August 19, 2011 by Vinnie Leduc
I’ll start this similarly to the way I did with Rise of the Planet of the Apes and wonder whether the new Conan the Barbarian is yet another mediocre remake of a well regarded franchise that’ll not only drop a deuce on the pre-Governator memories of Arnold Schwarzenegger fans, but also take their 3D-inflated money. The difference between Mr. Monkey and Mr. Muscles is that while Cesar & co. swung their way to a critically acclaimed box office success, the new not-Arnold Conan just swung… and missed.
The unimaginative remake of the ’80s cult classic that introduced Schwarzenegger in his breakthrough acting role probably won’t do the same for TV veteran Jason Momoa. In his first starring film role, the new Conan does absolutely nothing to displace Arnold as the prototypical fantasy warrior and yet still fails to establish his own identity. Director Marcus Nispel, who’s had some experience with remakes (The Texas Chainsaw Massacre, Friday the 13th), can’t get anything better from the rest of the lifeless cast, which includes Stephen Lang, Rose McGowan, and Ron Perlman.
The film deeply suffers from a forgettable plot and unremarkable characters; even Ron Perlman and Conan himself are minimally amusing. Momoa’s barbarian doesn’t live up to his own name, rarely exhibits extreme ruthlessness, and thus doesn’t come off as truly barbaric. Do something like savagely dig into a chunk of meat, whether it’s on a battlefield or during an indulgent feast. Do something beyond or even at the level of the typical stuff meant to shock the audiences in illustrating the heroic brute’s primal, raw nature or exotic foreignness. Do the roar (more and/or better). Be a caveman. Senior citizen Sylvester Stallone was a more convincing barbarian in the latest Rambo.
I commend the valiant effort to maintain an R-rating for female nudity and graphic violence, some of which was nice and pretty cool. However, it’s too uncommon in an otherwise boring “adventure”. Its MPAA rating isn’t the only thing Conan the Barbarian failed to capitalize on. It reaches for the feel of 300 and Gladiator, but its generic action doesn’t take advantage of the film’s period setting. Conan reminded me of Nispel’s Pathfinder, minus the blizzards, yet you still can’t really tell what’s going on during most of the action. One particular FX-laden sequence though, the sand warrior one, was clearer and stood out from the rest.
Aside for the brief introduction, the post-converted 3D was unexceptional and unimpressive. Kinda like most of the Conan the Barbarian remake. Sure, it had a handful of satisfyingly bloody gore and violence, but they’re buried in an overlong and senseless wannabe epic. It’s like watching an unrated and extended version of The Scorpion King with less CGI and even less brains. Conan the Barbarian gets 2.0 out of 5 stars or C or Okay.