CONAN THE BARBARIAN
By Gary Murray
Starring Jason Momoa, Rachel Nichols, Rose McGowan and Stephen Lang
Written by Thomas Dean Donnelly Joshua Oppenheimer and Sean Hood
Directed by Marcus Nispel
Running time 1 hr 52 min
MPAA Rating R
Selig Film Rating FULL PRICE
The stories of Conan have been around for a number of years and turned into some successful movies back in the 1980’s. It was the role that launched Arnold’s career, making him a household name. In a land called Hollywood, where every idea has been taken and remade, it would only make sense to make a modern CGI re-do of the classic tale. In more than one way, this edition is superior to the older flicks.
The opening tells of a powerful mask that has magical powers. When it is captured, the chieftains break it into different pieces, giving a single part to different tribes in order for the evil not to return.
Then we cut forward to the birth of Conan, during a battle. As Mom dies, she demands that her husband Corin (Ron Perlman) show her the boy and she names him Conan. We flash forward a few more years and Conan is now a kid wanting to be a warrior like his dad. On a test of manhood, young Conan stumbles upon a band planning their attack of the lands. Young Conan bests the warriors, bringing their skulls back to camp.
This just draws in Khalar Zym (Stephen Lang) a war lord who wants the entire mask so he can regenerate his dead witch wife and become a god among men. His daughter Marique shows the same skills for the dark arts. After an epic battle and a little bit of magic, the bad man gets his prize and Conan must strike out alone.
Fast forward a few years and full grown Conan (Jason Momoa) is now a full-fledged barbarian, pillaging the countryside and bedding slave girls. He still has a quest, to track down the party responsible for the destruction of his village and family. There is this strong moral code within Conan, where he frees every slave he comes across.
Conan gets a nose of a clue and is off on another adventure. This eventually leads to Tamara (Rachel Nichols) who is both a pure blood and hidden as a part of a monastery. He must protect her in order to get back at Khalar Zym while Khalar Zym wants the girl for a black magic ceremony. The now grown Marique (Rose McGowan) has all the devil arts and a sadistic bend. It all leads to epic battles with different warriors on land and on sea, sandmen with snarls and a sea creature.
Director Marcus Nispel throws just about everything he can at the audience in Conan the Barbarian. He never gives the audience a moment to catch their breath and shoves just about all he can into the 2 hours of cinematic excess. It is an orgy of blood and violence played to a degree almost never seen in movies anymore.
Jason Momoa is a much better actor than young Arnold was back in the day. Where Mr. A had that amazing steroid-fueled body, Jason comes across as much less muscle and a bit more brain. It is still a ‘take no prisoners’ attitude but it is more thoughtful than previous incarnations.
Rose McGowan has the best role of the piece as Marique. With her Freddy Kruger style metal fingernails and a Cruella DeVil attitude, she is the witch with the dark magic gifts. She snarls and pouts, chewing up each and every scene she’s in. This is the type of role made for overacting and she is manic in her reading.
The biggest problem with Conan the Barbarian is technical. For some reason the producers have forced the film in 3D. It looks awful, dark and ugly, with no storytelling reason to retrofit the film with this cheap attempt to make more money from the patrons. Save the dough and catch this one in a regular 2D version.
Conan the Barbarian is a very adult feature, with a body count in the blood hundreds and a breast count in the high pairs. A film drive-in critic Joe Bob Briggs would love. It follows more along the line of the paintings than the old movies. A world of spurting crimson hemoglobin with layers upon layers of mangled flesh is not for everyone. If you have a strong stomach and a yen for adventure, this new Conan will be right down your alley.