Saturday, 23 July 2016


“How many names do I need?” CONAN THE BARBARIAN (2011) is director Marcus Nispel’s remake of John Milius’ 30-year-old classic vehicle for Schwarznegger. German–born Nispel has carved out his Hollywood career on post-millennial updates of Texas Chainsaw Massacre, Friday The 13th, Frankenstein (TV from a Koontz ‘concept’), and peculiar lost–Viking adventure Pathfinder (based upon a Norwegian original).

Born via battlefield C-section, the hero of this movie version of Robert E. Howard’s Hyborian champion is played by Jason Momoa (from Stargate Atlantis). His unfortunately–doomed father is portrayed by Ron Perlman (making Conan the ‘son’ of Hellboy!, Eh?). It starts in a Cimmerian village where, after his day of chores, boy Conan takes a shortcut during local warrior wannabes’ egg-in-mouth race home. He survives an ambush, and collects four heads, but he’s not ready for a sword until the village is attacked in a storm of blood and fire and that familiar rain-of-arrows cliché.

Bad guy Zym (Stephen Lang, ex-killer of Smurfs-on-acid in Avatar), re–assembles the bone shards of a powerful face–hugger mask to make himself a god, and resurrect his beloved. Having lost the invasion battle, there is further horror when Conan’s dad is doused in molten steel. Once grown up, Conan and his chums free a bunch of slaves, and then our muscular champ saves elusive pureblood ‘monk’, Tamara (Rachel Nichols; P2, G.I. Joe, Continuum), in the slick yet rather characterless mayhem of numerous action set–pieces happening amidst fairytale picture–book scenery. Whether he is killing or carousing (“I live, I love, I slay”), Momoa wins this month’s award for best ‘sneer with eyebrows’ performance. Rose McGowan (from Planet Terror) is venomously witchy as the top villain’s daughter Marique, who conjures up a sand wraiths’ kung fu melee, while shirtless Conan strikes his comicbook poses in strap–on rags.

Nispel is so fanatically intent on presenting stunts and special effects that lucid storytelling is neglected, and it falls to stilted unwashed dialogue and blunt flashbacks to carry the mediocre plot. Sadly, the filmmakers ‘forgot’ there needs to be an intriguing mythical dimension (which the original Arnie flick had plenty of!) to swordplay adventures like this. Empty spectacle is never appealing enough to fully entertain and this Conan fails the same way that Mike Newell’s clunky Prince Of Persia failed. It rattles hollowly and thoughtlessly along with nothing much to say about barbaric heroism or vengeance, and clearly no idea how to make up for its shortcomings with only the studio toolkit and high grade production values as commendable assets. “Behold, and despair!”

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