Conan the Barbarian (2011) – Review

1 Star

I was accused of being too harsh in my review of the rebooted Predators last summer, had I know that Conan the Barbarian awaited me I may have been kinder. The 2011 version of Conan is a depressing and unfocussed mess. I walked into this new film with low expectations and even those were not met. This is picture is DOA in its first scene (a laughably bad battlefield birth in which the fighting subsides in order for Conan’s father to perform an emergency cesarian delivery) and never recovers. The production looks cheap and not worthy of the standards set for a high profile release such as this. There is wall to wall action but it’s redundant and dull when it should be exciting. The screenplay forces the cast to utter inane proses and make bold proclamations of absolute nonsense. Anyone looking for a connection to the earlier films may have fun in spotting the small homages director Marcus Nispel has sprinkled throughout. Unfortunately that’s where the amusement ends. This retelling is dark and unintentionally humorous in moments that strive for serious-mindedness.

Ron Pearlman is adequate in a small role as Conan’s father and his scenes are amongst the least cringe-inducing in the entire film. Stephen Lange of Avatar fame is effective in the role of Khalar Zym, the man responsible for murdering Conan’s family and tribe. Rose McGowan disappears behind a ton of make-up but still manages to make an effectively creepy sorceress out of her minimally written character Marique. Both Lange and McGowan seem to be in on the joke and play their roles with the right amount of scenery chewing and gravitas. The question most moviegoers will have is whether the central casting of relatively unknown Jason Momoa is worthy of comparison to Schwarzenegger’s iconic role. The answer (unfortunately) is a resounding, no. Momoa is a physical specimen but his acting is as stiff as the biceps he carries on his imposing frame. Schwarzenegger chose to play the role with a certain detachment that hinted at the underlying hurt from Conan’s childhood scars. Momoa’s portrayal seems to be channeling a frat-boy and his speech patterns come off like the surfer dude of the Hyborian age. It’s a bad acting ‘choice’ and sinks the film from the get go.

Conan The Barbarian is humorously tacky at first, then just plain boring. There are many sword battles and lots of sorcery but absolutely no movie magic. An utter waste of $90 million dollars as well as a massive missed opportunity for some late summer fun. A total misfire that ranks amongst the years worst films.

Director: Marcus Nispel
Stars: Jason Momoa, Ron Perlman, Rose McGowan, Stephen Lang

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