Conan the Barbarian (2011)


Barbarian, I Don’t Like You Anymore

I felt a little bad about my review from yesterday.  In the Smurfs, I claimed that Hollywood was out of ideas and that it would be rare to see a new idea turned into a movie as opposed to remaking things from the 80’s and turning them shitty.  I don’t want to depress my audience, so I decided I would watch a movie that was a brand new idea.  This movie is Conan the Barbarian.  I feel this movie fits because there have never been comic books, games, and movies about this character before.  Conan the Barbarian was written by Thomas Dean Donnelly, Joshua Oppenheimer, Sean Hood, and Robert E. Howard (because more writers means more good and not that it was passed around in a desperate attempt to save it before the words “Fuck it” were used), directed by Marcus Nispel, and starring Jason Momoa, Stephen Lang, Rachel Nichols, Rose McGowan, Leo Howard, Ron Perlman, Bob Sapp, Said Taghmaoui, and the voice of Morgan Freeman.

Way back in the day, a bunch of sorcerers got together and created a mask made from the skulls of dead kings and infused with the blood of their daughters.  The mask grants it’s wearer the ability to control the peoples of the world.  Except for the barbarians, it seems, as those guys kill the sorcerers and smash the mask, giving a piece of it to each barbarian leader to keep them seperate, secret, and safe.  A long time later, a pregnant chick gets stabbed in the stomach in the middle of a battle.  At her request, the leader of that tribe of Barbarians, her husband Corin (Ron Perlman), cuts the baby out of her so she can see him before she dies.  Halfway into growing up, Conan (Leo Howard), is showing signs of being a brave and strong warrior so his dad and him make a sword for Conan, but he can’t have it until he understands it.  Their village is invaded by Khalar Zym (Stephen Lang), who is looking for their piece of the mask in order to use it to bring back his dead wife.  Zym’s daughter, Marique (Ivana Staneva right now, but Rose McGowan later), locates the piece, Zym kills Conan’s dad, and they leave Conan to die.  Instead, he gets big and buff and good at killing when he becomes Jason Momoa.  It should come with no great shock that Conan wants revenge on Zym.  Also, he has a love story with Tamara (Rachel Nichols).

This … is not a good movie.  I put ellipses in there in order to spread out the surprise for you.  Also, I found out while writing that that there apparently already was two Conan movies, a TV show, a couple of video games, and comic books, so this character isn’t nearly as original as I facetiously thought.  The story is pretty typical, the acting is pretty bad, and even the action is not that interesting.  You can accept bad acting and writing in an action movie if they’re fun, but this movie isn’t fun.  In comparing the story of this movie to the original (which I have seen, all of the sudden), parts of it do work better, but not enough of it.  I felt like the main bad guy’s motivations were better in this film.  In the first movie, Thulsa Doom is just motivated by power as far as I can remember, and is basically just killing random barbarian tribes to find out the mystery of steel or some junk.  That’s not a really solid idea to get behind. Wanting to revive your dead wife with pieces of a bone mask makes more sense.  Well, not more sense, but at least he had a motivation.  I did like the part about Conan being born on the battlefield, not just because it was the first recorded c-section, but because it gave a cool reason for Conan to be so good at ass-kicking.  It did kid of jump to him already being in shape with nothing in between, where the original made him a slave that got buff from pushing a wheel by himself and getting good at battle from being forced to fight to the death after his slavery.  Both of them work pretty well.  Of course, a lot of the things don’t work.  The dialogue, for example.  All of it.  The ones that got me the most are the lines delivered right before someone is killed, lines that should be all badass and sweet that instead didn’t make sense and deflate the audience.  One part was when one of Zym’s soldiers was trying to take Tamara from Conan and they got to talking about who has a claim on what.  Conan says “I have a claim to you” and the other guy asks “What claim is that?”  Conan responds “Death”.  …That doesn’t make any sense at all.  I realize you’re trying to say something like “I’ll kill you if you try to take her”, and you probably should have said that instead of something that made zero sense.  In the final battle between Conan and Zym, Zym actually has the gall to say “Barbarian, I don’t like you anymore”.  Them’s fightin’ words, Zym!  They probably cut out the part where he says “And you’re not coming to my birthday party no more neither!”  It was too brutal for the movie.  Probably the biggest problem I had with the movie is the title.  He’s not even really Conan the Barbarian!  Once he’s grown up, he runs a ship that lands and frees slaves, then drinks and fights in bars.  He’s more like Conan the Pirate.

The look of the movie is fairly lackluster as well.  The violence is fairly well captured with lots of CG animated blood and body parts removed from the body.  The part that makes it lackluster is that they didn’t seem to pay much attention to making it work.  Some of the computer generated things don’t match their lighting to the background and some of the green-screened backdrops are pretty obvious.  It seems as if they rushed the movie a little bit.  They had these sand warriors at one part that would pop out of the sand to attack Conan, then jump back down into the sand.  When they were CG, they weren’t convincing, but they were okay when they were real people.  It also didn’t really make sense because these sand guys would keep popping up behind Conan and he couldn’t do much to fight them, but there was also a set of stairs behind him that he could’ve climbed up instead of just standing in the middle of the sand they were using against him.  But he’s a barbarian, so he probably isn’t that bright.  They also tended to use a lot of slo-mo, but sometimes they used it in scenes where it didn’t really make sense.  Take, for instance, when he takes a step and the camera is close up on his foot.  That’s it.  He took a step and they made it slo-mo.

The acting was pretty bad here as well.  I was pretty uninterested in anything Jason Momoa was doing throughout the movie, which is probably not what you want out of your main character.  He had the look for it, and the physicality to pull off the stunts, but not the acting chops to make me pay attention.  Stephen Lang wasn’t that interesting either.  Both he and Momoa had this odd characteristic in their fighting scenes where they wouldn’t be engaged in battle but just posting up and taunting at their opponent where they would let out strange grunts like what you would hear when they’re actually crossing swords, but without the physical activity to accompany it, it just seems weird.  Rachel Nichols’ best feature was that she was hot and got her body double’s boobs out here.  She was cute in her performance as well, but the whole character could have disappeared with no great loss.  I prefer her in green body paint trying to have sex with Kirk in the new Star Trek movie.  Rose McGowan is USUALLY hot, but they really fucked her up for this movie.  She’s usually wearing clothes that are decently revealing, but they applied this thing to her head that extended her forehead as if she shaved her head in a line from her ears to the top of her head.  I’m usually down with some McGown, but I wasn’t here.  Ron Perlman was fine in this movie.  Also, I’m beginning to think that all of Hollywood has just agreed that Morgan Freeman is the universal narrator for any movie.

This is a movie that didn’t need to be remade, but I might be interested in a remake that sticks to the original but ups the ante in graphics and fight scenes.  The original movie still works, so you can only do it if you make it better.  No one told these people that.  They kind of fucked up the story, but not too drastically.  The big fuck ups were in the graphics and the performances, and perhaps the random, unnecessary grunts.  I definitely think you should watch Conan the Barbarian, but by that I mean the 1982 version.  The 2011 version gets “By Crom, this sucks” out of “I want your head”.

Hey, peeps. Why not rate and comment on this as a favor to good ole Robert, eh? And tell your friends! Let’s make me famous!

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