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Conan the Barbarian (2011 film)

A 2011 action film based on the character created by Robert E. Howard.

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Even Barbarians Deserve a Second Chance

  • Aug 20, 2011
Rating:
+3
Star Rating:


Watching the original 1982 version of Conan the Barbarian, I had the distinct impression it was forced into existence – a film made before the talent or the technology was available to do the story justice. Apart from the unconvincing special effects, the phony-looking sets, and the insistent, overblown, annoying score by Basil Poledouris, the casting was the cinematic equivalent of a hack job; Arnold Schwarzenegger and Sandahl Bergman, though physically of the right caliber, could not act their way out of a paper bag, and James Earl Jones, an accomplished actor if ever there was one, was so obviously wrong for the role of Thulsa Doom. Nothing about this movie worked, and yet it has earned legions of fans and widespread critical acclaim. Why this movie became a milestone of the sword and sorcery genre, I’ll never be able to figure out.
 
This is a fight I know I’m not going to win, but there’s really no way around it: Marcus Nispel’s 3D remake is the better movie. It’s not a masterpiece by any stretch of the imagination. It is, in fact, deeply flawed. Let’s begin with what doesn’t work. First and foremost, the film is violent. Overwhelmingly violent. More violent than most reasonable people would be willing to tolerate in a mainstream movie. In one sitting, I can’t remember the last time I saw so many stabbings, slashings, punches, body slams, and impalements. It’s also action heavy; with a few exceptions, the film is basically an extended stunt montage, which would be fine except that it’s edited so choppily that it all becomes an indecipherable blur of sword metal, body armor, and blood. And then, of course, there’s the post-production 3D conversion. Here’s a piece of advice: If the climax of your movie takes place in a dark cave, you would be wise to avoid a process that dims images.

                                            
                                             
Now let’s move on to what does work. It is, for one thing, truer in spirit to the original Robert E. Howard short stories, which appeared in pulp magazines throughout the 1930s. Furthermore, the technology is now available to achieve the correct visual style. The sets and locations don’t look entirely real, and yet they don’t look phony, either; they take on an appropriate heightened reality, aided in no small part by the use of computer generated imagery. The biggest improvement is that Nispel and his casting director found actors that could actually, you know, act. Leading the way is Jason Momoa as Conan, who, unlike Schwarzenegger, doesn’t sport the grotesque bodybuilder physique. He’s built, but appropriately so – he actually looks like the way barbarian should look. We also have Rachel Nichols as Conan’s love interest, Tamara, Stephen Lang as the evil Khalar Zym, and Rose McGowan as Zym’s daughter, Marique, a witch.
 
Taking place during a fictional ancient era known as the Hyborian Age, the film begins with an expository prologue sequence, narrated by none other than Morgan Freeman. We learn of a mask that was broken into pieces, which were then hidden in various kingdoms; should the mask ever be reconstructed, it would grant the wearer dangerous godlike powers. We then see a baby boy born in the middle of battle. This is deadly serious – while in utero, his mother was run through with a sword, and she lived just long enough to see her son being born. With her dying breath, she gave him a name: Conan. He then grows to be a young warrior, who’s forced to watch as Zym slaughters his entire village, including his father (Ron Pearlman). We finally see him as a man, at which point he learned to survive by becoming a thief, a pirate, and a brutal killing machine. Naturally, he wants his revenge against Zym, who’s on a savage mission to recover the pieces of the magical mask.

                                           
                                             
Into Conan’s life enters Tamara, who came from a monastery and is in training to be a servant to her queen. She’s a direct descendant from an ancient tribe, now long gone. According to Marique, who wields a clawed right hand with the same sly ferociousness of Freddy Kreuger, only Tamara’s pure blood can reawaken the magic lying dormant within the mask. Conan initially thinks of Tamara as little more than a way to find Zym, but she earns his respect through her bravery, and the two immediately fall in love. Before anything can be consummated, Conan must first destroy Zym, which will require numerous battles with evil henchmen, warriors made of sand, and a gigantic underwater beast with lots of tentacles. On a personal note, I thank the almighty Crom that this version of the story didn’t feature snakes. I’m like Indiana Jones – I hate snakes.
 
There are many locations, although I didn’t retain the names of any other them, despite the fact that they were provided via subtitles. In all honesty, I don’t think it makes the slightest bit of difference. Neither does the plot. All any potential audience will care about is the spectacle of it, namely the wall-to-wall action sequences that involve a lot of bloodshed. In that regard, this movie will deliver. Will it appeal to fans of the original film? My guess would be no. Although I can’t sit here and say that 2011’s Conan the Barbarian is good, I can say that it’s an improvement over the 1982 film, and that it has its moments of delightful pulp fiction absurdity. You were probably hoping that I would hate this movie and sing the praises of the original, as most critics have been doing. By now, you should know that I have neither the willingness nor the ability to go along with what everyone else says.

                                              

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August 27, 2011
I didn't like the original Conan. I'm sure that the scene where a drunken Conan passed out face first into a bowl of mush had Robert Howard turning over in his grave. I thought CONAN THE DESTROYER was a bit better, but only in comparison to its predecessor. All I want to see one day is a film that viewers can compare in a good way to the real source material--Howard's stories. And the we will never see as long as all film makers care about is special effects. That being said, I will be seeing this flick either Sunday or Monday. Today I saw a much better flick that this could ever hope to be, namely DON'T BE AFRAID OF THE DARK!
August 30, 2011
I haven't seen Conan the Destroyer, so I'll have to take your word for it. I only saw the original Conan the Barbarian in preparation for this new version. On a personal note, I'm glad to hear that someone besides me didn't like the original film. You would not believe the argument I got into with a diehard Conan fan, who happens to be the editor of another site I contribute to. He even went as far as to say that, by not liking Basil Poledouris' score (which he thinks is a masterpiece), I had no business being a critic. To an extent, he was probably joking. Still, I didn't like his tone.
August 31, 2011
I've learned to live with the score (which is repeated in DESTROYER), but it annoyed the hell out of me for years...maybe even decades. I can't believe that Oliver Stone claims to be a life-long Conan fan and then deliversed a script like that.
 
August 26, 2011
I need to see this real soon. I am still on vacay so maybe I'll make time for it asap. I'll be back to comment further later. Thanks for the review, Chris!!
 
August 25, 2011
Admittedly the plot is hardly Kafka but going to a Conan movie and not expecting violence is like going to a Taco Bell and not expecting violent diarrhea.
August 25, 2011
I should have phrased it better. Of course I expected violence, I just didn't expect such a particularly high level of it.
 
1
More Conan the Barbarian (2011 film... reviews
review by . August 30, 2011
posted in Movie Hype
A Thief...A Reaver...A Slayer....A Barbarian Resurrected On Film
I figured that it was a little odd that director Marcus Nispel’s (Friday the 13th remake) “Conan The Barbarian” was released first in Europe and the Philippines two days before it hit U.S. shores but what do I know. The film isn’t a remake of the 1982 Schwarzenegger film but rather a re-interpretation of the “Conan” mythos and is loosely based on the character created by Robert E. Howard. The film is also unrelated to the beloved comic series by Marvel comics …
review by . December 16, 2011
posted in Movie Hype
* out of ****      In more ways than one, Marcus Nispel's re-imagining of the famous pulp novel series (and character) "Conan the Barbarian" certainly brings the pain. A high-budget action picture limited to the sounds of grunts, battle cries, and an occasional line of ridiculous dialogue; this latest addition to the almost decidedly short list of adaptations - for this franchise - is a brutal, noisy, mind-numbing and arguably tedious exercise in how much genre formula …
review by . January 09, 2012
CONAN THE BARBARIAN: Is This All There Is?
As someone who watches a lot of films, I know that there are certain flicks I’m simply prone to like more than others.  B movies – good ones and bad ones – have always been a fascination of mine.  Over my years of writing about films, I’ve tried to narrow down specifically to what interests me most about these ‘side’ pictures, but I’ve never been able to nail my arguments exactly on the head.  I tend to think it’s that, like any good …
Quick Tip by . August 22, 2011
posted in Movie Hype
Caption
I never watched the original Conan With Arnold Schwarzenegger, so when I heard of this movie I overlooked it, I wasnt intrested. Its not until I heard that Jason Momoa had the lead role did i start looking at this. Reason being Jason Momoa is known for his role as Ronon the tall, handsome, warrior type in the Stargate Atlantis TV Series. (not unlike Conan) And im sure acting in a movie is very differant than acting in a TV series. If anything I want to see this movie to …
Quick Tip by . March 14, 2011
Caption
I have no idea what to expect from this new Conan film. I love the character, but thus far I've been unimpressed by previous attempts to adapt Robert E. Howard's famous barbarian warrior from page to screen, and this particular effort looks rather cheap and silly. We shall see...
About the reviewer
Chris Pandolfi ()
Growing up a shy kid in a quiet suburb of Los Angeles, Chris Pandolfi knows all about the imagination. Pretend games were always the most fun for him, especially on the school playground; he and his … more
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About this movie

Wiki


The 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.
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Details

Director: Marcus Nispel
Genre: Action, Adventure, Fantasy
Release Date: August 19, 2011
MPAA Rating: R
Studio: Lionsgate Entertainment, Millennium Films, Nu Image Films
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