This is a reboot of a franchise made famous by Arnold Schwarzenegger in the early 1980s. Conan is born literally on a battlefield in an impromptu c-section so his dying mother can see him. The movie advances to show a ten-year-old Conan training to become a warrior with the older boys. It seems the only thing Conan’s tribe is interested in is fighting and making swords. Despite all the training, Conan’s tribe is attacked and fairly easily beaten by Khalar Zym and his daughter Marique who are hellbent on putting together a bone crown that will bring back his dead wife and make him a god. They kill Conan’s dad and leave young Conan for dead. Conan however grows up to become muscular killing machine looking for revenge.
Conan is jammed packed with extremely violent sword battles where victims are killed in a variety of ways complete with blood spraying in all directions. This sounds like a perfect match for a Conan movie. The problem is the battles have almost no context and therefore really doesn’t have a point. It quickly becomes boring despite all the action, blood and guts filling the screen. Unfortunately that is not the only thing gone wrong in this terrible remake.
In every way the original Conan is better, even the dated effects are more effective than anything shown in the new version. It all stems from the story and this group of writers botch up the script in every conceivable way. The story is unfocused and uninteresting. They put all the weight on battles and do absolutely nothing for character development. The dialog is terrible. The bad guy plot is never really explained in full and yet it dominates half the screen time. I could list more, but I think you have the point.
The origin story of the original film displays Conan as a victim and someone the audience can connect too and even route for. This new incarnation of Conan is pretty much a monster, and not a very likable one at that. It shows a 10 year old version that only wants to fight and when given the opportunity he gleefully jumps into kill mode decapitating his victims (that’s right a 10 year old decapitating people). There is absolutely no nuance to the character. The movie at its heart is supposed to be a revenge story; the only problem is the revenge story seems to be irrelevant, Conan would have wondered and killed people regardless of revenge.
Marcus Nispel, who has directed two other dismal remakes in Friday the 13th and Texas Chainsaw Massacre, know how to set up a pretty shot of mayhem but he doesn’t know how to set up tension, mood or tone very well. The movie pushes through almost two hours of sword fights without once containing a shot or scene that would give a person cause for tension or any emotion. It is mainly a gore fest on display for people who like seeing violence to say ‘cool.. Plus everything felt to clean, from the teeth on all the actors (perfectly white and straight) to the smooth narration by Morgan Freeman. When I think of Conan the Barbarian I think of dirt and grime. I want the mangled screwed up teeth and the narrator that sounds like he wants to jump out of the screen and do battle. Barbarians lived a hard life, but these actors looked like they just got out of the shower after working out at Venice beach.
Lastly Conan is played by Jason Mamoa, who definitely has the physique for the part but not even close to the amount of charisma needed. Mamoa grits his teeth and screams his horrible lines but he has no charm to it all. Regardless of your opinion of Arnold it is undeniable the amount of presence he had on the big screen and that certainly helped his Conan succeed on the big screen. Mamoa is not so lucky and so his violent character is one we neither like or understand.
The new Conan movie is not a good movie. It mainly caters to people who like seeing murder and mayhem. While it may try and emulate films like Braveheart and 300, Conan has no thrills or heart behind any of the action. It’s a shame that the film makers took a property with so much potential and screwed it up in such a colossal way. Perhaps one day a competent creative team will revive this character the right way, as I do think an audience would be more than willing to see it. Sadly it didn’t happen this time.
Films like Conan – 300, 10,000 BC, Last Legion
Justin Buettner is Style's resident movie dude! How did he get this role? Well, he graduated from Loyola Marymount University with a Bachelor of Arts in film Production and a duel minor in Animation and Business with an emphasis in the entertainment field. He later went on to work on several independent films in various key roles including writer and later worked in the special effects field as a motion capture artist. He has since relocated to the Sacramento area with his family and continues writing for small independent films in addition to his movie reviews for Style Magazine.
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