Conan the Barbarian (2011)

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"fire or Ice "

Aug 27, 2011

I've always wanted another sequel to Conan. I wanted to know how Conan became the King that was hinted at the end of the two Arnold movies. Alas it wasn't to be Arnie is too old to run around in a loin cloth. When a remake was announced I wasn't sad as Conan deserves to live on and a remake seems a logical was to go (at least in today's movie making world).

The remake wasn't high on my must see list and I ignored most of the movie news about it. Then I saw the trailer. Loud, violent and starred Jason Momoa as Conan the man who played badass Karl Drogo on Game of Thrones. There is no better replacement for Arnie.

Aside from the two Arnie adventures I know very little of the literary version. I know there is a whole host of adventures compiled ranging from novels to short stories and something I've always wanted to explore but never really got around to. Going into this film I never expected much and with no ties to the source material is probably why I enjoyed it.

Only really following the origin of Conan (from the Arnie film) loosely this film then takes its own path and develops a new narrative which is what a remake should be essentially. Born on the battlefield in a blood soaked introduction the tone is set and really doesn't relent until the credits roll. We watch as Conan grows older and receives some warrior training (Barbarian tribe's vocation of choice) from his father. As luck would have it Conan's entire village is slaughtered leaving Conan alone in the world and looking for revenge. Years later we catch up with our Barbarian as he tracks down the man who caused the death of his village and father.

The movie has two distinct parts which are separated from young and old Conan. The younger Conan actually has more weight upon his shoulders as he is actually responsible for getting the ball rolling on the very small plot that the film has. Leo Howard manages to upstage everyone in this film as the younger Conan from the intensity displayed on his face to the outstanding martial arts sequences where he takes on the adults of the piece. I was actually pretty shocked, I had expected the Young Conan to be much like the one in the original who watches helplessly as his family are slain. Rather than that we get a fully functional warrior in the body of a child it's fantastic to behold I could have watched an entire movie about the younger Conan's adventures.

Conan in itself is a revenge flick rather than a sweeping epic like the original. The adult Conan tracks down those responsible for his village's destruction and dispatches them one by one. The film is one long action sequence akin to the Crank movies. I like the Crank films. They are enjoyable for what they are. Some films are made for pure escapism if you go in looking for depth you'll be disappointed and Conan is the same.

Jason Momoa is perfect for the film and yet you can tell as an actor he is capable of so much more. While this version of Conan talks more and displays more human qualities he really isn't given more to say than generic hero babble Arnie had better dialogue in the first. Its comes as a surprise that there are no one liners used after a character is dispatched.

This version of the world and the characters are great and yet many things are lacking from making this truly great. The story could have done with a little padding here and there. The romantic subplot was a tad forced. I never truly felt the scope of the world as we jump to one location to another without any real traveling depicted. Rose McGowan's Marique is a unique creation ( a very Star Wars look) has a terrible conclusion to her character arc I expected more. Finally why did they get Morgan Freeman as the narrator? His voice is soothing and best served for dramas and documentaries not an action gore fest.

The action is well done and thrilling to behold which is a good thing considering that's all the film has going for it. The blood is a little C.G.Iish but far more believable than other movies that use the same technique. From watching the 2D version alone I can see that the 3D was poorly incorporated with a few moments where a sword was jabbed at the camera. Knowing this was a post conversion job I wasn't going to shell out extra for rubbish and I advise you to give the 3D a miss too.

The film is shockingly violent for a 15 certificate. The blood flows to an amazing quotient that has me questioning how it managed to dodge the 18 stamp. If the thinking was that C.G.I. dulls the impact I think they were quite wrong. A moment that wouldn't be amiss in the Hostel flicks has Conan stick his finger in the open nose hole gash of a tied up foe. That was harder to watch than the Human Centipede. Maybe not but close.

Conan the Barbarian was a fun time waster. It's never going to be a classic like the original. Momoa has the chops to fill Arnies boots and while this is not a movie I intend to revisit I hope (despite the poor box office performance) it gets a sequel. There's a lot to improve on but that's what sequels are for by Cromm.

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