Movie Review: Conan The Barbarian!
Conan The Barbarian (2011)
Starring: Jason Momoa, Rachel Nichols, Stephen Lang, Rose McGowan, Ron Perlman
Directed By: Marcus Nispel
Before I begin this review, I should mention that I’m a big fan of Robert E. Howard’s original Conan the Barbarian stories. I got the Complete Chronicles of Conan collection, which reprints all of the stories by Howard, including the ones that were left unfinished when he decided to take his own life. While I may have only gotten that book two years ago, once I started reading it I couldn’t stop. Sure, many of them start to get a little formulaic, but Howard’s creation is hands down one of my favorite characters in literature. Now that I’ve gotten that out of the way, I am pleased to say that the latest film featuring the Cimmerian, Conan The Barbarian is a solid ride and will please the many fans of Conan. It’s just not the perfect Conan film.
The movie begins with the birth of Conan, as he is literally ripped from his mother’s womb on the battlefield. We then see him learn the ways of the sword from his father (played by the always awesome Ron Perlman), and his first taste of defeat as his entire village is laid to waste by Khalar Zym (Stephen Lang) an insane warlord on a quest for a mask that will grant him the ability to raise the dead (and more specifically, his wife).
|That blood on his arm? Multiply it by 1,000 and you have this movie|
What follows after these events is a grown up Conan absolutely destroying people as he searches for Zym. It’s in these moments that Jason Momoa shines as the titular barbarian, and proves at least to me that he IS Conan. Yes, I honestly think he does a better job than Arnold did back in the day. A lot of this boils down to the fact that Momoa has had more experience than Arnold did when he played Conan, especially when you consider that his character on Game Of Thrones is basically the same as Conan. While I still have a soft spot for the original Arnold Schwarzenegger Conan, to be completely honest he’s not how Robert E. Howard described the character. To me Momoa is more in line with the original stories, and he shows a lot of different layers to the Cimmerian that many moviegoers haven’t seen before. Fans of the character know that just describing Conan as a barbarian is doing a huge disservice to the character, as he has been shown to be a very brilliant and cunning warrior in Howard’s stories.
|Rachel Nichols as Tamara|
The rest of the cast is very solid as well. Stephen Lang plays the evil Khalar Zym and seems to have a blast playing the character. Rose McGowan is hidden under a lot of makeup to play his witch daughter Marique, who has a very, ahem, close relationship with her dad, and Rachel Nichols is Tamara, the “chosen one” who must be sacrificed by Zym so that he may use the mask. Of the characters here, Nichols’ Tamara is my favorite, as she transitions from the “damsel in distress” to “kickass warrior chick” pretty convincingly, and her interplay with Momoa is very fun to watch.
|The filmmakers were this close. THIS CLOSE!|
All this said Conan isn’t without its imperfections. I really wish the filmmakers had embraced some of the more fantastical aspects of Conan’s world. While there are moments where the movie looks like it was taken from a Frank Frazetta painting, there is a severe lack of Conan fighting monsters. Sure, we get a hell of a lot of limb hacking and blood spilling, but there’s no giant monster killing! We really only get one sequence with a squid-like creature in the dungeon of Zym’s stronghold, and it’s over way too quickly. The final confrontation between Conan and Zym is also over way too soon, which is a shame because the fight they have right before it is awesome.
And of course, the film is not without its fair share of cheese. But that’s something that we (or at least I) expect from a movie like Conan The Barbarian. It also bothers me that no one has tried just straight adapting Howard’s stories. Don’t get me wrong, the movies we have gotten have been great, but the stories pale in comparison to the original stories and Savage Sword Of Conan comics. Conan The Barbarian is an EXTREMELY bloody and fun movie, and fans of the character will love it. While the plot isn’t perfect, the character work is really well done, the fight scenes are suitably brutal, and Jason Momoa really shines as Conan. I’d love to see a sequel (preferably based on Howard’s story “Red Nails” or even the unfinished “Hand Of Nergal”), but unfortunately it looks like the box office returns on this one have killed any chances of that. Hopefully it will find an audience on DVD.
3 ½ CROMS! Out of 5
NOTE: I saw the film in 3-D because it was my only option. If you have the ability to do so, see it in 2-D. You won’t be missing much.