Movie Review: Conan the Barbarian
Release Date: August 19, 2011
Directed by: Marcus Nispel
Genre: Action, Adventure, and Fantasy
Stars: 3 out of 5
The first film adaptation of 'Conan the Barbarian' was an iconic role for Arnold Schwarzenegger (Terminator). The original film version of this tale was an admittedly campy, sword and sorcery adventure that, despite poor special effects and iffy dialogue, is still a secret favorite of many moviegoers.
In true Hollywood tradition, 'Conan the Barbarian' returns in a revamped remake directed by Marcus Nispel ('Friday the 13th,' 'Pathfinder'). In this new version, Conan is played by Jason Momoa ('Game of the Thrones'), who is definitely ripped and dangerously handsome enough to play Conan, but it's questionable whether he is able to add to the character that Schwarzenegger portrayed so memorably.
While full of bloody action, which is true to Conan's style, this film has very little depth or plot. Viewers tempted by the trailers depicting lots of vicious fights and gore will be pleased with Conan's fight scenes, but many will find the choppy dialogue, lackluster acting, and minimal plot disappointing. Momoa's performance is charming, and he does manage to add a depth Conan fans may not believe possible to his character, but the story is weak, as are Momoa's supporting cast, and this gives him nothing to work with in the end.
Nispel's direction of Conan the Barbarian comes off as a technically advanced re-telling of the original tale featuring Schwarzenegger as Conan, with a similar story. Conan's village is under attack, this time by the forces of neighboring clans who've sworn their allegiance to Khalar Zym (Stephen Lang, 'White Irish Drinkers'), who is a mortal hoping to resurrect his wife using an ancient relic. Conan's father (Ron Perlman, 'Hellboy,' 'Crave') refuses to give up the relic that Zym is searching for, but Zym's daughter Marique, played by Rose McGowan uncovers it and Zym leaves Conan's father to die. In this new version, Conan isn't enslaved as he is in the original. Instead he is free to go about thieving and freeing slaves, with a weak motivation to hunt down the man responsible for his father's death, and the death of his people. He then meets a warrior monk named Tamara, played by Rachel Nichols, and conveniently ends up on Zym's trail. Zym at this point is close to finding the final element he needs to resurrect his wife, and release all kinds of evil.
Ron Perlman does a solid job in portraying Conan's father, and the opening of the film shows viewers an interesting depiction of Cimmerian warrior culture, but the point where Zym's army destroys everything marks a downward turn, where there is minimal character development or storyline.
Rachel Nichols also turns in a good performance as Conan's love interest, Tamara, but the film's plot takes what might have been a killer character and turns her into a typical damsel in distress.
'Conan the Barbarian' is a fantasy adventure that excels in combat sequences, but its set design is average, it's lacking in innovation, and offers no surprises. While CGI enhancements give a more believable quality to sand spirits and other creatures, they won't likely be memorable or exciting for most viewers. While 3D enhancement improves some of the fight scenes, there are a few scenes where it looks glitchy and this may be distracting for some.
Moviegoers seeking the excitement of bloody action and old fashioned swordplay, or those that aren't interested in a plot that adds anything to the original Conan will enjoy this version. Die-hard Conan fans hoping for a film that finally takes advantage of this story's potential for exciting plot twists and complex relationships may be disappointed.