14 September 2011

Conan the Barbarian (2011)

Conan the Barbarian

Starring Jason Moma, Stephen Lang, Rachel Nichols, Rose McGowan, Ron Pearlman, Leo Howard, Bob Sapp
Written by Thomas Dean Donnelly, Joshua Oppenheimer, Sean Hood
Directed by Marcus Nispel
Release: 19 August 2011
Lionsgate, 112 mins., Rated R

Plot: Conan kills his way to the sinister king Zym who killed his father and massacred his village.

Remakes, remakes, remakes. But y’know what? I don’t mind a remake of Conan the Barbarian. The original 1982 film with Arnold Schwarzenegger as Conan is less than perfect, and the property is interesting enough that modern audiences just might find themselves enjoying the ride, so all in all, I’m happy to see the Barbarian on the big screen again. So how did it fair?

Like the original, Conan the Barbarian 2011 is a revenge story. As a boy, he watched his father burn to death right in front of him, and he vows vengeance to kill the man and everyone connected to his father’s murder. 20 years later, said man who did the killing is now a King and is on his way to achieve Godhood: he just needs to kill some “pureblood” girl to complete the spell and he’ll be all powerful and stuff. Really, the plot is just loosely there. This film is about Conan killing his way to the bad guy, leaving a trail of bodies behind, and the audience having a fun time watching. So, it definitely succeeds in that regard.

Taking over for Schwarzenegger is the muscular Jason Moma, who brings a sense of fun to the role and is entirely believable as a kickass action hero. Then again, it’s not like he’s entirely foreign to the role, after slicing some heads in HBO’s Game of Thrones and saving universes in Stargate: Atlantis. Watching Moma exact vengeance, woo the gorgeous female heroine, and take his bloody revenge is the best aspect of the film and entirely worth the price of admission alone. Basically, Moma owns. As the love interest (which is weird for being a monk), Rachel Nichols is the object of the Bad Guy’s desire – humorously named Zym [note to bad guys: don’t name yourself Zym; I kept wishing the ‘ittle green alien from that Nick show would appear and zap Zym to pieces] – and although she is important to the plot, she unfortunately isn’t given much more than to look pretty and be in distress (although she is given a moment or two to fight, which is appreciated).

The bad guy is hilariously performed by Stephen Lang (Avatar), who indulges in overacting like nobody’s business. He and Ron Pearlman, who plays Conan’s late father, must have arrived on set either for the paycheck or the bloody fun of it. Lang’s bad guy Zym is aided by his daughter Marique, played by Rose McGowan (Charmed), a sorcerer whose makeup is absolutely frightening to look at. Note to ladies: if you don’t want to get hit on during Halloween, congrats, you found your costume.

Conan 2011 is competently directed by Marcus Nispel, who is no stranger to remakes (Friday the 13th, Texas Chainsaw Massacre). His take is less atmospheric than the original (which was longer paced, created dread for Conan’s victims), but it is grittier and bloodier. Grit aside, it does seem a bit more fun. And that’s the thing about Conan 2011 that I love and don’t love: it is fun and enjoyable, but it could have been so much more. So it all comes down to this: if you’re looking for a sweeping epic with a brooding barbarian lusting for revenge, it doesn’t exactly deliver. If you want a fun, action-packed flick that is highly entertaining and doesn’t require a lot of thought, than Conan delivers. Unfortunately the box office return as rather dismal, and the outlook for a sequel is rather bleak, so go out and enjoy Conan while you can.

Rating: 7.5/10 = Not bad entertainment at all, but there is definite room for improvement. That said, CONAN is fun, and the sword fights are pretty cool. Plus, Jason Moma rocks as Conan. If these reasons are enough, than CONAN's your movie.

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