Film Review: Conan the Barbarian

Directed by Marcus Nispel
Starring Jason Momoa, Rachel Nichols, Rose McGowan & Stephen Lang

Along with Back to the Future Part II, the original John Milius version of Conan the Barbarian is one of my most quoted films; it’s great to just break out with a Thulsa Doom quote every now and then. I’ve watched that movie a lot and care for it deeply, to hear it was being reimagined by the man who brought us the remakes of Friday the 13th and The Texas Chainsaw Massacre did not make me jump for joy, so it’s nice to say that I was pleasantly surprised. Conan (Momoa) is on the trail of the man who murdered his father (Ron Perlman), a warlord by the name of Khalar Zym (Lang) who is seeking a great power to make himself a god amongst men.

From the moment the move begins, it’s bat shit crazy. We see Conan’s birth on the battlefield, we see a young Conan (Leo Howard) carry several severed heads but sadly nobody punches a camel here. The two villains portrayed by Stephen Lang and Rose McGowan are hamming it up wonderfully and the enjoyment they are having really plays well on screen, McGowan especially, which makes us wonder what her version of Red Sonja could have been like. It is a shame to say that with all these crazy elements playing in the films favour there are some negatives, the biggest being Jason Momoa. Momoa is far too suave and has too much swagger to be a barbarian, never do we believe he was the violent boy who we saw grow up (the young Conan in this film is a far better representation of the Conan character than Momoa’s). None of the set pieces are too memorable (Conan fights sand zombies and a giant squid, no peril, nothing new), even the sex scene is quite dull.

Easily the best work Marcus Nispel has ever done, but sadly that isn’t saying much. The film starts off great with a wonderful prologue to who the Conan character really is but soon it loses its way and strays far from the true barbarian we want to see on screen. It must be said that it is nice to see an action movie that doesn’t take itself too seriously; it’s a true sword and sandal fantasy that never tries to ground itself in any form of reality. It will never be the cult classic the original was as it is quite forgettable and offers very few quotable lines, but as an action movie it works. It works as pure escapist fun, just don’t go in expecting anything more than that.


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