CONAN THE BARBARIAN
For Conan (Jason Momoa), a fierce Cimmerian warrior, the personal vendetta to avenge the pillage of his village and the murder of his father, Corin (Ron Perlman), turns into an epic battle against giant rivals, horrific monsters, and impossible odds, as Conan realizes he is the only hope of saving the great nations of Hyboria from an encroaching reign of supernatural evil under Khalar Zim (Stephen Lang) and his vicious, mysterious daughter Marique (Rose McGowan).
Review by Louise Keller:
There is brutal violence with fountains of blood as heads and limbs are dismembered by swords, arrows, axes and scythes in this reworking of the 1982 fantasy adventure Conan The Barbarian. This was the tailor-made role that propelled Arnold Schwarzenegger, muscles rippling, from body building fame to the screen, and here there is an equally impressively developed body which embodies Conan the protagonist. Former Baywatch heartthrob Jason Momoa is the child born of battle who lives in order to revenge the death of his father.
It's an extravagant spectacle with a suitably dark production design, a non-too subtle score and an action-packed narrative filled with expensive stunts, visual effects and exotic settings. There are two striking women, too: one is the pure-blood heroine, the other, the evil sorceress. The story is complicated but predictable and the young male target audience won't care if they miss the nuances. After all, it's about the heroic alpha male that lives and dies by the sword; besides, this is show and tell for the muscle-seeking crowd that flocks to Fitness First every night to work on those abs and glutes.
I was frustrated by the close up camera work which made it impossible to know what was actually happening and the accent on violence instead of cogent storyline. The characters are caricatures - supposedly epitomizing masculinity and suggesting it is surprising that woman might be endowed with something other than good looks. Highlights include an extravagant sorcery-induced swordfight in which Conan's foes are human in shape, but made of sand and disintegrate accordingly. There's another dramatic scene in which the beautiful and feisty heroine Tamara (Rachel Nichols) is shackled to a sacrificial wheel which teeters high above a cliff face. The scene in which bodies are thrashed by the tentacles of a gigantic sea monster is also memorable.
Ultimately, it is about the he-man appeal of 6'5" Momoa, who flaunts the long, messy wet-hair look, the persistent evil of his scarred foe, Stephen Lang's Khalar Zym, his witch daughter (Rose McGowan ) with the Wolverine-like steel talons and Rocky Horror apparel, as well as the elusive pure beauty of Rachel Nichols (reminiscent of Vivienne Leigh with the athleticism of Lara Croft). I felt exhausted and desensitised by the persistent violence, but the mostly male crowd at the Sydney preview seemed to be enthralled.
Review by Andrew L. Urban:
Primitive cinema it is, set in primitive fantasy times, when people and places had strange (yet somehow familiar) names, battles were brutal and bloody, everyone wore rags and big, clunky bling. A touch of the supernatural mingles with the superstitious; slaves are mercilessly whipped, while heroes strike down evil rulers after saving women (or usually one attractive woman) against impossible odds. I almost forgot the monster - in this case an underwater beast with the tentacles of an octopus and the bad temper of a bear with toothache.
In the 1982 adaptation of stories by Robert E. Howard, Arnie plays Conan, and it's a whole different movie. I say this to point out that it's not a remake. And Jason Momoa is not an Arnie 'clonan'. He's a likeable guy, and handles himself well in this physically demanding role.
This 2011 Conan is a film that could and possible already has, morphed into a video game. The lead actors are human, but much else is computer generated, from the fantasy lands where the action takes place to the structures on it, like old stone castles and temples and palaces and such.
The central story strand is fairly clear, but there is much that is lost in the kafuffle of noisy battles and ferociously edited fights. I don't think this matters to the target audience, whose interest is better captured by the relentless violence, which is almost non-stop. There is barely enough time to show off the exotic make up of the many warriors and of Marique (Rose McGowan) whose receding hairline is decorated with make up twirls, her pale skin a vivid contrast to her blood red lipstick, her huge silver claws a set of deadly accessories.
Arrows and spears and swords and bludgeons and knives and chains offer a variety of ways to decapitate or skewer the enemy - who are usually unrecognisable to the audience. But there is one moment, as cheesy as the rest of the film, when the music turns romantic and Conan has a soft glow on his scar tissue as the beautiful (and possibly eternal) Tamara (Rachel Nichols, effective) retreat into a cave on a hillside above the shore, where the boat awaits... only until dawn. In case you are worried that it slows the film down, rest assured, the interlude only lasts a couple of minutes.
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CONAN THE BARBARIAN (MA15+)
CAST: Jason Momoa, Stephen Lang, Rachel Norris, Ron Perlman, Rose McGowan, Bob Sapp, Leo Howard, Steven O'Donnell, Nonso Anozie, Raad Rawl, Said Taqhmaouie
NARRATION: Morgan Freeman
PRODUCER: John Baldecchi, Boaz Davidson,Randall Emmett, Joe Gatta, Avi Lerner, Danny Lerner, Fredrik Malmberg, Les Waldon
DIRECTOR: Marcus Nispel
SCRIPT: Thomas Dean Donnelly, Joshua Oppenheimer, Sean Hood (Conan character by Robert E. Howard)
CINEMATOGRAPHER: Thomas Kloss
EDITOR: Ken Blackwell
MUSIC: Tyler Bates
PRODUCTION DESIGN: Chris August
RUNNING TIME: 112 minutes
AUSTRALIAN DISTRIBUTOR: Roadshow
AUSTRALIAN RELEASE: August 18, 2011