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The Independent Critic

STARRING
Jason Momoa, Ron Perlman, Rose McGowan
DIRECTED BY
Marcus Nispel
SCREENPLAY
Robert E. Howard (Character), Joshua Oppenheimer, Sean Hood, Thomas Dean Donnelly
MPAA RATING
Rated R
RUNNING TIME
112 Mins.
DISTRIBUTED BY
Lionsgate
DVD EXTRAS
Feature-length audio commentary with CONAN director Marcus Nispel
• Feature- length audio commentary with CONAN stars Jason Momoa and Rose McGowan
• The Conan Legacy – The history of the Conan character and its influence on the filmmakers of the new CONAN THE BARBARIAN
• Robert E. Howard: The Man Who Would Be Conan – An exploration of Conan novelist Robert E. Howard’s life and the creation of his most famous character
• Battle Royal: Engineering the Action – An in- depth look at the film’s major action scenes
• Staging the Fights – See how the stunt team acts out the battles prior to filming
 "Conan the Barbarian" Review 
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I live. I write. I criticize. I'm content.

Marcus Nispel, who directed remakes of Friday the 13th and The Texas Chainsaw Massacre, isn't so much a filmmaker as he is an assembler of high velocity carnage. This time around, Nispel is directing a remake of Conan the Barbarian, a film that made Arnold Schwarzenegger a household name in 1982 but is highly unlikely to do the same for Jason Momoa, who takes over the lead role and, somehow, manages to be an even less convincing actor than was Schwarzenegger.

Conan (Jason Momoa, Game of Thrones) is born smack dab in the middle of a battle where his mother is dying. Raised by his father (Ron Perlman), Conan is raised almost solely for the purpose of violence. This comes in handy when his father is killed by Zym (Stephen Lang) before his very eyes. Conan becomes bent on killing and revenge, probably a good thing since Momoa certainly is far more convincing as a muscle-bound killer than he is as an actual actor. Zym is seeking pieces of a broken mask for reasons that don't necessarily make that much sense, but this is Conan the Barbarian so that doesn't really matter. Zym is trying to activate the mask using the pure blood of a woman (Rachel Nichols), whom he attempts to find alongside his daughter, Marique (Rose McGowan), a sadistic little freak of a woman.

That's pretty much all there is to it.

I've never quite figured out the cinematic logic that allows for someone who kills multiple people in ultra-violent ways to become the film's hero. Alas, Conan is the film's hero and before long he's accompanied by, of course, Tamara.

Unlike the vastly superior Fright Night, Conan the Barbarian is horribly paced and exists with no apparent purpose in mind beyond the glorification of all things violent and gory. Even the gore, for that matter, isn't exactly of exemplary quality for the most part. The film is yet another poorly constructed 3-D film, with the Bulgarian set film so bleak and muddy that even with objects flying at you in 3-D the impact will be muted. Fortunately, a good portion of the film is not actually shot in 3-D (though I'm guessing that most theaters won't be telling you that).

Momoa is convincingly muscular, as anyone who has seen the film's trailer can surely attest, but he lacks Conan's barbaric personality. Momoa is more along the lines of Conan the Fairly Intense. With the exception of Rachel Nichols, who at least projects an ample amount of misdirected energy, nobody here really redeems themselves. Morgan Freeman even shows up here narrating the film, but his normally solid presence is as much a joke as the rest of the film. This may very well be the result of Nispel's surprisingly timid direction that leaves only the question "How the heck does this guy keep getting green-lighted?"

While the original Conan the Barbarian was by no means a brilliant film, director John Milius at least had a sense of what he was going for and seemed to have fun going there. Nispel squeezes all the fun out of Conan the Barbarian and leaves us with a hyped up self-importance and over-wrought dramatics that never really go anywhere. The truly barbaric thing about Conan the Barbarian is to think that there are those of you will go ahead and shell out your hard-earned bucks to go see it. Skip Conan the Barbarian and go check out the incredibly superior Fright Night instead.


© Written by Richard Propes
The Independent Critic
    The Official Rating Guideline
    • A+ to A: 4 Stars                
    • A- to B+: 3.5 Stars            
    • B: 3 Stars                         
    • B- to C+: 2.5 Stars           
    • C: 2 Stars
    • C- to D+: 1.5 Stars
    • D: 1 Star
    • D-: .5 Star
    • F: Zero Stars

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