CONAN THE BARBARIAN Review

by     Posted 2 years, 345 days ago

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A good Conan the Barbarian movie shouldn’t be that hard to make.  The character is simple.  He’s a buff, taciturn guy who caves in skulls and cuts his enemies in half with a gigantic sword.  This is Conan.  This is simple. And yet director Marcus Nispel has no idea what kind of Conan movie he wants to make.  Is it a good, old-fashioned sword-and-sorcery flick?  Is it a modern spin on the classic comic book?  Is it a campy action movie?  Is it a self-serious “realistic” drama?  Perhaps a better movie could have melded all of these elements together, but Conan the Barbarian is an absolute mess, and even worse, an absolute bore.

First impressions are important.  Nispel decides to kick off his Conan movie with Morgan Freeman doing the prologue narration.  This is not a good idea.  Morgan Freeman is a voice of dignity and gravitas.  He’s also a voice that instantly makes the audience think about winning free tickets to the Super Bowl and “I hope I see my friend again…”  This is not the voice you want over cool imagery that looks like it came from every metal album ever.  Visually, the movie opens with a promising start and the premise isn’t too bad either: There’s a magic mask, it gives the bearer the powers of a god, the tribes of the land brought down the previous owner, and broke the mask into seven pieces.  You’ll be wondering why they didn’t simply destroy the mask entirely, but it’s early in Conan and you want to give the movie the benefit of the doubt.

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Then the movie looks like it will be awesome as Conan gets a partial-abortion birth when his pregnant mother is stabbed in the uterus.  She dies, Conan lives, gets raised by his Cimmerian father/tribe leader Corin (Ron Perlman), and shows he’s going to be a badass warrior by brutally killing a bunch of savages (or folks that are more savage than his tribe). Then Khalar Zym (Stephen Lang) attacks the village because he’s looking for the last piece of the mask (someone wanted to track down all the pieces of the mask?  Inconceivable!) and he tortures Corin to find it.  Lil’ Conan tries to save his pop, but to no avail.  Zym gets the mask piece with the help of his creepy sorceress daughter Marique, burns Conan’s village to the ground, and the young Barbarian is the only one left alive.

We then cut to twenty years later and adult Conan (Jason Momoa) is busy tracking down Zym and his cohorts and doing good deeds along the way.  Again, first impressions matter.  The kid we’re introduced to in the beginning is grim, humorless, and eager to kill.  One would think that the slaughter of everyone he ever knew or loved would harden his already-surly demeanor.  But the first scenes we see of Conan is him freeing some slaves, partying with the topless former-slave girls, and arm wrestling with his pals.  It is Conan as grinning-idiot frat guy.  Then one of Zym’s lieutenants who burned Conan’s village just happens to walk into the bar, and Conan now has a lead to kill the main bad guys.

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Meanwhile, Zym is now looking for the next piece of the puzzle: pureblood.  You see, putting the damn mask back together was only half the equation.  Now he has to fill it with the blood of the descendant of the mask’s creation.  Zym is doing all of this so he can resurrect his sorceress wife and rule the world, although he wouldn’t need the former to accomplish the latter.  Zym quest to bring back his dead wife is such a blatant ploy at making him a sympathetic villain that it lacks any weight.  Plus, this is a Conan movie.  The audience will accept that Zym and his creepy daughter (played as an adult by Rose McGowan) are just really awful people who want to conquer the planet.  Anyway, Zym is on the hunt for the pureblood, the pureblood is a monk named Tamara (Rachel Nichols), she runs away from Zym’s forces, runs into Conan, he half-heartedly protects her, and that’s enough to qualify as “romance” and the most awkwardly timed sex scene in recent memory.

Let’s leave aside for the moment that the story isn’t great.  No one goes to a movie entitled “Conan the Barbarian” for a deep plot.  They go for the tone and the action and Nispel delivers on neither.  His leading cast members are in different movies.  Perlman and Lang are playing it straight and trying to collect a paycheck.  Nichols thinks she’s in a modernized re-telling where a sassy, strong independent woman can banter with the barbarian.  McGowan gives an absolutely atrocious performance that could conceivably work if everyone was playing at her campy level.  And Momoa is torn between two different movies.  Half of him is Conan.  It’s taking the Khal Drogo persona from Game of Thrones (who was basically Conan) and correctly applying it to this movie.  But the other half is the charming, man-of-the-people Conan who is “relatable” in the way that jocks are “relatable”.  Having each character exist in a different movie throws a well-constructed tone out the window.

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The other half of the failure-equation is Nispel’s inability to choreograph and shoot action on the scale required by a movie like this.  He showed he could build tension and deliver brutal kills in his remakes of The Texas Chainsaw Massacre and Friday the 13th, but he’s out of his depth when it comes to fights.  The majority of the kills are uninteresting and even if there’s some creativity, Nispel ruins it by over-cutting or jerking around his camera as if that will create some excitement.  The result is just boring kill after boring kill and that’s a serious problem considering that Conan’s job description consists of killing and more killing.

Having someone say “By Cr0m,” [Correction: I've been told it's "Crom", not "Krum".  My apologies.] and giving a muscular man an iconic sword doesn’t make a Conan movie.  The first step to making a successful Conan flick is to understand Conan and his universe and not just its iconography and catchphrases.  Then you have to make sure every actor understands the movie you’re trying to make.  Finally, you better make damn sure you know how to competently film exciting melee combat since there’s going to be a lot of it.  I’m not sure how Conan went so wrong but, by Crom does it suck.

Rating: F

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  • Nick

    I suppose it’s fitting that Crom is misspelled twice in the last paragraph

    • Nick

      Even I misspelled my correction, It’s CROM!!!!

      I hang my head in shame.

  • Ruprect

    Obsessive nerd mode ON //

    Conan’s god is KROM, not Krum.

    In the R.E Howard stories (and the deCamp-Carter pastiches) Conan can be quite the charming, swashbuckling dude, tossing out witty bon-mons as easily as hard sword strokes.

    ONM off//

    I am disappointed to hear that all my worst fears about this film have been realized. A decent box office does not a competent director make.

  • Hugo

    Damn, you instantly lost all credibility by claiming that “No one goes to a movie entitled “Conan the Barbarian” for a deep plot.”

    • Tarek

      Not for deep plot, but for a deep mood and a unique atmosphere.

    • AO1JMM

      I am assuming you did then? LOL

      • hugo

        Haven’t seen it yet, but yeah, having read some of Robert Howard’s fascinating tales you almost must expect a deep plot out of a Conan movie, but im sure a dumb kid that writes “LOL” has no idea who that writer is or what Conan is about, so it’s ok.

  • Tom Doolan

    You lost me after the third sentence. Because in those three sentences, you clearly illustrate your complete and utter ignorance of Robert E. Howard’s Conan. Therefore, it renders your entire “review” as obsolete and uninformed. I have not seen the movie yet, but I will. And I am sure it will be better than you say, simply because, as a self-professed “film critic” you have no idea what you are doing or saying.

    And to you and Ruprect, it’s “Crom”, not “Krum” or “Krom.” Uneducated heathens.

    • Ruprect

      One typo and a guys nerd-cred goes right out the window. Sheesh.

    • Conrad The Great!

      LOL!!!!!

      Wow….you sucka’s got OWNED

    • JimC

      Exactly.

      The utter foolishness of the first few sentences of this review show that the writer knows NOTHING about Conan, yet still smugly wants to make people think he does.

      Loads of people (like the aforementioned writer) think that Conan is barely a step away for garbage like THE SCORPION KING. No, you don’t have to be an R. E. Howard scholar, but even reading one or two of the Conan stories (they’re short, people. They won’t hurt your brain too much to read) will show you just how wildly inaccurate this notion is.

      But sadly, a whole generation of sub-par sword and sorcery films have ingrained this attitude towards Conan.

      As for the “deep plot crack, Robert E. Howard could pack more plot, character and awesome action into a 30-page story than this pile of crap can cram into a two hour film.

      Above all, Conan’s misogynistic attitudes in this film are completely against the character as Howard envisioned him. I thought the scene with him rescuing the bare-tittied slave girls and having them immediately offer to service him sexually was downright disgraceful, and it proves what a shallow, club-footed waste of time and money this movie was.

      Two-Gun Bob rolls in his grave yet again.

    • Conan Fan

      The review is sadly accurate, with the notable exception being the performance of Rose McGowan who is one of the very few actors in this film whose performance would have been welcome in a decent Conan reprise.. and to all who have blathered about the author having no knowledge of the Conan character, you seem to forget… Conan had one purpose, one goal until the assault of his village and the slaughter of his family had been avenged… the hunt for and destruction of those responsible, and any one or thing that stood in his way.. he became the “prince of thieves, only as a byproduct of his relentless pursuit of this quest.. So how can you question the content of what this movie SHOULD contain.. or you think it’s a love story I guess, with a well rounded leading man.. twits…

      • SpinOnEbayUseAmazon

        Conan fan u nailed it perfectly…this movie sucks.

        And to many of the super extremist REH conan fans u suck too.
        The movie has to be a good movie from within the constraints of a movie not your books which are partly enhanced by fantasies in your heads.(gay?ness?)

        This movie sucks…the Arnold film is a classic and an epic film…any lame REH fans that dislike it are just living in a fukn fantasy world about expectations. The arnold film was dead on perfect….films aren’t even made that way anymore…instead u get these cheap ripoffs.

        The review is dead on as well….couldn’t have said it better myself.

  • KROM

    Firstlt: Dear collider, can we have a different approach to future Reviews?
    Maybe a final thoughts paragraph and maybe even an out of 10 score?

    While i’m interested in hearing your overall summary of a film, to help judge wether its worth shelling out my cash. I dont really wanna know every plot point and event that takes place throughout the whole movie.

    Afterall, whats the use in reading a review AFTER ive seen it? So best to assume the reader reads reviews mostly prior to watching a film, so try to either seperate the spoilerific plot/storyline elements.

    Secondly, dissapointed to hear this film sucks. Will wait for rental. Gets a bad RT score too, though some liked it.

    • Conrad The Great!

      Agreed

      • http://collider.com Matt Goldberg

        The point in reading a review after you’ve seen the movie is to engage in the arguments made by the reviewer. I’m not going to dance around every plot point. The purpose of my review is to talk about the movie and that involves talking about what happens within reason. I didn’t spoil the ending for you or really anything that happens after the first act.

        If you’re that scared of spoilers, then don’t read my reviews before you see the movie. Simple as that.

      • HYPNO TOAD

        I disagree with you Goldberg. If this was the case with reviews then all reviews would be released weeks after a movie comes out.
        The point of the review is to give the reader insight to a movie BEFORE he or she sees it.
        This is why most newspapers publish reviews the day BEFORE a movie opens not the other way around.

        This must be why Collider dropped the ball on the CAPTAIN AMERICA review..still waiting on that one..

        I like your reviews even if I dont agree with them but in this case you are wrong unfortunately and its just bush league that there has been no write up of CAPTAIN..

      • Bill Graham

        Hypno Toad, you will get a review for CAP when the film releases on DVD/Blu-ray. Paramount decided it would be a great idea to screen the film for press the Wednesday night of Comic-Con. Most of the press that I talked with at Con, including all of our writers, had YET to see the film, even by Saturday night.

        Why? BECAUSE WE WERE AT THE CON! Screenings usually take place on Monday or Tuesday to give adequate time to turn around a review for both online and print publications by Friday morning. They should have screened it Monday. They failed to do so. We don’t run reviews after release (which would be Thursday morning for Cap).

      • HYPNO TOAD

        OK I can understand that but I feel you should have still written something on it.
        This was By far one of the better movies of the summer and it was just odd there was nothing on it. Not to mention its CAPTAIN AMERICA its almost sacrilege the way you guys ignored it ComicCon or not.

        Either way I will still check out the review whenever it does come out. Unfortunately I had to endure other sites just to talk about how badass this movie was..

  • J.R.

    Momoa said that he was writing the second part…….. so that was all strategy to hide mess?………….. it was expected since the first picture of Momoa hit the web….

  • Strong Enough

    all you nerds need to get laid fast.

    • M&M

      DONE!

    • AO1JMM

      Same goes to you! NERD!

  • kotox the sloppearion

    even though this reviewer does not know all there is to know about Conan (krum…whatever)…he stills know a bad, shit filled movie when he sees one….This movie was absolutely terrible in every aspect….and when your leading character has no presence and horrible acting skills it makes it excruciating to sit through…..I fucking hated this movie with every fiber of my being!!!! the 82 movie with arnold while flawed is gold compared to this shitfest remake reboot or what ever the hell you wanna call it….. Crom should cast his mighty wrath upon all who were involved in making this and send them all straight to hell!!!!!

  • Nick

    It’s ‘Krom’ – not ‘Krum’.

    This is a shame, I LOVE Conan and this is going to put the character back some.

    • Tarek

      Not Krom, nor krum. It’s Kream

  • john davis

    blood and gore with some sorcery ….who needs a stinking plot as long s the dudes are built like brick outhouses and the women are scantally clad oh rah!!!!

  • Northern Star

    If the new Conan movie is as bad as this review suggests, it makes it even worse by the thought that if Arnie hadn’t decided to be the Guv’nor of California back in 2003, we all would have got ‘King Conan: Crown of Iron’ written and directed by John Milius around 2004/5, and THAT would’ve been nothing short of awesome, instead we get a needless ‘reboot’ that’ll be in the DVD bargain basement this time next year…

  • Bill Graham

    I took the opposite opinion as did most of the press I talked with after the screening. It was brutal, it was fun, and it was dumb.

    Heavy on the dumb, but I still had fun. As a whole, it’s a mess, as Matt says. But I loved the sword play. Matt is also right that Nispel ruined some of the action by quick cutting. That’s one thing that is especially noticeable in 3D, even if this was an upconversion.

    Which, by the way, is terrible. There are two 3D scenes with depth, and everything else is flat as hell.

    I also liked Jason in the role, to be honest. He was raw and having a blast. It won’t please everyone, but I doubt they were all that easy to please to begin with. I was glad it wasn’t a total disaster.

  • M&M

    Like a lot of reboots that keep rearing their ugly heads these days, I’m just going to pretend this movie never happened and continue to cherish the original Conan the Barbarian with Arnie.

    • Lob Taylor

      Me tooo!!!
      I hated this from the trailer. I like Jason Momoa from his Farscape days( a little known scifi series) through Stargate.
      But from his voice his metrosexual look everything about him screams ‘am not the barbarian known as Conan’!
      I too am going to pretend this movie never came out . And remember the Arnold as Conan. I bet my Conan The Barbarian Blu ray disc is gonna be worth more after this travesty!

      • Mischa

        As a DIEHARD ‘Scaper, I must correct your comment, Lob.

        Anthony Simcoe played Ka D’Argo in Farscape, not Jason. He was, however, Ronon Dex in Stargate Atlantis.

        While I’m not sure this movie needed to be re-made, Jason was quite honestly the obvious choice to play Conan after seeing him as Khal Drogo in Game of Thrones.

    • mo

      They raped my movie!! This movie deserves sooo much better…. It blows i never thoguht they would make such a horrible job… And the music?!?!?! WTF!! Basil Poledouris NUFF SAID!

  • Nawtnt

    If this movie turns out to be awful then Hollywood should stop making remakes and make book movie adaptions and video game movie adaptions.

    I really hope this movie turns out to be great because it is the last of the summer’s holidays and let’s hope this ends well.

  • Madsketch

    It’s interesting, a few days ago I read an article about a Disney exec who basically claimed that tentpole films, such as Alice in Wonderland, gross more on spectacle and less on plot. Perhaps, like this Conan remake, so many rehashes look to make cash grabs based solely on nostalgia and a couple of slick looking CGI sequences rather than a well nuanced plot or fleshed out characters. Personally, I would like to think that you can in fact marry a quality screenplay with decent style and effects that audiences can appreciate. Do the box office numbers this summer justify that though? Do audiences really want that anymore?

  • Tarek

    If Conan sucks ( I predicted it two years ago, hoping I was wrong), the amuzing Spider Man will double suck.

  • garrick

    Could a true to Robert E Howard Conan even be a good film? I loved the stories, but Conan is a pulp fiction character. It would have to be corny and though Conan gets down to buisness when business is good he does kinda have some goofy qualities. Conan an intelligent barbarian is still a barbarian which is simply not relatable. I think the John Milius movie had it right by having the fun side characters to accompany Arnold’s sullen Conan.

    Just to quickly sum what I would like to see in a Conan flick
    -Conan will wreck total havoc to get in a girl’s pants (and he usually doesn’t until he has saved her from hell)
    -Yes Conan does laugh and joke around (I am glad to hear that Moma got that right)
    -If Conan counts someone as a friend he’ll definitely sick his head out for them at any odds
    -Conan doesn’t always have to be out for revenge. In most of the stories about his early years he was robbing and stealing and hustling
    -Lastly would it hurt to tone down the blood/body count, maybe a Conan movie could have more tension if we had to wait to see him get down to buisness

  • Wladi

    I don’t like when goldberg makes opinionated articles instead of just reporting movie news but when he does reviews, he does a good job… BTW goldberg, reviews r made to give a insight to the public and for that matters a review must be done BEFORE the release of the movie…

  • AO1JMM

    Did any of us expect more from this movie?

  • suman

    I was gonna watch this movie yesterday but change my mind at last moment because of the so called critics. I know I should have watched it

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  • Jeffrey Podsobinski

    The movie sucked. Conan wearing an ankle length skirt!!! The Ricci look alike evil bitch was as scary as the trix rabbit. the sword fighting had to be cut to 1 stroke shots due to no skills and the good bitch, what crummy acting. the only 2 parts worth watching were the sand men and the boobs.

  • Talyseon

    Conan is the ultimate swords and sorcery movie; action, adventure, sex and violence, fueled with testoterone, and greased with gore! Check out my full review: http://bit.ly/pv0VCS

  • max

    this movie sucks .dont waste your money or time trying to watch this in the dark hafe the time so you cant see whats going on movie . it sucks

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  • William Blake

    most awaited 3D movie to release on November 4th.. http://www.damthemovie.com/

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  • hagen

    Don’t listen to the purists complaining about your first few remarks.

    I am a purist. The movie never did anything Howard-like at all.

    It totally sucked and was an utter disgrace.

    Perhaps someone can come along and do it better?

    What ever happened to Red Nails anyhow? The animated one that had been under development a few years ago…

    Good review.

    Bottom line : There is nothing enduring about this movie whatsoever. I’ve seen better episodes of Hercules : The Legendary Journies.

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