Directed By: Marcus Nispel
Written By: Thomas Dean Donnelly, Joshua Oppenheimer
Starring: Jason Momoa, Ron Perlman, Rose McGowan
Oh Hollywood, you do love your remakes don’t you. It seems anything that has even a small following is being remade. Original ideas are a thing of the past. One of the latest remakes to hit theatres earlier this summer was the rehashing of the classic 80’s action adventure Conan the Barbarian.
Now just because a film is a remake doesn’t mean it’s going to be bad. There are plenty of remakes that have come out that are quality films. That however is not the case here. For one, in replace of Arnold Schwarzenegger we have Jason Momoa, most famous for his role in Stargate: Atlantis. While Schwarzenegger won’t win any Academy Awards for his acting talent he has the ability to carry a movie. A feat we tend to take for granted. While Momoa shows he is able to pull of the action sequences, his performances falters when the story slows down. It wasn’t that his acting was bad it was just bland. Nothing about it stood out and at times I felt I was watching a tertiary character rather than the main attraction. It didn’t help that the story he is placed in also felt uninspired. The movie begins with a prologue narrated by Morgan Freeman who has officially narrated everything in history now. You know that voice you hear when you read silently? That’s Morgan Freeman. Ever wonder why when you listen to a recording of your voice it sounds different? It’s because the person talking in the recording is actually…Morgan Freeman. In a Drive Thru? Freeman. Subway Station? Freeman. Who’s talking during Reading Ranbow? Freeman. Deep Throat? Freeman. That man simply gets everywhere. Anyways sorry about that tangent. Just thought I’d inform the public about his great works. Interesting enough Morgan Freeman’s narration felt bored as well. It was as if they recorded his first read through rather than his actual performance. Maybe that was all he would give them. For a movie that puts itself out there as dumb fun the plot is quickly over convoluted with just the prologue. To be fair even if the prologue losses you a bit the actual story is simple enough to follow.
One thing I have to credit this film with is that it was willing to put itself out there right way. It did not shy away from telling you what type of story you were about to watch. After that slashing opening shot we see Ron Perlman playing the role of Corin in the midst of an epic battle. During this battle he discovers his pregnant wife has been injured and lay dying. Luckily Perlman is able to save the baby before he wife dies. With her last breath she gives this child born in blood the name of Conan. After this I was left wondering what exactly I got myself into. It came off as extremely over the top and cheesy, but once I got by that I did come to almost appreciate its campiness. We are then brought to a time where Conan is a few years older but still a years away from manhood. Though young he shows signs of being a great warrior. One day his village is attack by Khalar Zym who is in search for an artifact that will give him ultimate power. In this attack Conan is forced to watch the death of his father by the hands of Zym. Conan then dedicates his life to finding and destroying the man who ended his father. This mission takes him on a number of adventures as Conan learns to become the warrior he was literally born to be. He is the only one that will be able to finally topple the tyrant that is Khalar Zym. Khalar Zym is played by Stephen Lang of Avatar and Terra Nova fame. Lang, who I’m typically a fan of, is also insipid throughout the majority of the film. It seems like he realizes the mess he is in and is just waiting for it to end. I think the failure here though lies in its director Marcus Nispel. Nispel has made a career of directing less than stellar remakes. So far he has done recent classic remakes such as Friday the 13th and The Texas Chainsaw Massacre. At times its clear his direction is more concerned with having fun shots to show in the trailer then making an actual movie.
Now I should probably pull the reigns back a little bit. It is easy to find fault with Conan but there is some fun to be had. A lot of the special effects are done well and are accompanied by some fun action. The gore is intense and the action can be brutal. While the action set pieces feel borrowed there is some enjoyment to be found. To the films credit I never felt the action got repetitive, which is so easy to do with a hack and slash film like this. While the action can be fun to watch at times it does feel meaningless. It rarely moves the story forward and tends to be wildly random. In fact if you were to cut out the action sequences, change the order they occur, and put them in you’d be left with about the same story. If you just want some mindless you could do a lot worse than Conan. You’d be better off watching the original, but if this was to come on TV a lazy Saturday afternoon it be worth a gander or two.