Conan the Barbarian - Review


The idea of remaking the cult classic Schwarzenegger movie "Conan, the Barbarian" felt like blasphemy to me. And of course the casting of Jason Momoa, who didn't look like Arnie in the slightest, didn't change my mind. It was only later when i saw the trailer, that i realized that this "new conan film" was not a remake but more of a reimagining. It was a different take on the Robert E. Howard books, while still keeping more or less the same kind of mystical, wild, magic atmosphere.
So luckily, it seems like director Marcus Nispel distanced himself enough from the original with his version.
The question is, if this new Conan can compete with the original from 1982?



The plot:
"A marauding horde of bandits led by Khalar Zym (Stephen Lang) sack the Cimmerians' village and leave Conan orphaned and alone. Khalar seeks a missing piece of the Mask of Acheron, which will help him reclaim his dead sorceress wife and achieve immortality. Jump forward 20-odd years. An adult Conan, now an adventurer in league with Zamorian pirate Artus (Nonso Anozie), gets a lead on the whereabouts of Khalar and his witch daughter, Marique (Rose McGowan). Conan's quest for revenge leads him to cross paths with both the noble thief Ela-Shan (Said Taghmaoui) and Tamara (Rachel Nichols), a beautiful woman living in a monastery who is the "pureblood" Khalar has long sought. Her blood will unleash the power of the Mask of Acheron and help Khalar conquer all of Hyboria." (source: IGN UK)

By following a completely different story, with completely different characters, Nispel took the right path to not even try to compete or copy Arnie's classic.
Conan's origin story gets a respectable amount of screentime but fails to give a deeper insight look into Conan's psyche than what we already got in the 1982's original.
But origin stories are not what Conan is really about...it's about Conan fighting and slaughtering his way through his enemies. Marcus Nispel, who is no newcomer to gory films (Texas Chainsaw Massacre (remake), Friday the 13. (remake)) of course made this Conan far more bloody and gory. While it's probably not extremely necessary to top the gore factor of the original to make this movie look better, it's nevertheless fitting for a movie about barbarians.

Unfortunately, the gore-factor and violence are the only things that shine in the fights of this flick.
The choreography rarely manages to excite the audience and most of the time stays very basic. You got your standard slow-mo, sword fight action and nothing new. The only times, where the fight scenes raise your attention, are the battles between Conan and monsters, which by the way happen far not as often as desired.
Although the fight choreography still pays a big tribute to the swordfighting technique and style of the original, it fails to impress and instead feels very tiresome and boring. And for a Conan movie that's a huge problem.

If i had to pick the biggest thing that both Conan movies have in common, it would be the bad dialogue. Both movies, the 1982 and the 2011 version, suffer from a pretty badly written script. But while the 1982 still had some great quotable lines to boot, Nispel's version flatout has nothing. It barely has any dialogue that is worth listening to for more than 20 seconds but still manages to fill roughly about 80% of the entire movie with people talking.

The acting exactly matches the level of character development in this flick. I admit that i first HATED the choice of casting Jason Momoa as the new Conan. I initially compared him to Schwarzenegger. But now looking at him, he is quite a good new Conan. His looks represent the Conan of the original novels way better than Arnie did. The big thing that Momoa lacks is charme. Schwarzenegger's unbeatable charme and austrian-accentish acting simply can't be copied. And they were a big factor just why the original was so damn (funny) good. Momoa's Conan lacks enough sympathy.
Maybe it's how he interacts with the supporting actors or the bad writing, but when Momoa tries to act like a barbarian, treating women like objects, it feels unexplained and just tacked on. A second ago he was a nice (yet deadly) kid with an honorable father, and a second later he is suddenly an evil barbarian...but well. Momoa does ok as far as looking grim and badass goes, but as a belivable actor...no.

Other notable actors like Rose McGowan as the witch Marique, and Rachel Nichols as Tamara, impress only by their looks: McGowan admittedly looking pretty cool in her witch outfit but being over-the-top bland (just like Stephen Lang as the main villain), and Nichols looking hot but having the character, logic and acting skills of a potato!
(exactly like how she was in G.I.Joe!)

The only actor that really felt like he entirely fit into this flick was Ron Perlman as Conan's father. Unfortunately he doesn't have much screentime but i couldn't think of any other actor that could fit more perfectly into the role than him.

Oh and by the way...Morgan Freeman is the narrator?! Did he forget what set he was on?!

All in all, "Conan, the Barbarian" impresses more with its design than with its final execution. While the dialogue and acting are the biggest weaknesses here, Jason Momoa did have quite some potential as the new Conan and doesn't just represent a cheap imitation of Schwarzenegger, but an all new, more book-faithful Conan.
Schwarzenegger fans will definitely be disappointed: the lack of quoteable lines, charme, exciting fights and interesting, likable characters simply cannot be overlooked.
You can tell that the movie had good, new ideas, that just weren't developed enough to turn the movie into a great experience.
It's a prime example of style over substance (with style being the design of the world and costumes).
My advice is that you are better off watching the 1982 original than this half-hearted 2011 version of "Conan, the Barbarian".


Final Verdict: 2 out of 10

 

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