Wednesday, 24 August 2011

Conan the Barbarian

Conan has had a troubled childhood: His mother died during childbirth, while his father raised him to be a warrior and to realise the importance of steel to the Cimmerian people. When a group of warriors ride in, destroy the village and kill the villagers, Conan’s father must sacrifice himself in order to save the young Conan. From that point on, Conan becomes older, wiser, stronger and better with a blade as he endlessly seeks out the warlord who brought destruction upon his life. His quest leads to Conan becoming a true barbarian...

I’m truly at a loss. I'll be honest, normally when I watch a film, I'll sit down as soon as possible to write a review so that you get my immediate reaction to it without anything influencing my judgement. With this, I struggled. I'm not a fan of these fantasy/swords/sorcery films or other media at all. I don't like The Princess Bride. I've never read a Terry Pratchett book. I'm not watching Game of Thrones. And, coming back to the subject at hand, I always found the original Conan the Barbarian dull and uninteresting, I couldn't even find any laughs at how bad it was. All this is why I'm at a loss. I'm at a loss as to why this film even exists, and I was at a loss as to how exactly I could write a fair and balanced review without bringing in my personal prejudices. I shall try, but no promises.

I just find the whole genre uninteresting. The only thing which is somewhat close to this which I liked was the Lord of the Rings trilogy, and that's almost an entire world apart, so this was always going to be a struggle for me. Upon watching it, I wasn't at all surprised by this. The plot was very samey and cobbled together from various classic stories, the screenplay cheesy and packed full of clich├ęs and the characters were two dimensional and uninviting. However, I can recognise that this film does exactly what's expected of it: There's plenty of fighting, lots of it with swords and such, there's some nice looking ladies, there's a big action hero, and lots of revenge killing. But that's not enough when there isn't a gripping story behind it, rather too much of the action on screen hinges on either a silly convoluted premise or nothing at all, providing some mindless and senseless action. To some that my appeal, but certainly not to me.

That's the main thing I took away from this film: There was a lot of blood, and a surprising amount of boobs on show. This is definitely a film for the guys. Saying that, the female antagonist is played by gorgeous Rose McGowan, and here she's completely unrecognisable, she looks hideous as the powerful witch and it's a waste of her looks, but she actually comes across well as the villain. Now we're taking about performances, let's go to Jason Momoa, who plays the Barbarian himself, and is very good and swinging a sword and looking strong. His delivery of dialogue isn't particularly impressive but it doesn't need to be, because this really isn't about the story, is it? Ron Perlman turns up as Conan's father, and I like Perlman as an actor, and he's OK in this, seemingly playing a human Hellboy. Rachel Nichols plays the female protagonist Tamara and again, she doesn't need to be a good performer, she just needs to look good and she does. Stephen Lang is probably the best actor in the film, playing the antagonist Khalar Zym. I have a theory it's easier to be bad than to be good on screen, and this film proves my theory.

To be honest, this film is just flat. I think that's why I'm having such a hard time forming an opinion on it; it's hard to form an opinion on nothing and that's what this film is. The action isn't major in the grand cinematic scale of things, it's relatively minor, and yet the gore produced is ungodly. The drama isn't there to captivate the audience, and there's no humour in it as if to provide a self-knowing nod. This film has taken itself far too seriously, and that's where its fault lies. Conan has true delusions of grandeur and potential sequels, but based on this, they'll be better off burying this franchise once and for all. Conan has existed since 1932 and in film since 1982, and I've yet to see anything nearly good produced surrounding this character, including this installment.

Overall, it's an unnecessary reboot of a long dormant and ridiculous franchise, made purely to rake in the summer blockbuster money that most cinema goers will gladly fork over for any old rubbish. It's not the worst film I've seen this year, hell not even the worst film I've seen this month, but by no means is it the best. By no means is this even good. I realise this review was short and not at all in depth, but I was never going to like this film, and I could never be subjective about it. There's a good amount of fighting and violence and nudity for a 15, very 300-like, and I appreciated that, but the film just never grabbed me in the way it should do as an outsider looking in to this foreign genre. Apologies, but this film was barbaric.

Rating: *1/2