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Conan The Barbarian - DVD Review

Jason Momoa as Conan

Review by Jack Foley

IndieLondon Rating: 2 out of 5

WITHOUT wanting to suggest that the original Conans were anywhere near being masterpieces, Marcus Nispel’s remake is still a very poor update indeed.

Aside from catapulting man-mountain star Jason Momoa into the big screen limelight effectively enough, it’s a film that has very little to recommend it, especially at a time when the sword and sorcery genre has been revived to such thrilling effect by HBO’s Game of Thrones (which also, ironically, featured Momoa).

Rather, Nispel’s film exists merely to throw one fight scene out of the screen (in bloody 3D) after another without really bothering about plot or character development.

In fact, he dispenses with the plot in a lengthy voice-over during the opening credits before spending a further half an hour or so in the company of a young Conan (Leo Howard) and his father (Ron Perlman) that sets the stage for the barbarian’s bloody revenge years later.

But even in these early scenes, it’s effectively one fight or chase sequence after another, as young Conan proves his worth by staving off an early village attack while carrying an egg in his mouth… only to then watch helplessly as another warlord (Stephen Lang’s sorcery dabbling Khalar) slays his pa.

And that’s not forgetting the very first shot of Conan being born on the battlefield!

Once in the film’s present, it’s a case of seeing Momoa’s adult Conan track down those responsible for his father’s death, while trying to protect a pure blood woman named Tamara (Rachel Nichols) from being sacrificed in order to facilitate the revival of Khalar’s witch of a dead wife.

To be fair, Momoa emerges with reputation intact (and perhaps even enhanced) by virtue of his ability to show more charisma and intelligence than Arnold Schwarzenegger could muster.

But you can’t help but feel sorry for the way in which he has been short-changed by a script that gives him so little to do (is it any wonder he’s reportedly penning his own ideas for the sequels?). He does throw himself into proceedings physically and picked up a lot of wounds as a result.

Of the other characters, few register as anything other than stereotypes: damsel-in-distress (Nichols), pantomime villain (Lang), pantomime’s villain’s assistant (Rose McGowan)….

And it’s really hard to care about any of them when all Nispel seems content to do is throw them from one OTT fight scene to the next without bringing anything thrilling to them.

Rather, Conan is virtually indestructible and cuts his way through all the fodder placed in his path in a kind of computer game mode. It quickly becomes boring.

Nispel, though, must shoulder the bulk of the blame, as must the film’s creators. For a quick look at the director’s CV shows that he’s no stranger to squandering potential or journeyman tendencies: Pathfinder being a prime example of the former, and the Friday The 13th remake being an example of the latter. You’ve been warned!

Certificate: 15
Running time: 112mins
UK DVD & Blu-ray Release: December 12, 2011