Arnold Schwarzenegger’s leather boots; he’s acceptable. He’s not as charismatic as Arnie was back in the day but he does a little better than what we saw in films such as Beastmaster (a kind of fun movie actually). He has a better grasp on the language than Schwarzenegger did at the time but he just doesn’t seem as imposing. Part of that is surely his build. He’s ripped but not in that over the top way that Schwarzenegger was. This leads to a failing in the script that the original film actually got right. Conan was clearly defined as something destined to be more than an average man or just a great warrior. You never get that feeling in this new film. He is nearly unbeatable in battle but you never really know why. Another issue is that the original Conan featured a fun and eclectic band of characters that followed him along in his adventure. This new version gets close once or twice to something similar then it just pulls back.
This remake isn’t a great film but it does offer some retro entertaining fantasy fun, something we haven’t seen in the theater in a great while. It was fun seeing Ron Pearlman in this kind of film too. The 3-D is just plain awful, headache inducing even, so see it in 2-D if you plan to adventure to the theater.