Conan the Barbarian

17 Sep

Title: Conan the Barbarian
Marcus Nispel
Writers: Thomas Dean Donnelly, Joshua Oppenheimer and Sean Hood, based on the character by Robert E. Howard
Jason Momoa, Rachel Nichols, Stephen Lang, Rose McGowan, Saïd Taghmaoui, Leo Howard, Bob Sapp, Ron Perlman
MPAA Rating: 
R, strong bloody violence, some sexuality and nudity
113 min
Major Awards: –

IMDb Rating: 
Rotten Tomatoes: 


This was a film done pretty much to exploit how 3D can work to make gory and violent things even more gory and violent. Seriously, I see no other use for this movie, it’s just relentless bloody violence with just terrible dialogue, one-dimensional characters and just plain bad acting. I mean, granted, it’s a film that deals with mostly screams and grunts and vulgarities and howls, so the actors didn’t really have all that much to play with to begin with, but still, this was pretty damn bad. The title of this movie would have been just as accurate if it had been One hundred and thirteen minutes of Aaaargh! because this film, based on the sword-and-shield character created by Robert E. Howard during the Depression, was not much more than that. The plot really is useless, you have a lot of Barbarians killing each other in battle sequences that never seem to end, and that’s basically it.

The 1982 film that starred Arnold Schwarzenegger is obviously what most people know this character from, but we now have this new take on the character, this time starring Jason Momoa. As for Mr. Momoa, you might know him from HBO’s highly successful Game of Thrones, and in that series I thought that on the first seven episodes or so he wasn’t amazing, but then on the last couple of episodes he really had something going on for himself and fleshed out Khal Drogo in some very neat ways. And I was looking for something similar to happen in Conan the Barbarian, but it just wasn’t to be. I mean, that’s not entirely his fault, because the character is just not written all that well to begin with, and he ends up being just this muscular guy who you can’t really feel for in his quest to get revenge.

I mean, the film obviously tries to get you to feel for Conan, after all we see him as a baby being delivered in the midst of a battlefield, ripped out of his mother’s womb using his own father’s sword, that’s supposed make us feel for baby Conan, but he’s then trained well by his father. And then see Khalar Zym, played by Stephen Lang, trapping Conan’s dad under a thing of molten iron and forcing Conan to try and safe him as he tells the dad that he’ll die watching his little son hopelessly trying to save him. Conan, however, does survive, and thus a quest of revenge commences. And look, Mr. Momoa I can tell had some sort of sense of humor towards this super cheesy character, but any potential for at least some campy fun was actually lost under that super serious glare and the raspy voice.

This is not the worst movie of the year, but it does gets to the point in which it all feels too much like watching a two-hour session of someone playing a videogame in which you rack up points by brutally beheading and disemboweling your enemies. There is no substance here at all, which really is a pity considering that the original character was concocted by Mr. Howard as some sort of metaphor for civilization at the time during which he lived in some eight decades ago, and he pretty much imagined the “civilized” people of the time, as ruthless Barbarians. This is the character with which the whole genre of swords and sorcery began, there’s a lot of material from which to draw, a lot of great things that could be done with it, but this film takes no advantage whatsoever of any of that.

But no matter how much stuff director Marcus Nispel had to work with he really doesn’t know how to use them properly, there are sword fights, and magic and blood, but it doesn’t feel cohesive at all. In fact, I thought that Mr. Nispel did a really crappy job because I would get it if he couldn’t embed any sort of layers to the characters and depth to the movie because the script was so bad, but not even the action scenes were well done, and this is a movie that was obviously counting on only that, but in the end even the most simplest of sword fights here are badly staged, and you don’t even want to get me going on how much worse that gets in the actual full-on big battle sequences. The effects just don’t look good at all and even the locations used (the film was shot in Bulgaria) don’t add to the gritty nature of this story.

The final long and tedious battle is between Conan and Tamara (the woman played by Rachel Nichols who we have to believe can go toe-to-toe with Conan and who our hero will fall for as he tries to save her) against Khalar Zym and Marique (his daughter and partner-in-crime played by Rose McGowan, who happens to be well-versed in sorcery). And, seriously, that scenes illustrates everything about this movie, it’s too long, it has no real substance to it, nothing is explained well enough and it doesn’t seem to be particularly well made, either. This is a violent film made to make money assuming people will pay big bucks to go watch gory CGI-heavy films in 3D. Thankfully, filmgoers seem to learning a lesson here, as the film hasn’t even made $50 million yet on a budget close to $90, so at least I hope that means no sequels for this one are in the works.

Grade: C-


One Response to “Conan the Barbarian”

  1. CMrok93 September 19, 2011 at 5:31 pm #

    The film is dumb, hackneyed and, well, just plain bad – much like the 1982 original – but because it knows and makes fun of that, it plays for a smart and entertaining ride. Good review.

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