Conan the Barbarian (2011)

Posted: 2011.10.04 in Movies

This movie is NOT a remake of the 80’s films, and nor is it trying to be.

This retailoring of Conan is based more firmly in the original stories by Robert E. Howard, but includes strong nods towards ALL versions of Conan past. What I mean by that is simply this:

  • The story presented in the Nispel film is, as far as I can tell, original and “inspired by” the types of tales found in the original stories written by Howard.
  • The flow of the movie as well as several of the scenes are easily paralleled with similar situations in both of the films of the 1980’s.
  • The actor who played Conan, Jason Momoa, stated that he and the director and screenwriting crew all studied the original stories, comics, film and TV episodes, and so on in order to draw from the entire pool of Conan mythos.

My first impressions of the movie when I went in and the heads started to roll was that this movie was very much Conan. My knowledge of the various incarnations of Conan up to the time I watched this movie were limited entirely to the two Schwarzenegger movies of the 80’s. I’d never read the Howard stories or the comics, never watched any other versions of the story; nor had I played the free MMORPG, Age of Conan. Regardless, I got the feel almost immediately that this was Conan the way that it should be told: gory, lusty, manly, and straightforward. After watching it, I was inspired to read up on Conan canon, and in fact have been reading the original Howard stories since. And my first impression was correct.

This is not “Movie of the Year” as there is nothing groundbreaking about it. It received mediocre reviews across the board. Yet even so, it was so enjoyable to me that I watched it in the theater twice within a week of its release. Given that I rarely watch movies in the theater and the last movie I can remember seeing multiple times in the theater was Jurassic Park, this was a Pretty Big Deal. Additionally, despite the reviews every person I know who watched it, liked it.

The story is, as previously stated, simple and easy to follow. It’s got gross parts, and lots of fighting, and lots of flesh everywhere. It’s a story written by a guy, for guys. It starts with a lot of explanation and ends in an abrupt manner — yet this is exactly the way that Howard stories were paced. The ending always seems sudden, as if there is something else that should be said, but isn’t addressed. As a direct quote from Howard, this new Conan presents viewers with the character’s lifelong motto:

“I live, I love, I slay, and I am content.”

Yup, that’s about it.

One of my first comments going into the new movie was, “If there isn’t any camel-punching action like in the other two, this movie fails.” I didn’t take it seriously and didn’t expect to be dreadfully entertained; I was skeptical. But I got my sarcastic and not at all serious animal-punching wish as two horses were punched by Conan (one of those with a chain). And I was also amused with the story.

Now, the acting.

I will begin by saying that I HATE ROSE MCGOWAN. This movie pits really good actors such as Morgan Freeman (narrator), Ron Perlman (Corin) and Steven Lang (Khalar Zym) with mediocre under- and over-actors. Sad, but true. Now, the whole thing really was carried for me by the good actors, and I could handle most of the mediocre actors other than Rose McGowan, who just entirely grated on my nerves. For someone playing an evil witch villainess, she sure had a squeaky, annoying voice…and most of the time she was entirely over-acting.

But what about Conan? Jason Momoa presented a very different sort of Conan than that of Arnold Schwarzenegger. Both are, in my opinion, very valid versions as they both capture some of the essential nature of the character created by Robert E. Howard. Schwarzenegger’s version is the more lighthearted adventurer, whereas Momoa’s is the sullen, dangerous lion. Howard’s character was a mixture of both extremes and infectiously likable, so I can’t find fault with either version. Momoa for his part specifically trained to have a leaner look than Schwarzenegger, and studied the way that lions move in order to better become the character. One of my friends, Kane, said it best: “Momoa IS Conan.” Yes, he is. And so is Schwarzenegger.

I will be reviewing the original stories once I finish reading them in their entirety. Also once I replace my computer I will be trying the Age of Conan MMO. But for now, I will say that while not stellar, if you enjoyed the first Conan movies, you will likely enjoy this one as well.

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