When I was ayoung boy I discovered this ad in the Waikato times. It was in black and white, but as movie ads went it was massive. My father and I went me to see it together and it was WICKED. Sorcerors, humerous theives, Grace Jones, princesses and decapitations. The film led me to the the books and stories of Robert E. Howard and a new and exciting world opened up for me.
It is this nostalgic love on the film and the 1982 original that I suspect made me watch the remake. I think I was curious to compare this movie to the original stories and the 1982 film. Well I have seen it and I can safely say I would have rather spent the last 113 minutes watching four episodes of Jeremy Kyle back to back while having my eye brows plucked.
But more on that later let’s have a synopsis. There are some spoilers in here, but not as much as watching this movie will spoil your day.
The story starts with the Baby Conan being born by battle cesarean, courtesy of his father. His mother was having a baby shower, Cimmerian style. Apparently this involves inviting over the neighbours over for the traditional gifts and party evisceration's. Unfortunately the party gets out of hand when the proud mother gets the gift that keeps on giving, a terminal stomach laceration. With the Baby Conan born, the story jumps to Conan the tween, who is trying to earn his father’s (Ron Perlman) sword. But before he can Conan’s village is attacked by the army of Khalar Zym (Stephen Lang). Khalar Zym is seeking the scattered parts of an enchanted mask which was broken by the barbarian tribes a generation before. The Cimmerians are defeated, the final piece recovered and Conan’s father murdered. We then move to Conan the adult (Jason Momoa) along with his smouldering gaze seeking revenge. Yes it could have been the gaze that was seeking revenge, it was hard to ascertain.
There was so much smouldering, that there were a few times I had to pick up the cover and check that I had indeed rented a film about Conan the Barbarian, not a Harlequin romance on the big screen. But then it couldn’t be a Harlequin romance as the writing would have been better, and the characters more developed. I wonder if the script required Mr. Momoa to smoulder, or if it was so weak that when they were filming it the director asked Jason to smoulder to fill up time.
“Smoulder Jason, Smoulder.”
I estimate that least 58 of the film 113 minutes were of Mr. Momoa smouldering.
While the 1982 film was not based on a particular story of Mr. Robert E. Howard, it was at least set in his world of Hyboria. I might be wrong but there was little in this remake that relates to the first movie let alone the fantasy world of Robert E. Howard. Yes Conan was a Cimmerian in the Hyborian age, but there was little else of note. And say what you will about Arnold Swartzenegger, the man has a sense of humour and some big screen charisma. This movie really departs from both the original film and the fictional franchise it is meant to be based on.
In regards to the story I have seen less plot holes in my colander. The narrative development was chunky, weak, and poorly paced.The whole movie seemed rushed and disjointed. The fight scenes were impressive, but they soon became passé and repetitive. The violence trying to compensate for the insipid story, but not even the buckets of blood could add any colour to this mess.
The acting from the female lead (Rachel Nichols) was passable, Ron Perlman was typically great and the baddies comprising of Rose McGowan and Stephen Lang were fine. Rose stood out as the campy evil Sorceress, but none of this was enough to save this abysmal fantasy farce.
Fantasy can make the transition to film or TV, just look at the Game of Thrones for a good example. You just need a good script. Dammit an average script would be nice. But we keep seeing terrible scripts translating into poor dialogue and feeble stories which no 100 million production value can save. I have mentioned this before but the original movie made three times the budget in profit, this movie’s gross covered 20% of its budget. Hollywood must learn to spend more on decent writers and less on CGI and mediocre stunts.
I give this cinematic travesty two and a half Monkeys. One for not having a Wayans brother or Rob Schneider in it, and one and a half for having Ron Perlman and Rose McGowan, but this is one of the worst movies I have seen this year.