Conan the Barbarian (2011)

Competing in the woods with the rest of the village’s children, Conan (Leo Howard) stumbles across a group of rival warriors. Rather than fleeing with his peers, Conan stands his ground, returning home with each combatant’s severed head firmly in hand. More warriors attack, however, systematically destroying the village and killing its residents. When Conan is forced to watch the death of his father (Ron Perlman’s chin) at the hands of a nameless warlock (Stephen Lang), his life is spared and the young Cimmerian left vowing revenge. The warlock, having found the last piece of a powerful talisman, goes in search of a suitable vessel (Rachel Nichols) for his dead wife’s return. Conan (Jason Momoa), now an adult and destined to cross paths with his father’s killer once more, may be all that is standing between the warlock and world domination.

Conan the Barbarian is the kind of movie which casts its young hero using a criteria that prides martial arts prowess over acting ability; the type of film that showcases its hero’s strength by how many horses he can punch; and the sort of blockbuster that proclaims eight elephants are all you need if you wish to carry your boat across barren continents. While the original did so with a sense of fun and self-awareness, however, Marcus Nispel’s take on the character is all frowning and mangled innards. Blood coats everything that isn’t cloaked in shadow and there is no levity in sight to give any indication that the stupidity is intentional.

The revelation that Jason Momoa nearly died, like, nine times suggests that there was more jeopardy on-set than there ever is onscreen.  As Conan jumps from one shadow to the next, spilling some blood on the way, there is little sense of stakes as minions and sand-monsters are dispatched with video game abandon. Momoa wears fur, armour and occasionally nothing at all, and that’s really all the variation you’re going to get; his Conan is all forehead and pectorals, zero substance. Nobody else makes much of an impression either, with sacrificial lamb – I use the term loosely, why does no Hollywood sacrifice seem to require more than a teaspoon of blood? – Rachel Nichols proving disastrously Milla Jovovich-lite, should such a thing even be possible.

Even Rose McGowan, good old Rose McGowan, phones in her performance as the decidedly unsultry, unsmouldering and unsexy witch Marique. As she gets her Krueger on, contractually dragging her knifed fingers across a wall, it is difficult to imagine how an actress with such sass could ever fall so very flat. Her warlock father – Avatar‘s Stephen Lang – is equally uninspiring as the primary antagonist. He spouts trite dialogue like his beard depends on it, mincing around the darkness with all the menace of The Smurfs‘ Gargamel.

Oh the neverending darkness! Considering how much of Conan the Barbarian is set in the middle of scorched desert, it defies belief how much of the film is lost in shadow. Now, I didn’t watch this film in 3D – it will persumably be even worse if you choose to hide behind a pair of glasses – but I was still struggling to pick out the action from the frustrating darkness. This is further confounded by the cameraman’s inability to frame a shot. The moment the blood letting begins, the camera goes into a frenzy as it tries to imbue the action with some semblance of urgency – falling staggeringly short as all the filmmakers really acheive is a meaningless blur of sweat and swords.

Badly shot, dreadfully acted and near-incompetently lit, you will spend  half of Conan the Barbarian trying to figure out what exactly you’re looking at and the rest regretting all of the effort. Seriously, the best thing I can say about Conan the Barbarian is that Gemma Arterton isn’t in it. That, at least, is something.


About popcornaddiction
I am a psychology graduate, a News Writer for HeyUGuys/BestforFilm and, most importantly, a hopeless popcorn addict.

2 Responses to Conan the Barbarian (2011)

  1. Pingback: August 2011 – Smurfity smurf smurf smurf! « popcornaddict

  2. Pingback: Fails of the Year – 2011 « popcornaddict

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