Movie Review: (new) Conan the Barbarian

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Movie Review: Conan the Barbarian (2011)
Director: Marcus Nispel
Cast: Jason Momoa, Stephen Lang, Rachel Nichols, Ron Perlman, Rose McGowan
Plot: Rebooting the franchise made popular by Arnold Schwarzenegger (1982), this time the Sumarian is played by Jason Momoa (Stargate: Atlantis, Game of Thrones). This movie focuses more on the origin of Conan, his life as a boy growing up in the Barbarian village, then skips ahead several years to the current adventure. This time, Conan is looking for the man who killed his family, Khalar Zym (Lang), and his wicked witch daughter Marique (McGowan). The two are trying to reconstruct an ancient mystical mask that will grant it’s wearer the power of a God.

The movie is filled with fun action pieces and some pretty good special effects. The acting is so-so, but the cast works well enough together. Conan is a tough nut to crack from an acting perspective, and with TV actors being the stars of the flick it’s rare that any performances really shine through. This isn’t a complaint, mind you – just an observation.

With this reboot, it feels like there was a larger world they really wanted to expose the audience to for Hyboria. In interviews with creators attached to the original series, this was the goal back in the 80s as well. They wanted a new adventure to come out every year or two. Unfortunately with the lack of box office success of this flick, that may not happen again right now, but I digress. There is a lot of world reference in the flick, locations and people, who you can tell they were trying to set up for future installments.

The movie traipses around Hyboria quite a bit, but unfortunately since there’s no point of reference (ie: Lord of the Rings) we’re never quite sure where we are in relation to other locations. This is an issue with any fantasy / sci-fi story, since you really need to provide purpose to the locations and a sense of distance – otherwise, the location is just a place that looks different than the previous scene. LOTR did this very well, with montages showing how long the characters were traveling between locations, and then having events occur once they arrived.

In the tradition of beefy dudes kicking the crap out of each other, there’s a lot of blood, a lot of yelling, and a lot of awesome action in the flick. It’s unfortunate the performances couldn’t have been stronger from the main cast – but again, Conan as a character is a tough role to depict. Momoa gets the physical side of it down, but his delivery is often rushed and hard to understand. It doesn’t come off like he’s on a revenge kick – he just comes off as anxious to kill the next dude.

In fact, the stand-out performance is from Ron Pearlman, who plays Conan’s father. He does a great job in the short time he’s on screen of showing a hardened warrior with a heart of gold. Or, at least a love of his family. And the reason he stands out so much is because the rest of the performances just feel so flat.

Performances aside, Conan is still a fun flick filled with awesome action and well worth watching. It lacks the awesome percussion soundtrack of the original flick, and the performances fall a little flat, but it’s chop-full of blood and guts and action.

Definitely worth a rental if you like adult fantasy movies.

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