Conan The Barbarian (2011)

DVD Cover (Lions Gate)
Movie Connections:
Conan The Barbarian
> Conan The Barbarian (1982)
> Conan The Destroyer (1984)
> Conan The Barbarian (2011)
> Winter Is Cumming: A Game Of Bones (2016)
Marcus Nispel Marcus Nispel
Jason Momoa Jason Momoa
Stephen Lang Stephen Lang
Rachel Nichols Rachel Nichols
Ron Perlman Ron Perlman
Rose McGowan Rose McGowan

5.2 / 10 - Overall Rating

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Genres / Traits: Action, Fantasy, Fantasy Adventure, Sword-And-Sorcery, 3-D
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Review by Chad
Added: September 14, 2012
I'm a little late getting to this one, but believe it or not, I was really pumped to check out this new chapter of the Conan mythos. I am a huge fan of the original Robert E. Howard stories, and I also really enjoyed the original Conan movie. I wasn't much of a fan of the 1984 sequel, but hey, I won't hold that against the characters. So, when I heard about a new movie coming out based on Conan, and when I also heard that it wouldn't be another one of those pansy-ass PG-13 action flicks, I got pretty excited. I was also elated to hear that it wouldn't be a remake of the first movie; instead, it would simply be another adventure of Conan. Sadly, I was a little let down by the final product.

We begin with a look at Conan's childhood, and we watch as his father (Ron Perlman) trains him to become the ass-kicking barbarian that we know and love. Conan's life takes a dramatic turn during his early teens, as he is forced to watch a group of bandits led by Khalar Zym (Stephen Lang) and his necromancer daughter Marique (Rose McGowan) burn his village to the ground and slaughter everyone within... including his father, who was forced to die by Conan's hand thanks to Zym's devious setup. Conan screams with rage and swears vengeance, and then...

...we move ahead about ten years, and Conan (Jason Momoa) is now all grown up. He travels the world fighting battles, bedding young harlots, and going on all sorts of action hero adventures, but all the while, he is looking for clues as to who killed his father. He finally gets a lead by way way of a slave-trader, and he discovers that Zym is gathering the pieces of an ancient bone mask that will grant him the powers of the gods. The final piece of the puzzle that Zym needs to finish the mask, bring back his dead wife, and rule the world is the last of the pure-blood necromancers, which happens to be a comely young lass named Tamara (Rachel Nichols). Thus, Conan takes Tamara under his wing and vows to protect her, while also trying to get close enough to Zym to engage in a final battle to the death.

The movie actually goes downhill as it moves along - it's not a straight up "bad" or "good" movie. The first act of the film, with the young Conan learning the ways of the barbarian and his father teaching them to him, is a really great slice of film. It has its moments of excitement, it has great character development, great acting, and everything is beautifully shot. Honestly, watching all of this had me excited for what lay ahead later in the movie when Conan inevitably grew up and started to really kick some ass.

The second act, with Conan now an adult and searching for Zym, is pretty good. It's a step down from the previous act, but still, it's not that bad. The character of Conan is handled pretty much the way it should have been, even though a few tweaks were made to his general attitude, but this will really only bug those of us who read the source material (and speaking personally, I wasn't terribly upset by it). There are some good fight sequences on display with a dash of the red stuff and a little bit of harlot nudity, but truth be told, it's a very weak R rating. Still, it's fairly enjoyable.

The third and final act is where it starts to really go downhill and lose steam. Whereas the first act had great characters and great action, and the second act had some "pretty good" action and some "decent" plot development, the third act is nothing more than yet another slice of formulaic action flick. It almost feels like a video game at times: Conan will fight through a "level" of grunts and underlings before reaching a "boss fight" (a character who is more than just another extra but less than a main character), and after the bad guy has been dealt with, Conan will move on to the "next stage." Repeat as needed to round out the running time, and cap it off with the obvious "final boss fight" between Conan and Zym.

That wouldn't be so bad, but the real problem is that the action sequences took a nosedive at this point in the movie. The handful that we got in the opening were great, and even some of the sequences in the second act were pretty damned good, but the ones used to cap off the movie were just uninspired and weak at best. Lots of clanging swords, lots of screaming, LOTS of quick edits, and very little substance or originality. It's almost as if the three acts were shot by three different directors, and needless to say, my enjoyment went downhill the more the film moved along.

The casting is pretty much what you would expect for a movie like this. Jason Momoa physically looks the part of Conan and he can swing a sword around, but that's about it. Granted, the character doesn't call for much more than that, but it would have been nice if Momoa had brought a little more personality to the role. Rose McGowan is a definite standout in this film, and her character brought a lot to the table while her acting made it work far better than it could have. Big thumbs up to her. The rest of the cast is fairly forgettable: Stephen Lang is adequately villainous as the main baddie and Rachel Nichols is believable as the damsel in distress, but neither of them are memorable in any way.

So, bottom line: should you check out Conan the Barbarian? If you liked the original movies or if you're in the mood for a mindless action flick, then yes, I'm going to give it a weak recommendation: it's not horrible by any means, but it's definitely not something that you're going to want to rush out and purchase either. The first twenty minutes of the movie showed a lot of promise and there were a handful of great sequences on display throughout the rest of the running time, but I would be lying if I said that I wasn't disappointed with the film as a whole. 6/10.
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