Movie Review: Conan the Barbarian


Saying I had low expectations for the current remake of the Arnold Schwarzenegger classic Conan the Barbarian would be the understatement of the year… yet, this particular remake could not even meet those lowered expectations.  From beginning to end I could find very few redeeming qualities… and I was searching for them!  I wanted desperately to enjoy this movie… unfortunately, everything from production design to script were horrendous.

Comparisons could be made directly with it’s namesake… but another way to look at it would be this… Star Wars had The Last Starfighter… Raiders of the Lost Ark had Romancing the Stone… Jaws had Piranha… and Conan the Barbarian had Beastmaster… and now this.  Like those other films, this remake is a sad pretender.

Much has been made of Jason Momoa’s desire for this role.  He brought his own sword to his audition, packed on massive amounts of muscle and has even written a sequel.  After seeing his Conan-like performance in this year’s HBO series Game of Thrones as the impressive and always awesome Khal Drogo, I had somewhat elevated feeling regarding his potential for Conan.  Now it seems that someone forgot to mention that he should try acting.  I’ve never quoted another review… but I must paraphrase the AV Club’s review of this movie… he isn’t acting, he’s LARPing.  He isn’t alone.

The cast seems to vacillate between bad acting and over acting.  Stephen Lang as the baddy, and Rose McGowan as his daughter, glower and hiss throughout the entire production giving remarkably single note performances while on the flip side of the shitty coin we have Rachel Nichols as the damsel in distress reading lines as if she had just learned to read.  Sure, she’s nice to look at….

Which brings me to my biggest issue regarding this movie… and an issue that I was derided for complaining about… people are just too damned clean and good looking in this fantasy world.  I realize this is fantasy… but should women being kept in a cage be perfectly coiffed, blonde, made up and have perky perfect breasts?  Should the inhabitants of this world speak with Californian accents (not that they should have any accent… it just stuck out to me) and be so damned clean?  Why is there no dirt?  This is my main production design complaint… that and Rose McGowan’s ridiculous hair and lack of eyebrows.  I realize production design may not be a big deal for most, but for me it can be the difference between enjoying a story or hating it.  My favorite example of this is The Fifth Element.  Many love this film… I despise it.  Mostly on the basis of goofy costumes, hair and over-cleanliness.

What else could I possibly complain about Conan the Barbarian?  Script?  The original was penned by Oliver Stone… and Conan said little.  I don’t know who penned this, but with lines such as “I live. I love. I slay, and I am content”, I would hide my head in shame.  And that’s actually a memorable line!

Action… how could I forget the action.  It’s poorly directed, break most laws of physics, looks silly, fake looking blood… and worse than all of that… it’s boring.  At times the action seemed meted out like the violence in a video game.  Dialogue, fight, exposition, fight, dialogue, fight… the tone shifts as constantly as the bad or non existent accents.  At one point it feels like a buddy road movie, at another point it more closely resembles Krull or Mortal Kombat.  Egads… this movie is just crap.

I did somewhat enjoy the opening sequence.  Not the true beginning where we see Conan’s mother take a sword in battle while she is pregnant only to have Ron Perlman as Mr. Conan Sr. deliver Conan via C-section on the battlefield, but young Conan and his dad, bonding, as dear old pops describes the “mystery of steel”… which compared to the original “riddle of steel” is also lame, lame, lame.  At least these scenes were moderately entertaining.

I will leave it at that… end on a slightly positive note and do my best to forget I ever paid money to see this movie.

Crom is rolling over in his grave,
Cornelius J. Blahg

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