Were Marcus Nispel’s Conan the Barbarian remake only 30 minutes long, it might be heralded as the only blood-riddled version you ever need to see of Robert E. Howard's scantily clad hero. Schwarzenegger be damned. Unfortunately, the remake is not a mere half hour long and, right after the 30 minute marker, completely goes off the rails making the lyrics to Ozzy Osbourne’s “Crazy Train” read like Elizabethan verse. Nearly incomprehensible by an overstuffed and weirdly half-baked attempt to recreate a legend, Conan the Barbarian is complete CGI madness without a hint of real sword and sorcery magic in its muscle.
Our hero, Conan (eventually played by Jason Momoa), is born on the battlefield in a bloody mess of caesarian guts and goop. His father, played by Ron Perlman, raises him with a sword-in-one-hand and a severed-head in the other mentality and, as the story goes, receives a death which must be avenged. The guilty? Khalar Zym (Stephen Lang) and his evil daughter, Marique (Rose McGowan), who are busy searching the land (where are we?) for a mask (really?) which yields some pretty demonic power over its subjects (oh, I see, we are combing elements of the first two movies).
As written by Sean Hood, Thomas Dean Donnelly, and Joshua Oppenheimer, Conan slices his way through the humorless narrative and battles unseen tentacles and other one-dimensional baddies as he makes his way toward the descendant of an ancient race, Tamara (Rachel Nichols), and her blood which will somehow fuel the madness of the evil mask. Throw in a bit of weak-minded sorcery at the end and there you have it. It’s kill, kill, or be destroyed; a perfect setting for a Conan-sized tale…only it all feels so small-minded and goes so incredibly wrong.
Minimum in its imagination and use of magic, Conan the Barbarian feels a bit conflicted in scope and confused in style. Hollow is its heart. Heavy is its hammer. The epic vibe of the mythology is lost on Nispel (director of Friday the 13th and The Texas Chainsaw Massacre remakes) and the slick effects are lighter-than-air hooey nonsense. This isn’t a leaner and meaner picture; this is just a riddle searching for a purpose. Three writers and no rhyme? Come on, Hollyweird. Give me Thulsa Doom’s snake transformation, please, at least it had a purpose. Hell, give me anything over this waxy 3-D explosive-riddled nightmare you call adventure.
The blood-soaked barmy vibe Nispel so wonderfully nurses in the opening gets misguided in its approach to the muddled middle and so out of whack and completely lost by the end that even the audience will be looking in their seats and on the sticky floor for his cracker-jacked compass. Those truly concerned, though, will find the exit at the back of the theatre for themselves. Others will just hopelessly gape and wait for the next promised 3-D effect to transport them...where are we again?
What the hell happened? Conan the Barbarian isn’t something you can outright over think. It’s easy because the mythology is all there for you. No assembly required. Confused? Stumped? Read the books!
Conan the Barbarian is a movie that I really, really, really wanted to like but is so unforgivable in its wasted re-imagining that you can’t help but laugh at its imbecilic meanderings. There’s no purpose. No style. No sorcery. This is, at best, a made-for-television affair circa 1987. The original was goofy, but in a grand and operatic way that made up for Arnold’s tongue. This one could be a film of any other name and still be largely crap.
One can’t blame Momoa, though. He looks the part; he just has nothing to do except slice and brood and slice and brood and slice and have some soft-focus sex. There is no humor this time. The original found the time to make us chuckle. Here, the only relief comes courtesy of the slightly hammy performances from the villains, but even their overly dramatic flairs stem from the actors and not the story’s intentions.
When your notion of 3-D is the occasional moment of dirt clouds and a falling boulder, you seriously have to reconsider your intentions as a creator. Throughout its re-telling, creativity is killed by massive amounts of abysmal mediocrity at a time when sword and sorcery movies and television shows are thriving. Conan the Barbarian isn’t genuine. And that’s the worst kind of film to waste money on because it truly does a disservice to the character, its legend, and its audience.
This Conan is as limp as a loincloth.
MPAA Rating: R for strong bloody violence, some sexuality and nudity.
Director: Marcus Nispel
Writer: Thomas Dean Donnelly & Joshua Oppenheimer and Sean Hood
Cast: Jason Momoa; Stephen Lang; Rachel Nichols; Ron Perlman; Rose McGowan
Genre: Action | Acdenture | Fantasy
Memorable Movie Quote: "I see a journey. A man crossing the sands."
Tagline: Conan the Barbarian.
Official Site: www.conanthebarbarianin3d.com
Release Date: August 19, 2011
Blu-ray Release Date: No details available
Plot Synopsis: An action packed tale of Conan the Cimmerian and his adventures across the continent of Hyboria on a quest to avenge the murder of his father and the slaughter of his village.
No blu-ray/DVD details available