As a skeptic of sequels and remakes, I approached “Conan the Barbarian” with caution and chagrin, and I was not surprised whatsoever that I could see the outcome of the entire movie play out in the first two-minute narration.
Slight spoiler warning: Long story short, a bad guy had an evil mask that granted him powers, and the bad guy conquered innocent civilizations until one of them rose up to defeat him. The evil mask was broken and separated so it could never be put together again. Cut straight to the first real opening scene of a battle that had no context. That is where Conan was born.
Writers: Thomas Dean Donnelly, Joshua Oppenheimer,
Starring: Jason Momoa, Stephan Lang, Rachel Nichols, Ron Perlman, Rose McGowan
Skip ahead to Conan’s childhood and all you see is a kid with anger management issues. Director Marcus Nispel got right down to the nitty-gritty and instantly established that this is a blood, guts, and gore movie with little depth. Then again, he is a fan of over the top, bloody remakes (check out his version of the Texas Chainsaw Massacre).
Jump ahead another ten years and Conan is in his prime, a meat head with a great body but no brain. Hawaiian actor Jason Momoa is great at fulfilling the role of a vengeful warrior, but that’s it. If any of you have seen the original “Conan the Barbarian” movies with Arnold Schwarzenegger, you might remember he didn’t talk very much. That Conan only spoke when it was relevant and didn’t make snarky comebacks or state the obvious. I think Momoa should have taken that into consideration. The best scenes in the movie were at the beginning with Ron Perlman playing Conan’s warrior chief father. That was the only relationship with depth in the entire story.
The movie is full of one-dimensional characters that come out of nowhere. And the relationship between Conan and Tamara, the damsel in distress, can be described as cliché at best. Tamara (Rachel Nichols) is a pure blood descendant of sorcerers. The evil king wants to sacrifice her to serve his own purposes, and Conan stops it only to get his revenge. But Tamara isn’t the typical princess that needs saving. She occasionally whips out a dagger and grabs a sword and saves her own hide. Those moments later lead to Conan making sly insidious remarks about how “skilled” Tamara is with a big sword. The main villain is no better. Stephen Lang is now type-casted as the big bad king Khalar Zim. He wants to rule and dominate the world by using Tamara to bring his dead wife back to life. That part of the story comes out of nowhere!
Little drives this plot, except for a different fight every five minutes. And I will give credit to Nispel where it’s due: he came up with some pretty inventive ways to kill people. Even the final battle was creative. The music did little to the movie, since all you could hear was sword clanging and battle cries. I don’t think even John Williams could have composed something over that noise.
The most beautiful part of the movie was the scenery. The fictional land of Hyboria was actually filmed in the steppes of Bulgaria. It is a very scenic location that had a very Lord of the Rings feel. It was vast, ominous, and colorful all at the same time.
To wrap things up, “Conan the Barbarian” is a pretty much a good time. I know I just ripped it apart, but the fighting scenes were definitely entertaining. As I mentioned before, fighting was 85 percent of the movie. With that in mind, it was OK to watch. Just don’t expect any earth-shattering revelations or dynamic plot twists.