Conan the Barbarian – Film Review

To reboot or not to reboot is the question that some filmmakers have to answer sooner or later. The problem is the answer is not as clear cut as some people may believe. If the reboot is a success you are hailed a success both by the faithful and many of those who doubted you in the first place. On the other hand if you fail you risk condemning any future attempts to resurrect the franchise to development hell.

Conan the Barbarian is the latest film to attempt to walk this perilous reboot tightrope. In many ways the film does succeed in one thing – it left me wanting to see more of Conan and his world despite the films flaws.

Stepping into arnie’s shoes is no mean feat. Momoa stepped up to challenge and was equal parts menacing,brooding and brutal when the plot required it. The film makes it pretty clear that you really do not want to get on Conan’s bad side. Momoa handled the humorous moments well and he was certainly no slouch when it comes to swinging a sword. In this kind of a film you want to see the star in the thick of the action and in that regard I was not short changed. In fact I was hard pushed to tell where Momoa ended and his stunt double started.

This Conan is a different animal to his previous big screen outings. Arnie’s Conan was like a bear; huge, lumbering and brutal. Momoa  gives us a Conan which is more akin to the wolf;  faster,leaner and more vicious. It’s a smart move on the casting team as I spent less time trying to compare two performances as they were very different. One scene in particular where Conan announces to an enemy what will happen if he runs from him summed up the kind of Conan we get in this film.

Rachel Nicholls whose character secret holds the key to the bad guy’s plan does a solid enough job in the role she given.It’s clear she is a capable of looking out for herself and has no qualms when it comes to killing. There are a few times when she falls into role of damsel in distress screaming out for Conan to save her which does seen a little odd when several minutes earlier she’s cracking skulls left,right and centre.
Stephen Lang and Rose McGowan as the father and daughter team do a great job as the bad guys of the film. Lang revels in the role of chief bad guy and spends most of it killing folk with a permanent snarl seared on his face. Although the script tries to give the dysfunctional twosome a little back story it’s clear in a brutal and savage world these two have zero tolerance for anyone who gets in their way.

My main praise in the acting department is reserved for Leo Howard who plays young Conan. From the first moment you see him savagely take out three warriors to training with his father, played by Ron Perlman Howard is a lot of fun to watch. In in the short screen time Perlman and Howard are on screen they left more of an impact on me than most of the film. One of my regrets and I think weaknesses of the film is the transition from young Conan to adult  Conan comes on too quick. I would have loved to have seen more from of his transformation from young Conan to teenage Conan to adult Conan. I would actually pay good money to see a young Conan film if they can get Howard to reprise his role.

Action wise there’s a lot to like about Conan. There’s some great set pieces and actions sequences in this film. Those with a weak stomach may wish to steer clear as the filmmakers have set out to give the audience a lesson on what it means to be a barbarian. If one scene involving a nose doesn’t make you wince then you’ve got a stronger stomach than me. Despite blood and gore being your constant companions during the film you never feel completely overwhelmed by it.
There was some great sword work in the film but some of the beauty of it is lost, thanks to hollywood’s ongoing obsession with over editing and quick cutting fight scenes. To make up for the editing we are treated to a fantastic sequence in which Conan battles against supernatural sand zombies (couldn’t come up with a better term) which leads into a brutal clash with Lang. It was one of the best parts of the film for me and that includes the climax which was a little weak by comparison.

For me the poorest aspect of the film was the soundtrack. There’s nothing memorable about the score, it’s bland and does little to enhance the atmosphere of the film. In a fantasy film that is a big no no in my book.   I wasn’t expecting them to hit the heights of  Basil Poledouris’ epic scores from the earlier Conan films but it felt like it wasn’t even trying to and was afraid to step out of the shadow of it’s elder brother.

So in case of Conan the Barbarian was this a successful reboot? Well it gave me a Conan that was true in spirit to the films I had seen before as well as some of the Conan books and comics but yet was still lacking something. Despite the action, lavish sets,special effects and sword play the film isn’t that memorable. The original films had an epic quality to them a lot of which was due to it’s soundtrack which here is found wanting. One thing it definitely did give me was a Conan I liked and I would no complaints if Momoa decided to return to the role.

If you are after a good old fashioned swords and sorcery romp then I would say Conan is worth checking out. It’s not the kind of film you are going to be talking about for weeks to come and the plot isn’t great but it’s fun and entertaining. At a little over 100 minutes the film never really drags it’s feet and keeps up a good pace, sometimes at the cost of plotting. It also gives me hope for the potential of the franchise with Momoa at it’s helm as the brooding Cimmerian.

GS Rating: 3/5
Gs reviewer:Nuge

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One comment

  1. i love leo, i want to see the movie but i have to wait till its on netflix 🙁 i hope it gets on netflix…

    big leo fan!!!

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