Monday, February 4, 2013

Conan the Barbarian (2011)

I discovered the work of Robert E. Howard a few years ago, and I really enjoyed his take on fantasy. The world of the Hyborian Age is a brutal and exciting place, and the character of Conan is intriguing. Of course he gets into all kinds of crazy adventures, usually involving plenty of battles, a naked woman or two and usually some kind of magical twist. The previous attempts to bring this world to the screen were moderately successful, but I was excited to hear that a new version was taking off in 2011. Would it stick closer to the world Howard created?

The film begins with a prologue describing an evil mask made of human skulls and how it was smashed. If it were brought together, than a supreme evil would claim the land. You know how these ancient prophecies are. Then we jump forward to witness the birth of Conan (Jason Momoa), as he is ripped from his mother’s womb during a battle. Wow! That’s some entrance. We watch his childhood among the Cimmerians, and how he kicks ass even as a child. Sticking to fantasy cliché number 24, his village is raided and his people killed. This includes his father, played by Ron Perlman who is required to be in at least one fantasy movie per year due to fantasy cliché number 22.

This means that Conan now has vengeance in his heart for the folks that destroyed his people. But mostly he travels the world with his partner Artus (Nonso Anozie), has adventures and sleeps with hot babes. But a chance encounter puts him on the track of the evil king Zym (Stephen Lang) and his sorcerer daughter Marique (Rose McGowan). Seems that these two are trying to piece together the bone mask and fill it with “pure blood”. They’ve zeroed in on Tamara (Rachel Nichols) as the vessel they need. Little do they know that Conan the Barbarian remembers them very well and is coming to spill blood, get revenge and bed a hot babe.

Good Points:
  • Retains some of the feel of the Howard books
  • Momoa makes a good Conan
  • The villains are having a great over the top time

Bad Points:
  • Feels like a rehash of the 1982 film and other fantasy flicks
  • The editing and camera work kills many of the action scenes
  • The music is terribly underwhelming at best, distracting at worst

This movie got slammed when it came out, and honestly it isn’t that bad. Strictly middle of the road fantasy fare, and that makes it a disappointment on some levels. It has lots of elements that Howard fans will enjoy, and the R rating keeps it closer to the spirit of the stories. If only the editing and camera work were able to make this film really click. Instead you end up distracted by the nonsensical scenes and the abrasive score. A shame, because a good movie was hiding in there somewhere.

Scores (out of 5)
Visuals: 4
Sound: 4
Acting: 4
Script: 3
Music: 2
Direction: 2
Entertainment: 3
Total:  3

Curious about a full review, sent me an email and I’ll make additional thoughts to this review.


  1. This movie looked so meh, I can't give it a chance.

    1. Yep, meh is pretty good description of this film. I learned that this was in development for years. I've found that the longer something is in development the worse the end product is. Too many cooks and all that. It's a shame, because Howard's original stories are perfect for some high adventure fantasy (R rated of course). It's a shame no one can get it quite right.

  2. I wasn't motivated to see this remake (or Total Recall, another redo of a previous Arnold). I'm still not, but fortunately you did so I don't have to.

    1. Glad to know I'm saving people from the perils of mediocre fantasy films. Pick up one of Howard's short stories instead. :)