REVIEW: Conan The Barbarian

Posted by under *mixed, Comics, Movies |

 If ever there was a movie that was basically review proof, it’s Conan The Barbarian. The title spells out the concept very clearly. Either it appeals to you or it does not. And if it does, then I promise you that Marcus Nispel’s Conan film pulls no punches and delivers some hardcore barbarian action complete with countless beheadings and (as they’re credited on IMDB) plenty of “topless wenches.”

The film’s opening moments are slightly awkward as we experience a series of prologues including a voice over that introduces us to some of the sinister history of Hyboria, followed by Conan’s birth in the midst of battle, and finally his emergence as a warrior as a young teen and the murder of his father. From that moment forward, the film places a laser tight focus on the adult Conan, played by Jason Momoa (Game of Thrones), and his quest for revenge against his father’s killer.

One of the film’s most inventive sequences features Conan battling sand warriors conjured up by the sorceress Marique (Rose McGowan). The way the warriors disappear and reappear into the ground is like something out of a video game, but it totally works.

The film’s tone is dark and its violence is brutal, constant and gory. For me personally, the constant battles grew kind of tiresome by the end. Momoa is capable in the role of Conan. He certainly looks like Conan does in the comics anyway and can handle the brooding and iconic poses well. Though the entire cast struggles with the sometimes brutal dialogue (no one more so than Rose McGowan). The screening I saw was in 3D. I would argue the effect didn’t add anything essential to the film (unlike with Avatar for example), and is in this case is probably not worth the additional ticket cost.

My main prior exposure to Conan has been through Kurt Busiek’s fairly recent excellent comics work over at Dark Horse. The one thing that series featured that this film lacked was a Conan who delighted in women, bars, thievery and violence for its own sake. While we see a hint of this Conan in a raid of a slave camp and its aftermath early in the film, that’s about it. Clearly he is surrounded by loyal companions who speak of their adventures with him. I wish the movie had spent more time showing this more “fun” Conan in the first act, before setting the brooding Conan on a collision course with his father’s murderer. Like a true barbarian, however, Nispel left very little room for fun, while attempting to squeeze as much blood into the movie as possible.

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