A Cimmerian warrior sets out to revenge the death of his father, but as he sets out across the continent he finds his enemies are vaster than he imagined and that supernatural forces must be battled to save the nations of Hyboria. Massive brutes, horrific monsters and evil sorceresses all will come to know the name of "Conan the Barbarian."
Remake director Marcus Nispel (2003's "Texas Chainsaw Massacre," 2009's "Friday the 13th") takes on the film that made Ahnuld Schwarzenegger a household name and the result is a cheesy looking, often laughable film that could have come from 80's distributor Cannon. It's all pretty silly and not very good, with blatant continuity gaffes and 3D that features distinct double imaging during the climax, but star Jason Momoa (HBO's 'Game of Thrones') has real charisma and, as his love interest Tamara, Rachel Nichols ("P2") has the type of old world movie star looks (think Vivien Leigh by way of Debra Messing) that would have been just as miscast in a swords and sandals fantasy flick decades ago.
After some back story set to visuals that look more animated than filmed, we are told that Conan was 'born of the battlefield.' Cut to his warrior mother literally in labor amidst a bloodbath. Dad Corin (Ron Perlman, "Hellboy," looking like a living cross between "How to Train Your Dragon's" Gobber the Belch and Stoic) comes to assist, using his sword to grant his love's wish to see her child before she dies, performing a Caesarian with one swipe while gazing into her eyes!
And just like in "How to Train Your Dragon," we see the runty Conan (Leo Howard, "G.I. Joe: The Rise of Cobra") best his bigger friends when, during a training exercise, he takes out four warriors and returns with their decapitated heads (the violence is extreme, but usually pretty unrealistic - young Conan kills one adult male by cracking his head against the snow-covered ground).
Then Khalar Zym (Stephen Lang, "Avatar") comes a'calling, looking for the last hidden piece of bone that will restore the Mask of Acheron. Young Conan cannot save his father from death by smithing-fire and vows revenge. As Khalar and his sorceress daughter Marique (Rose McGowan, "Death Proof," "Fifty Dead Men Walking"), who looks like a gothed out Elizabeth I with Freddy Krueger finger appendages, search far and wide for the 'pureblood' that will make Khalar and his mask the dark ruler of the world, Conan pairs up with his buddy, the pirate Artus (Nonso Anozie, "Happy Go Lucky"), and sets sail on Khalar's trail.
Thomas Dean Donnelly & Joshua Oppenheimer ("Sahara," "Dylan Dog: Dead of Night") and Sean Hood ("Halloween: Resurrection") have adapted the 1930's short stories of Robert E. Howard with dumb dialogue (“I live. I love. I slay…I am content.”) and loads of action. The two are combined when Tamara, who informs 'I am a simple monk,' moves from carriage passenger to driver to horseback rider in quick succession within a few minutes of escaping the Temple Khalar had invaded. After Artus observes the spark between the dueling Conan and Tamara (true caveman stuff), he sends Tamara after Conan with a nod and a wink and a warning that she must be back by dawn to board ship. The highlight of their lovemaking scene is the carefully composed shot of Momoa's glistening buttocks when he awakens to find her gone.
Continuity gaffes are jaw-dropping. Corin raises his newborn to the skies, but where is the umbilical cord we just saw? In another scene, Conan removes the artificial nose mask of the man he maimed as a child to stick his finger in the gaping hole, then cut to the villain, the mask is firmly tied in place again. Ela-Shan, the thief (Saïd Taghmaoui, "Traitor," "G.I. Joe: The Rise of Cobra"), is almost a character as continuity gaffe, so easily is he picked up and dropped off again for little discernible reason.
Yes, "Conan the Barbarian" is all kinds of bad, and yet it's still enjoyable. Momoa's fun to watch, Nichols does great damsel in distress and if Khalar himself isn't all that formidable, Rose McGowan vamps and camps as the hissable villainous. Guilty pleasure, thy name is Conan.
Robin did not see this film.
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