In the latest batch of remakes and reboots comes Conan the Barbarian, a film that probably could have benefited a little more than it did, due to the easy nature of the character. I never saw the original in its entirety, but I got the idea of a warrior slaying dozens, which makes for an easy enough story. The newest take on Conan works on a few levels, but unfortunately comes off a tad on the generic side thanks to its director, most of its cast and general lack of ambition. I think one person deserves credit for this new formed Conan and that is Jason Momoa.
As the poster describes, Conan is literally born on the battlefield, which is covered with blood, dirt and bodies. Bodies of fallen warriors and of course Conan’s mother, who is an ugly looking thing that knows how to fight with the big boys. While mindlessly decapitating some unknown enemy she begins to have labor contractions, so right then and there she takes a knee and decides to pump out a child. This scene is just so damn odd for several reasons, one being Ron Perlman‘s epic beard, he plays Conan’s fearless father of course, and two being that she is having a fucking baby, while covered in blood and dirt, while people are getting massacred all around her. Conan did not drink from his mother’s breast upon entering this cruel world; instead he drank from a cauldron of blood!
Conan (Jason Momoa) lives a savage life, his mother died during the birthing process and can you blame her? His father and his whole village are destroyed by an evil Khalar Zym (Stephen Lang) and his equally evil and extremely uglier daughter, Marique (Rose McGowan). So the whole story follows Conan as he makes the continent of Hyboria his wasteland. Killing anyone who does badly by him and sleeping with any lady he saves, all in the name of the Cimmerian. Conan plays out like any simple fallen warrior hell-bent on revenge film, but its main problem is how generic it feels.
I think most of that generic tone can fall on director Marcus Nispel, who is primary known for remaking films that don’t need to be remade. His track record consists of Friday the 13th, The Texas Chainsaw Massacre and one of the shittier films of the past decade, Pathfinder. I think his best work is Chainsaw Massacre and that’s not really saying much, because the film was good but not great.
Conan on the other hand is an okay film, but never a good film. It’s passable on a case by case basis. I’ll be completely honest; I’m a sucker for blood and violence. If a movie can keep me somewhat entertained for an hour and a half, by way of blood and violence than it usually gets pass in my book. I won’t claim Conan to be anything special, because it really isn’t, in fact it’s kind of a messy and stupid film, but I enjoyed it. Would I ever revisit it, yeah probably on Blu-ray, but you probably won’t see me checking it out in theaters again, unless I want a good, mindless laugh.
The violence is there, Conan is constantly killing people and he does it in a very brutal fashion. His blade enters someone’s chest and blood spurts, or his blade slices across someone’s flesh and blood pours. That’s about it, but hey I was never a picky one after living in the era of PG13 action films, I’m just grateful that they stuck with the hard R. But that’s where my compliments stop. The film is an otherwise disaster. The cast, besides Momoa is completely wasted. Stephen Lang plays the power hungry bad guy with literally no character at all. He follows every bad guy cliche without adding anything redeemable. He doesn’t even make the role any fun, just annoying.
Rose McGowan plays the evil daughter on an even worse level. Her character is so fucking pointless and dumb. I thought it would be fun to watch Conan finally dish her up some revenge towards the end, but that scene felt rather shallow because there was no build up or care given to any of the relationships. Speaking of relationships, the main girl, Tamara (Rachel Nichols), is another wasted character. Tamara’s only existence in the film is to continue the story, which involves Conan and Zym. Other than that Tamara just sits there looking pretty and clean. Yeah, she has a little sexual encounter with Conan, but she is almost immediately taken out of the film for a decent proportion after that, which was fine by me.
Ron Perlman plays the best Ron Perlman as usual in Conan the Barbarian. He’s at that point in his career when you see him getting cast in a film and you kind of sigh, because that usually gives off a warning of the films quality. His presence is very brief, but it works and I chuckled at his beard for some reason.
Jason Momoa really does look like he’s trying as Conan, but that doesn’t matter because the rest is just stinky, smelly garbage. He fits the role of Conan and he fits it really well, I’d like to see the proposed sequel he wrote, if only another director was for sure hired.
Let’s talk about the visuals and 3D shall we? The last time I saw 3D this bad was in Clash of the Titans. The third dimension added nothing to the film. A lot of the action is dark, gritty and all over the place and the 3D just helped make it even more confusing. It’s like Nispel didn’t know what he exactly wanted to shoot, so he strapped a camera to some small kid and had him run around Momoa for a few hours. There is no visual style in Conan at all, it’s just ugly and boring, which one could credit as intention, but I’d call it laziness.
Overall, Conan the Barbarian can be viewed in two ways. The first way as a mindless, bloody action flick that is somewhat enjoyable for someone wanting a little violence and the second way is as a crappy, generic film that doesn’t really do anything with its running time. You follow Conan around as he kills people. That’s it. Sure, he runs into some characters along the way and faces some situations, but because of the poor performances by pretty much everyone, all the characters are instantly forgotten and instead just labeled as another character who isn’t Conan. You never feel the need to know anyone else by name. Conan is the only character that you somewhat care for and the only reason the film even has a purpose. A little disclaimer for people looking to simply have a good time, check out the film in 2D. The 3D is post converted and sloppy. It doesn’t add any depth. It only makes the CGI blood spurt at you, which isn’t that great. I prefer the bits when they use practical blood, but we can save that argument for another time!
Conan the Barbarian – 6.5/10