Friday, February 24, 2012

Conan the Barbarian

Directed by Marcus Nispel.
2011. Rated R, 113 minutes.
Jason Momoa
Rachel Nichols
Stephen Lang
Rose McGowan
Saïd Taghmaoui
Leo Howard
Ron Perlman
Bob Sapp

The people involved in making the 2011 version of Conan the Barbarian would like you to know that it has absolutely nothing to do with the 1982 movie which helped Arnold Schwarzenegger become a star. With that in mind, I’ll not mention “The Governator” or that film again. This movie is based more directly on the works of Robert E. Howard who created the character about 80 years ago. If ever there were a movie strictly about swords and sorcery, this is it. Both are responsible for all manner of death and/or dismemberment.

Well, there is a plot cobbled together. It actually starts with the bad guy, Khalar Zym (Lang). His wife had been killed some time ago, I think I heard a thousand years. Hmph. Now, with the help of his sorceress daughter Marique, played by a barely recognizable Rose McGowan, he’s trying to find the one woman of pure Archerion blood so he can use her body to resurrect his bride. Together, they will rule the world! Muwahahahahaahaha! Ahem, sorry. Anyhoo, this twisted father and daughter team don’t just look for the pure blooded girl, they go from village to village killing or enslaving everyon that isn’t who they’re looking for. As fate would have it, they come upon little Conan’s village (the character is played by Howard as a child). They make the tiny warrior watch his father die (Perlman handles the dying, here), then they burn the place to the ground killing the rest of our hero’s people. Fast forward about a decade. The evil dad and his evil-er female spawn are still searching for that special someone and Conan is out for revenge.

Like any other flick, Conan has its strengths and weaknesses. It’s strength is obviously the non-stop bloody violence. Body parts are hacked off or literally beaten to a pulp with great regularity. They fly all over the place, too. After it was over, I had to sweep up some severed heads, arms and legs, several each. I’m having new carpet put in this week, the blood soaked right through.

On the weak side is everything else. For starters, there is no character development. Even as simplistic as the plot is, the story-telling is muddled. The dialogue is a cheesy form of Olde English and almost all of the acting is over the top. Despite a love scene that says otherwise, there is little chemistry between Conan and “it girl” Tamara (Nichols). Finally, for some reason they wasted money and runtime by having none other than Morgan Freeman narrate. Don’t get me wrong, if you need a narrator for your movie, Freeman is an outstanding choice. Just having him read the labels on cereal boxes will probably sound good. The problem is after he gives a long spiel explaining something, we’re given a scene that shows us the exact same thing. Pick one.

With regards to picking, that’s what you will have to do before seeing this. You have to decide, if you don’t know already, what floats your boat. Long review short: Conan is one long gory action scene with a pause for topless wenches (that’s in the credits), another pause for sex and a few brief pauses for talking…er…yelling and grunting. The story is told in a way that makes me believe my 12 year old nephew worked closely with the director. Is it fun to sit through? If you’re looking for wall-to-wall action, then the answer is yes. Is there anything at all here that will leave a lasting impression? No.

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