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Movie Review: Conan The Barbarian

Title: Conan The Barbarian

Director: Marcus Nispel

Producer: Fredrik Malmberg

Genre: Action, Fantasy

Distributor: Lionsgate

Series: Conan The Barbarian

Release Date: August 19, 2011

Format: 3D

Runtime: 112 Minutes

MPAA Rating: R

Starring: Jason Momoa, Rachel Nichols, Stephen Lang, Rose McGowan, and Saïd Taghmaoui

Synopsis (Product Description):

The most legendary Barbarian of all time is back this Summer. Having thrived and evolved for eight consecutive decades in the public imagination- in prose and graphics, on the big screen and small, in games and properties of all kinds- Conan’s exploits in the Hyborian Age now come alive like never before in a colossal 3D action-adventure film.

A quest that begins as a personal vendetta for the fierce Cimmerian warrior soon turns into an epic battle against hulking rivals, horrific monsters, and impossible odds, as Conan realizes he is the only hope of saving the great nations of Hyboria from an encroaching reign of supernatural evil.

The Review:

“Between the time when the oceans drank Atlantis, and the rise of the sons of Aryas, there was an age undreamed of.  And unto this, Conan, destined to wear the jeweled crown of Aquilonia upon a troubled brow.  It is I, his chronicler, who alone can tell thee of his saga.  Let me tell you of the days of high adventure.”

So begins the awesome prologue of Conan The Barbarian released in 1982.  The original Conan helped catapult Arnold Schwarzenegger to super stardom.  This summer’s reboot stars Jason Mamoa, who plays Khal Drogo in the HBO series, A Game of Thrones.  While Jason Mamoa is perfectly cast as Conan, the Conan reboot is no match for the original film.  Though this reboot of Conan is better than 1984′s Conan The Destroyer.

Reboots necessarily invite comparison to the original movie.  Unfortunately for this reboot, the original Conan The Barbarian is a cult classic because it is actually a really good movie.  This may be hard to believe if you have not seen the original 1982 film because of the governator’s reputation for making brain dead action movies, but here are a few fun facts about the 1982 film.  The original Conan The Barbarian was directed and co-written by John Milius (writer of Apocalypse Now) with writing help from Oliver Stone.   Arnold played the title role, but the movie wouldn’t have been the classic it was without James Earl Jones’ portrayal of the villainous Thulsa Doom.  To top it off, the music was composed by Basil Poledouris.  You may not know the name but you know his music — Robocop, Starship Troopers and Red Dawn to name a few.

Now comes the 2011 Conan reboot, which is in all fairness, a respectable action movie directed by Marcus Nispel, starring the aforementioned Jason Mamoa.  Ron Perlman does a great job playing Conan’s father and Leo Howard almost steals the show as the young Conan.  The makers of the Conan reboot wisely opted for an R rating.  There is sufficient bloodletting to do justice to the Conan mythos. Where Conan begins to go off track is with its one dimensional characters and underutilized fantasy elements.  Chief among the weak characters is the villain, Khalar Zym, played by the extremely talented Stephen Lang.  Khalar Zym is a poor shadow of the villainous Thulsa Doom.

Zym is introduced as an all conquering bad ass on the quest for a fabled mask that is supposed to bestow great power upon whoever wears it.  Despite all the buildup of this mystical super weapon, it turns out to have about as much power as a flashlight.  Epic super weapon fail.  Without a strong villain to provide a suitable challenge for Conan, the movie doesn’t ever pick up steam.  Most of the elements for a good movie are in place — great cast, good action scenes and strong production values, but Zym and his cadre of bad guys just don’t carry their weight as fantasy villains.  In the pantheon of villains, Zym is a forgettable b-lister.

Hopefully, the writers can remedy the lack of a strong villain in a sequel.  There’s a lot of potential for a franchise and Jason Mamoa is the ideal Conan, but this Conan fan is still waiting for the days of high adventure.

FTC Advisory: We purchased our own tickets.

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4 Responses to “Movie Review: Conan The Barbarian

  1. JessicaNo Gravatar
    1

    I saw this and enjoyed it. Posted my own review a little while back.

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  2. PenelopeNo Gravatar
    2

    I almost watched this last week, but ended up seeing something else. Sounds like it’s a good thing I did!

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  3. Stephanie EcksteinNo Gravatar
    3

    I’m a huge fan of the 1982 version, and review of the new film sounds like what I pretty much figured the movie would be like. Jason Mamoa is hot though, and I think I’d go see it just for him ;).

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  4. Heather McCorkleNo Gravatar
    4

    I felt that this one had a lot of potential too, especially with Jason Momoa cast as Conan. Like you, I’m a huge fan of the original movies. I must agree with you though on the villain and the weapon, huge let downs. However, I still hold out hope that a second movie will redeem the franchise!

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