Conan the Barbarian

Written by Markus Robinson, Edited by Nicole I. Ashland

Markus Rating: 2 out of 5 Stars (really 1 ½ Stars)

Rated R for strong bloody violence, some sexuality and nudity

A film which seems to thrive on the gross out factor, this remake of “Conan the Barbarian” is sure to leave its mark on anyone who has the stomach to keep their eyes open for the entire film. Trust me, this film is really gross, so don’t see it in 3D because you may throw up. Over-directed by Marcus Nispel (who unfortunately takes responsibility for the horrendous remakes of “The Texas Chainsaw Massacre” and “Friday the 13th”) and starring virtually unknown Jason Momoa as Conan, who looks like a GQ model that hasn’t showered for a few days and Stephen Lang (Avatar) as the evil Khalar Zym, who (in a land with seemingly no toothpaste) seems to be the only actor in the film with a dental plan. Rose McGowan (Planet Terror) is also in the film, BUT gives such an unwatchable performance, that this is the last you will hear about her in this review.

Synopsis: With a storyline that detours from the original 1982 version, audiences follow Conan from his birth during a bloody battle: meaning he is cut out of his mother’s womb on the battlefield in the most barbarically grotesque scene ever to get past the MPAA. From there we fast forward to Conan as an adolescent (with sociopath tendencies), as his father is killed by the evil Khalar Zym, a psychotic warlord bent on world domination. Then we fast forward once more to Conan as an adult bent on revenge for his fathers death (ok, so the revenge theme isn’t that much different, but much of the content is). All in all, “Conan the Barbarian” was setting up to be an ample revenge story, but time and time again, like a bad Budweiser commercial, the script has the Conan character delving into a cartoonish parody of himself, as he saves a town full of topless supermodel slaves from their hideous oppressors and celebrates with a beer in one hand and a slave breast in the other (all that is missing is a pool party). You think that last sentence was too crude? Then, you can stop reading now because there is NO WAY that this is the film for you.

There is definitely an audience that will find this film mildly entertaining, in a very crass way, and because Conan (as a character) is based on larger than life, crush your enemies first, ask questions later, He-man woman hater persona, audiences of the original will undoubtedly find favor in a lot of the material here. Meaning, if the new Conan was anything but a one dimensional character, it wouldn’t have worked for its target audiences. But it is that same quality of character (as well as the overwhelming violence) which makes this remake of “Conan the Barbarian” (much like the original), a truly hard film to defend.

Side Note: Morgan Freeman narrates the beginning of this story (he may be truly the voice of God, encroaching on James Earl Jones territory), which unfortunately is a ploy that will backfire on the director, not adding any sort of gravity to this “epic”, but more so adding to the campiness. A tragic misuse of Freeman’s million dollar pipes.

Schwarzenegger vs. Momoa: Ok, now for the real comparisons. Momoa as Conan is still a womanizer and a barbarian in the fullest sense of the word, but with the outlandishly bloody visuals taking center stage of this 2011 version, his leading man acting abilities (which aren’t bad) will be inevitably lost on audiences. In the original “Conan the Barbarian”, Schwarzenegger is the main focus and every audience member in the theater knew it, even if he was the focus for all of the wrong reasons. Now as for Momoa’s look, he is an all around more Harlequin Romance version of Conan the Barbarian, but he is no Arnold. Momoa doesn’t have the signature Pumping Iron” physique (as a former Mr. Olympian, Schwarzenegger was twice the size of Momoa), sword technique (there are battle sequences with swords here, but its nothing memorable), or that goofy Austrian accent that enemies seem to fear. Overall, Momoa may end up being a better actor than Arnold, but he is simply not the larger than life, Neanderthal Conan that world-wide audiences have grown to love. So, although Arnold will always be Conan, Momoa does a decent job in the role, but isn’t enough to buy tickets to go watch.

PS. There a substantially greater amount of horse brutality (aka horses getting thrown about and punched in the face in a very “Blazing Saddles” manner), so if you have a soft spot for animals, this is again NOT the movie fore you.

Final Thought: The entire concept of this remake is “Conan the Barbarian” reinvented. He doesn’t spew the classic lines of the original, in fact he mainly just grunts around. And as for the movie itself, it is drenched in ultra violence, laughable nudity and overly rude treatment of all female kind, all facets that were amplified from the original. And even if one could get past all that, the simple fact is that the film isn’t all that great. Even though I didn’t hate it as much as many people in the audiences around me did (I mean, it does have some great set design and in all actuality the entertainment value during some of the battle sequences is quite high, if you can get past the blood and guts), in the end, I really can’t find any compelling reason why I should recommend this film to anyone unless they were reading this review, in the theater, waiting for “Conan the Barbarian” to start.

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