Rating: 3 stars out of 5
With a plot straight as an arrow, this reboot of the movie franchise based on the character created by Robert E Howard is exactly what it says on the tin. Lots of fighting, action and not too much plot, coupled with some coupling, will likely please fans not looking for much more.
Stepping into the very large shoes of Arnold Schwarzenegger is Jason Momoa, who recently made a name for himself playing another barbarian, Khal Drogo, in the HBO TV series Game of Thrones. To play the Cimmerian, Momoa has removed the drag queen eyeshadow, and while he might not be anywhere as muscular as Arnie, he does a decent job as the titular character.
The movie starts with Conan being born on the field of battle, after his father (played by Ron Perlman) performs a primitive C-section on his dying mother. Years later, his village is raided by the sorcerer Khalar Zym (Stephen Lang), along with his daughter Marique (Rose McGowan), and Conan’s father is killed right in front of him. Jump to twenty years later and Conan seeks revenge on Khalar.
Directed by Marcus Nispel, best known for his remakes of classic slasher films Friday the 13th and The Texas Chainsaw Massacre, Nispel delivers the necessary if not much more. The vistas and locales that Conan visits are impressive, and part of the camp of the earlier Conan movies with Arnie is gone.
The action scenes, and there are plenty of them, are well-conceived, and Nispel avoids the jittery hand-held camera of his peers that make watching action so painful these days. There are some issues with editing, which occasionally comes across as splotchy.
There are moments that don’t quite flow. Conan battles against a group of warriors that seem to be composed of sand, and one moment he can’t damage them and in the next weapons are lethal to them. Some of the enemies he fights appear to have just been sitting around waiting for him to appear.
Despite these faults, the movie captures well the pulp fantasy flavour of writer Robert E. Howard’s original works. The Conan stories did not have the intricate background of Tolkien’s novels, nor the political intrigue of A Game of Thrones, and the simplistic storyline will probably play well to the audience. However, hard core fans of Howard’s books may not take so well to certain tinkering. Conan hardly swears to Crom, and Khalar Zym even says that the Cimmerians are a godless people.
This portrayal of Conan is straightforward; a sort of Old Spice Guy of his time who’s an Alpha Male, taking down half-a dozen warriors of a rival tribe before he’s even fully grown. Women throw themselves at him.
All in all, one can’t be expecting much from this B-movie story with near A-list special effects, but it does capture the pulpy fun of the original stories with plenty of blood, gore and swordplay. Things may get hairy here, but they’re never too wild.