By Danny Kampling
Conan the Barbarian” returns to the big screen after an absence of 27 years. Although the previous films that starred Arnold Schwarzenegger promised us a film that depicted Conan as a king, what we have received instead is a reboot of the franchise, which is only loosely based off of the pulp stories he first appeared in by writer Robert E. Howard.
The efforts of this new Conan film by being given an R rating appear to be great on paper, but the end results are rather disappointing for a film being in development such a long time and having plenty of good source material to draw from.
The beginning of the film depicts Conan as a young boy who grows into the famous warrior, who becomes involved in a typical sword and sorcery plot with the villain gaining unlimited powers from a mask that broken into pieces and hidden through the land. Right away, the audience wonders why the mask’s pieces were hidden, rather than completely destroyed, giving you a taste of how this film handles logic.
Jason Momoa from the HBO series “Game of Thrones” makes the title role of Conan his own with a suitable bulky stature and likeable charisma, although it does appear that he wears a little too much mascara. Rachael Nichols plays the “MacGuffin” of the film, a beautiful woman named Tamara, who is a training monk and unknowingly a descendent of a bloodline needed to resurrect the villain’s wife, who was burned alive for being a witch. Although her character maintains a tough attitude through the film, she is left as the typical “damsel in distress,” screaming her way through the final act. Stephen Lang is a fine addition to the cast as the villain of the film, Khalar Zym, who killed Conan’s father, played by Ron Perlman, when he was a boy and is Conan’s final opponent for his series of revenge killings for his father and people’s deaths. Rose McGowan is the weakest member of the cast as Marique, the witch daughter of Khalar’s who resembles a reject alien from “Star Trek” and is unintentionally funny in the role by constanly overacting her role and clanging her metal claws whenever she’s onscreen.
A staple of the previous “Conan the Barbarian” film was the high level of violence, which is enlighten even further by director Marcus Nispel, who helmed the reboots of the horror movie franchises “The Texas Chainsaw Massacre” and “Friday the 13th.” While the typical blood slashing and impaling is usual business in these types of R rated films, there are some pretty gross out moments that may feel like they have gone a bit too far, such as depicting Conan’s caesarean birth during the film’s a battle scene and a young Conan carrying decapitated savages heads during his rite of passage. While Nispel’s direction of the violence and gore of the film may be over the top, his approach of using very little computer generated images made this film a bit more believable that other sword and sorcery films of today. Plenty of humor is peppered throughout the film, including Conan displaying his barbaric nature against Tamara, by commanding most of her moves like “Go to sleep” or “Get off the horse.” The film was converted into 3D and exhibits very little instances to make it worth while to see in this format, aside from adding depth to the visuals. The dark lighting of the film would serve against the 3D process, as the glasses make the picture darker than it is on the screen. Recommend seeing this in 2D only.
“Conan the Barbarian” is not quite the idolized version of the famous character and was not up to par with the original “Conan” film by director John Milius. The original succeeded by using very minimalistic dialogue and letting the visuals and music speak for themselves. Perhaps another film using that approach would be more interesting than this mega-violent outing of the Conan universe. However, it seems that Conan’s adventures may not continue, due to the low box office returns of the film, proving to be one of the lesser films summer films that closes the season before school starts back up.
Dan Kampling is a film enthusiast, majoring in Electronic Media at Wichita State University.