Conan the Barbarian (2011)

PLOT (spoiler alert!!):

Conan is the son of Corin (Ron Perlman), chief of a barbarian tribe. The youth (Leo Howard) is a skilled but violent warrior, who his father believes is not ready to wield his own sword. One day, their village is attacked by the forces of Khalar Zym (Stephen Lang), a warlord who wishes to reunite the pieces of the Mask of Acheron in order to revive his dead wife and conquer Hyborea. Thousands of years ago, the Mask, crafted by a group of sorcerers and used to subjugate the world, was broken into many pieces, which were scattered among the barbarian tribes. After locating Corin’s piece of the mask, and murdering the entire village, Zym leaves. Conan is the only survivor, and swears revenge.

Years later, Conan (Jason Momoa) has become a pirate, but still seeks revenge. In the city of Messantia, he encounters Ela-Shan (Saïd Taghmaoui), a thief being chased by a man whom Conan recognizes as Lucius (Steven O’Donnell), one of Zym’s soldiers from years before. He allows himself to be captured alongside Ela-Shan. Conan escapes imprisonment and confronts Lucius, forcing him to reveal that Zym seeks the pure-blood descendant of the sorcerers of Acheron; sacrificing the descendant will unleash the mask’s power. Conan helps the rest of the prisoners to escape, and, in gratitude, Ela-Shan tells Conan that, if he ever needs him, Conan will find him at the City of Thieves, Argalon.

Zym and his daughter, the sorceress Marique (Rose McGowan) attack a monastery where they hope to find the pure-blood descendant. Sensing something is wrong, Fassir (Raad Rawi), an elderly monk, tells one of his students, Tamara (Rachel Nichols), to run away and return to her birthplace. Tamara’s carriage is chased by Zym’s men, but Conan rescues her, and also captures one of Zym’s men, Remo (Milton Welsh). After forcing him to reveal Tamara’s importance as the pure-blood, Conan catapults Remo into Zym’s nearby camp.

Zym and Marique confront Conan, who pretends to be interested in exchanging Tamara for gold. Conan attacks Zym, but Marique saves her father by invoking soldiers made of sand and then poisoning Conan with a poison-laced boomerang sword. Tamara rescues him and they return to Conan’s ship, stationed nearby, where his friend Artus (Nonso Anozie) helps Conan recover. The boat is attacked by Zym’s men, and, although they kill several of Conan’s men, they are defeated. Conan orders Artus to return to Messantia with Tamara and departs to confront Zym in his kingdom. Artus tells Tamara that Conan left a map behind and she follows him, meeting with him in a cave, where they make love. The next day, as she is returning to the boat, Zym’s men and daughter capture her.

Conan learns of Tamara’s capture and departs to Argalon, where he asks Ela-Shan to help him break into Zym’s castle unnoticed. Zym prepares to drain Tamara’s blood, mending the mask. After confronting an octopus-like monster that guards the dungeons, Conan infiltrates Zym’s followers and watches as Zym puts on the empowered mask. Conan releases Tamara, and she escapes as he battles Zym with the castle falling around them. Marique attacks Tamara, but Conan hears Tamara’s scream and defeats Marique, cutting off her hand. Tamara kicks her into a pit, where she is impaled on a large spike. Zym comes and, finding his daughter’s corpse, he swears revenge upon Conan.

Conan and Tamara become trapped on an unstable bridge as Zym attacks them. He uses the mask’s power to call forth the spirit of his dead wife, Maliva, a powerful sorceress who was executed by the monks from Tamara’s monastery for attempting to unleash occult forces to destroy Hyborea, and Maliva’s spirit begins to possess Tamara. She begs Conan to let her fall, but he refuses, and instead stabs the bridge before jumping to safety with Tamara. The bridge collapses, taking Zym along. The power-hungry ruler falls to the lava below the immense precipice screaming the name of his wife, implying his demise.

Conan and Tamara escape and he returns her to her birthplace, telling her that they’ll meet again. He then returns to Corin’s village and tells the memory of his father that he has avenged his death and recovered the sword Zym stole from him, restoring his honor

REVIEW:

I have made it no secret that I am no fan of remakes. I even made it quite the point to dissuade people from seeing this film, and yet here I am actually watching it. So, has it changed my initial stance? No, but it wasn’t a total loss.

What worked?

Well, in the original Conan the Barbarian, Arnold Schwarzenegger brought Conan to life with his larger than life physique, yet his acting left something to be desired, partially because it was his first English-speaking film. Jason Momoa brings the same kind of presence, though he isn’t as big and can actually speak English.

Action. This is the kind of film that is made to showcase action. If you don’t get lots of that, then why even bother making it, right?

Blood and gore. Now, this isn’t horror film level blood and gore, but there is plenty to go around. Picture if we actually had a God of War movie (something someone needs to consider).

Stephen Lang. If you’re not aware of who this guy is, there is a chance you know who he is, just not his name. I think his biggest role is as the power mad general in Avatar that leads the attack on the Navii. Believe it or not, this role, as evil as he is, can be considered a bit of a step down (in terms of evilness), from him. However, he is still an evil s.o.b.

The stuff that didn’t work.

Story. All props for trying to come up with a decent story that gives nods to the original, but is different, but this is not exactly easy to understand. Too many times it seems to be going somewhere, then jumps to something else.

Rose McGowan. I love this woman, make no mistake about that, but the way they had her in that weird almost alien make up this just didn’t sit right, especially since her younger self and her father didn’t have it. Something didn’t quite make sense about her look.

Rachel Nichols. I’m tempted to give her a pass because she’s mainly a model, then I remember this is not her first rodeo. She had a fairly major role in G.I. Joe: The Rise of Cobra. For some inexplicable reason, she just comes off cold and aloof here, even when she’s supposedly being the caring damsel in distress wanting to sacrifice herself for the good of the people, or whatever. I just didn’t buy it.

Tone. Dark film are not up my alley. For me, this felt a little too dark for what it was supposed to be. If they would have lightened it up a bit, maybe they could have darkened it up (or is it down) for the sequel(s).

Everyone I know that has seen this has hated it. No, I didn’t hate it, but I won’t be making any attempts to see it again. If I want to see Conan, I’ll watch the original, or even better, tune it to TBS weeknights and watch his talk show! I cannot recommend this to anyone, but I will say that, for all the faults it has, there is potential here…wasted potential.

3 out of 5 stars

One Response to “Conan the Barbarian (2011)”

  1. […] those guys. Aside from being a remake, one of the things that I couldn’t really get into in Conan the Barbarian (2011) was his acting. This director was smart enough to give him very few lines. All the guy has to do is […]

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