Watching this dreaded remake only made me wonder if the film-makers even took the time to watch the original.
The remake parade will seemingly never end Hollywood and this one comes from a role that helped turn Arnold Schwarzenegger a global star in 1982 when he played the barbarian named Conan. This time Jason Momoa takes the lead role in “Conan the Barbarian” directed by Marcus Nispel. The cast is filled out by Rachel Nichols, Ron Perlman, Stephen Lang and Rose McGowan.
Seeing his family killed by a vicious overlord named Khalar Zym (Lang) when he was a child, Conan (Momoa) is forced into the world alone. Years later their paths cross and the grown barbarian sets off on his journey of revenge against the same man that killed his family. Conan will learn that not only is his mission one of vengeance, but he will also be the last hope of stopping an impending reign of supernatural evil that will destroy all civilization.
Despite the groan that comes from movie goers when the news of another remake hits the cinemas, there can be some good results. Sometimes the remade film can surprise and either add nostalgia to an already great original film, or add a fresh vision to an old subject. Unfortunately most of the time the result is a less than impressive film that doesn’t live up to the original it is based off of. Other times the films can be bad enough to the point where one would think they sold a project to the public merely on name-power alone, without the thought of a quality movie being made in the process.
Unfortunately in my opinion I feel the 2011 adaptation of the 1982 classic is the latter, and completely failed. As if being pumped with a 3D addition wasn’t enough to make you worry, after viewing this film it is hard not to feel like the movie was a cheap tale using an already well-known character. “Conan the Barbarian” seemed so far from the original it felt more like a twisted version of a “Scorpion King” spin-off. The overall tone was much lighter and clearly aimed to a younger audience who have no memory of Schwarzenegger’s rendition of the character and despite the R-rating, the film felt lighthearted and was much closer to a “Prince of Persia” than a violent barbarian flick.
The film wasn’t all bad, the costumes were great, the backdrops looked the part and did a relatively good job of pulling the viewer into a different era. The first-act was strong and Leo Howard was excellent as a young Conan. So good in fact that in my opinion his 15-minutes as the young barbarian were much more believable and entertaining to see than Jason Momoa as the characters adult representation.
Howard’s action scenes were intense, well choreographed, and with a great snow covered forest setting, the result on the screen was impressive visually. The score was intense as was Howard as he writhed like an animal and fought his way through anything he needed to in order to gain his fathers approval and survive.
From there the film went downhill quickly and soon turned into a generic tale, with thin characters and a highly predictable plot. The action-sequences with Momoa were elementary at best, and pretty much were all the same. The director tried to use angles and editing to intensify the action but it failed. I have seen other films with Jason Momoa showing some of his physical skills, but it was no where to be seen in this film.
Blundering enemies and repetitive sword play was pretty much the entire make up of the action shots in the film and they brought nothing new to the table despite decent special-effects. There was also no real fear conveyed from Stephen Lang as the antagonist or McGowen as his demented daughter.
The script didn’t help out much either, the dialogue was very dumb’ed down and some of the character decisions in the film were laughably ridiculous and were there to clearly pull the screenplay in the direction the filmmakers wanted. The film overall held a very different tone than the 1982 original and despite the lack of material to work off of, Mamoa was no where near as convincing as Schwarzenegger. Some of the special-effects seemed very out of place and with the clear intent of trying to draw some fright from the audience, it really only draws some chuckles.
There was no doubt after watching this film that the production companies were clearly selling this film on name recognition alone. There was very little about this film that captured elements from the original. The result was a film that was clearly going through the motions and delivered a rather uninteresting story due to lack of creative writing or ambition in concept. They tried to make the character of Conan everything he wasn’t in the original in my opinion, and during the film I kept thinking back to “The Mummy” trilogy and was waiting for Brendan Fraser to pop into a scene. The remake of “Conan the Barbarian” missed the mark by a mile, and isn’t worth the time.
Time: 113 min
MPAA Rating: R (For strong bloody violence, some sexuality and nudity)