Conan the Barbarian
dir Marcus Nispel
scr Thomas Dean Donnelly, Joshua Oppenheimer, Sean Hood
prd John Baldecchi, Boaz Davidson, Randall Emmett, Joe Gatta, Avi Lerner, Danny Lerner, Fredrik Malmberg, Les Weldon
with Jason Momoa, Stephen Lang, Rachel Nichols, Ron Perlman, Rose McGowan, Said Taghmaoui, Leo Howard, Nonso Anozie, Steven O'Donnell, Raad Rawi, Bob Sapp, Milton Welsh
release US 19.Aug.11, UK 24.Aug.11
11/US Millennium 1h52
Conan the Barbarian
On a mission: Momoa

lang perlman mcgowan

Prowling like a lion
Jason Momoa >>

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Conan the Barbarian With a complete lack of self-awareness, this po-faced remake looks more like a trash-TV series (a la Spartacus or Camelot) than a proper movie. Mainly because the filmmakers continually opt for gratuitous gore rather than actual storytelling.

Born in battle, Conan (Howard, then Momoa) is set on vengeance. His people, the Cimmerians, were slaughtered by the evil Khalar Zym (Lang), who was looking for the barbarian-held pieces to a mythical all-powerful mask. Once the mask is reassembled, Khalar Zym and his fiendish daughter Marique (McGowan) need a pure-blood of Acheron to activate it and, as luck would have it, the last one is hot babe Tamara (Nichols). So of course Conan and Tamara team up to fight off the villains and save the pre-historic world.

The first act is narrated by Morgan Freeman (who else?), who generously explains the back-story as if it makes sense. But the filmmakers merrily ignore continuity and logic, pasting the script together with action/effects sequences every few minutes, whether or not the story requires them. One early scene should actually be the finale, but everyone inexplicably escapes to fight another day. And the climactic battle with a tentacled beast is utterly superfluous.

In other words, this is lazy filmmaking, so there isn't a single moment of tension. And the tired cliches and stale formula make it both dull and pointless. With little on-screen personality, Momoa's thunderous physicality at least holds our interest, as does the over-groomed Nichols and shameless scene-chompers Lang and McGowan. Frankly, there isn't nearly enough Perlman (as Conan's dad) or Taghmaoui (as his sparky sidekick).

But the real problem is that it's so over-serious that it's no fun. The hyperbolic blood and gore is neither amusing nor horrific. A scene of father-son bonding through sword-forging never winks at its innate corniness. Lines like "I love, I love, I slay" are spoken with a straight face. And Marique's Freddy-Kruger talons are a step too far from the director who so tepidly remade Friday the 13th. In the end, it's not much more than another forgettable Hollywood marketing exercise.

cert 15 themes, strong violence, some sexuality 11.Aug.11

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© 2011 by Rich Cline, Shadows on the Wall