Movies Reviews

Friday Night at the Movies // Conan: The Barbarian (2011)

Releasing next week on DVD and Blu-Ray is the 2011 big budget Conan movie. I had heard a lot of mixed reviews from people, some calling it the worst movie ever, some saying that it was awesome. I think it all comes down to what you’re expecting from a Conan movie. Being a Robert E Howard fan, there are a few things that I come to expect from a Conan story.

    Conan, obviously.
    An ancient relic or treasure.
    Evil magic user.
    Epic battles against some type of monster.

This movie delivers on ALL of those things and does a pretty damn good job of it.

I live, I love, I slay, and I am content.

First off, Conan, played by Jason Momoa, of Baywatch fame. Oh, he’s not famous for Baywatch? Oh that’s right, he played Khal Drogo in Game of Thrones. If you’ve seen the first season of Game of Thrones, then you already know that Momoa can pull this look off, and he does. Maybe it’s just been awhile since I watched GoT but it seems he is smaller in Conan, or maybe it’s just the Daenerys is so small that whenever you saw him he looked like a monster next to her. Either way, he plays Conan as the good spirited yet brutal Cimmerian that I’ve always been a fan of. We get to see Conan’s birth in the middle of war, and then him growing up and becoming a warrior as his village is attacked by Khalar Zym’s forces. Forced to watch his father, (played excellent by Ron Perlman in one of the few roles where he’s not smoking a cigar constantly) die by molten steel, he seeks revenge.
Made from the bones of ancient kings? Creepy.

This is where that ancient relic and evil magic user come into play. Khalar Zym is looking for the pieces of the ancient Mask of Acheron that will allow him to control powers from beyond. The mask was shattered hundreds of years ago and the pieces hidden by the barbarian tribes so that it could never be used again. Zym is power hungry, obviously, but wants to bring his wife back to life to help him rule the wold. With him is his witch daughter Marique played by Rose McGowan being creepy as all hell. Who has some bizarre ability to sniff out the bloodline of Acheron and be able to locate the pieces of the mask. Since the mask requires a sacrifice of blood, they still need to find a female survivor of the bloodline of Acheron’s kings. There’s a pretty good fight scene, the one that’s in the trailers, of Conan fight some sand people that Marique summons, and then he fights Khalar Zym.

Here’s my gripe, probably the only thing that annoyed me. Why is it that EVERY villain has to have some type of gimmick weapon? Khalar Zym has some bizarre double bladed sword. At first it’s just a sword with two blades next to each other and it looks wicked sweet. Then during the fight the hilt splits and he has a crazy double bladed sword like Darth Maul’s lightsaber. It’s just gimmicky and really distracts from what would be an otherwise badass sword fight.

I never thought I'd be creeped out by Rose McGowan blowing me a kiss...

There is a monster battle that completely catches you off guard. There’s a brief flash of it in the trailers, lots of tentacles and such. I was expecting to not see it until the very end and Zym possibly summoning some type of eldritch horror from beyond. Sadly, not to ruin anything, but that’s not what happens. It’s still an alright scene, just not as high stakes as I was expecting. The CGI is first rate though, so at least there’s that. I would rather have seen some practical effects used for some of the shots where it’s not grabbing people and smashing them against walls, but all in all it’s well done.

A feast for the dweller!

Overall this is a pretty good introduction to Conan for a new generation. It really does a good job of honoring Robert E Howard and his works while being entertaining. And that’s what’s important here, if you’re expecting some type of message about the battle between good and evil, love and hate, etc etc. you’re going to be upset. There is none of that here. This is a pure, pulp adventure story and it really shines in this age of self important storytelling. If you’re looking for a good time, and just want to see a guy tear people apart with a sword, then by all means, you will love this movie.

Oh, and here are your boobs, you’re welcome.

I think we know where this is headed.

Author’s Note: Yes I own the Arnold movies, but it’s more of a nostalgia, cult kind of purchase than it was some sort of appreciation for the films. The only things those movies got right was Howard’s hatred of snakes.

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