Thursday, 1 December 2011

Review: Conan the Barbarian (2011)

Conan the Barbarian (2011)

Sometimes it takes a really bad movie to make you appreciate one that turned out to be not so bad after all.   The 1982 version of Conan the Barbarian starring the future governor of California was no classic. Director John Milus had a thankless task; adapting Robert E Howard's barbarian hero to the screen at a time when Hollywood only knew the character through bad pastiches and comic books.  With such a brief, it isn't surprising that the end result was often downright silly.  That's probably the best word for a scene where one of the baddies hits people over the head with a giant clown hammer.  Still, Milus did manage to come up with a decent story of revenge and manhood that treated most of the sorcery as just another part of the world. And Milus does succeed in getting us to accept that he has created at least a taste of Conan's Hyborian Age that would be recognisable to readers of Howard.

The 2011 version, on the other hand, is a travesty; a pointless remake that adds nothing and does a disservice to both the source material and its predecessor.  Once again, Conan is motivated by revenge against the men who burned his village and killed his father, but where this set up took ten minutes in the original, it now takes approximately the time needed to wear away the Alps with a spoon.  We then jump forward ten years or so and Conan, who can't afford a shirt and wears a skirt liberated from an interpretive dance troupe, decides to finally get down to some revenging.  This being 2011, however, there also has to be a mask involved that allows the wearer to "rule the world" for no obvious reason and an Action GirlTM who says she's a "monk" (Because the correct term "nun" wouldn't be cool enough) is thrown in for sex scenes and general running about.

General running about pretty much sums up the film.  Conan runs about here.  He runs about there.  He runs about a bit more to throw in some variety.  In between and during this running about he's also fighting and every fight is choreographed as an epic Final Battle with lots of CGI blood that makes one suspect that the director thinks human beings are plastic bags filled with Kensington Gore.   There's no sense of time and place and everything is so dusty that it isn't unreasonable to think that the tickets got mixed up and this is Prince of Persia.   Meanwhile, Jason Momoa scowls a lot–or tries to; it just comes across as a pout.  And despite all the mandatory Daddy Issues that modern scriptwriting invariably demands, this Conan comes across as nothing more than a bloodthirsty cipher devoid of any character or believable motives.

It makes one long for de lamentations of da women.

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