Film Review: Conan The Barbarian (2011)

on Wednesday, August 24, 2011
'Conan The Barbarian' (UK Release: 24 August '11) // Words: Saam Das

The world has clearly been screaming out for a remake/reboot/reimagining of the Arnold Schwarzenegger duet of Conan films from the mid-1980s. And thus the world has got what it deserved. I don't normally like to belittle or stick the knife into projects that people have spent years of their life on but 'Conan The Barbarian' is really quite poor.

The funny thing (or rather, the sad thing) is that the film begins rather promisingly with Conan's origin story - from his birth mid-battle to his swordsmith father's (Ron Perlman) upbringing of the young warrior. We see Conan's tenacity and ruthlessness even in his meagre age as he kills a set of invaders. Soon, however, his village is overrun, led by Khalar Zym (Stephen Lang), who seeks the final piece to a mask that will allow him all the power in the world. Or something.

Conan and his father attempt to stop Zym, and we see Conan's capability for love. (More on this shortly.) But it doesn't do much good as Zym finds the mask with ease. Yet when he completes the mask, nothing much happens. Apparently, the pure blood of one of the ancestors of the mask's creators is needed. Step forward Tamara (Rachel Nichols) as the film's subsequent (romantic sub-)plot device. As Conan seeks out Zym, he must protect Tamara - obviously, slaying countless baddies along the way.

My enthusiasm for the film began to wane rapidly and as each bad guy fell at the sword of Conan (Jason Momoa), I felt empathy with those dying - as I was succumbing to death by boredom. The most interesting character, Khalar Zym's daughter (Rose McGowan), has precious little to do other than some hocus pocus. Maybe she could have been involved in the romantic sub-plot instead or at least, in addition. At least that might have spiced things up.

I very much wanted to like the new 'Conan The Barbarian' - I'm ambivalent about the Ahnuld versions - in my head, his Conan and his character from 'Red Sonja' are one and the same, and that's not a compliment. So there was ample opportunity to present a rejuvenated, enjoyable new installment. That never happened.

I spent most of the latter half of the film thinking about what would be a more appropriate title - 'Conan The Borebarian', 'Borenan The Barebarian', 'Conan The Barboreian' and so on. I would strongly recommend keeping 'Conan The Barbarian' at least a sword's length away unless you enjoy dull, uninspiring storytelling. Please no sequel. Please no sequel. Please no sequel.


'Conan The Barbarian' is out on wide release throughout UK cinemas from today. Saam watched the film at the Empire Big Screen.

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