Conan the Barbarian (2011)

2012 #41
Marcus Nispel | 113 mins | Blu-ray | 2.35:1 | USA / English | 15 / R

Conan the BarbarianConan was created by Robert E. Howard in 1932, but is probably best known to most thanks to the Schwarzenegger-starring 1982 film, which was successful enough to provoke a sequel in 1984. Having never read any of the stories or watched either of those films, that’s about where my knowledge of the character ends — except for this recent attempt at a remake/reboot/whatever “re”-prefixed word you want to use this week.

Here, at least, Conan starts out as a young boy in a village of warriors, who are then massacred by the villainous villain in his quest for some MacGuffin. Naturally our young hero is the only survivor and I imagine at that point he swore vengeance, so he goes off and grows up to become someone with more muscles than acting chops (played by Jason Momoa, previously seen as a non-English-speaking muscleman in Game of Thrones) and somehow or other gets on the trail of the villain.

If my poor description sounds like the film doesn’t make sense, that’s a tad unfair, because it is followable… I just didn’t really care at any point. The plot kind of pings about through some disconnected set pieces, few of them particularly inspiring with the exception of one featuring ninja-types who are formed out of sand. Whether the story is faithful to Howard or a reinvention I don’t know, but either he’s been heavily borrowed from down the years Conan the Muscleor the filmmakers ignored his work in favour of familiar bits and bobs from other sources. Visually it’s just as non-inventive, which is what you get when you hire the director of a middling Frankenstein TV movie, two horror remakes, and Pathfinder.

This new version of Conan isn’t a dreadful movie per se, it’s just sort of uninspiring. I didn’t hate it, I just don’t care to particularly remember it, and even when I do I’m not 100% sure if all the things I remember are even from this film. There’s now talk that the next attempt to use the character will be an Arnie-starring sequel to the first film, skipping both the original sequel and this version. Perhaps that’s for the best, for both the franchise’s financiers and fans.

2 out of 5

This review is part of the 100 Films Advent Calendar 2012. Read more here.

1 thought on “Conan the Barbarian (2011)

  1. I’ve been reading Bob Howards stories since the mid-seventies and have to say the silver screen has always treated his work unfairly. The 1982 film is the best of a bad bunch, and I had hoped for a more faithful film with this latest Conan. Alas it was not to be, ignoring the original Howard stories and pretty much opting to just remake the Milius film. You should give the 1982 film a look, its far superior to this one. Not a true Howard film but it is a good sword & sorcery effort, and it does seem to get better with age.

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