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Reviews
STAR RATINGS EXPLAINED
Unmissable 5 Stars
Excellent 4 Stars
Good 3 Stars
Poor 2 Stars
Tragic 1 Star

POSTER ART
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FILM DETAILS
Certificate
15
Cast
Rachel Nichols
Jason Momoa
Ron Perlman
Rose McGowan
Stephen Lang.
Directors
Marcus Nispel.
Screenwriters
Thomas Dean Donnelly
Justin Oppenheimer
Sean Hood.
Running Time
112 minutes

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Conan The Barbarian
Crom laughs at your reboot


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Plot
The Hyborean Age. Khalar Zym (Lang) murders barbarian chief Corin (Ron Perlman) after taking the last piece of a magic mask. Later, Corin’s son Conan (Momoa) searches for Khalar Zym, intent on revenge. Khalar Zym needs Tamara (Rachel Nichols), the last of an ancient bloodline, to complete the ritual which will make him invincible. Conan and Tamara unite against the villain.


Review
John Milius’ Conan The Barbarian, which turned Arnold Schwarzenegger from a body-builder with a joke name and accent into a major movie star, casts a long shadow. This isn’t technically a remake — though yet again, the hero is seeking revenge for the murder of his father (the ‘origin’ trauma owes something to Once Upon A Time In The West), while the villain is assembling the plot coupons which will enable him to become an all-powerful bad wizard. The old sword-through-the-name logo gets reused, and even inspires a whole sub-plot for the sword. It might have been wiser to use a different title and another plot — as a radical notion, they might have adapted one of Robert E. Howard’s original Conan stories, or even the outstanding add-ons to the mythos Roy Thomas scripted for Marvel comics in the ’70s — because this Conan The Barbarian isn’t playing in Milius’ league.

The earlier film had epic scale, surrounding its hero with a credibly savage fantasyland. It’s easy to poke fun at the pulp pretension John Milius added to the mix, with quotes from Nietzsche and the like, but at least he brought a passion for the material to the table. Marcus Nispel, though, has never made a movie that wasn’t a remake or a reboot, and just meets the release date. Jason Momoa carries off the pantaloon kilt and long-hair look familiar from paperback covers and flashes a possibly winning personality despite thuddingly dull dialogue (‘I fight, I slay, I love, I am content’) and poorly edited fight scenes. Momoa isn’t Schwarzenegger (in truth, Conan wasn’t Arnie’s best role — he didn’t really break out until The Terminator), but he’s much better than Michael Donovan or Ralf Moeller, who played Conan in the 1992 and 1998 short-run TV series. Oddly, the script takes the trouble to back-reference the pilot of the Moeller show (released on video as Conan: The Heart Of The Elephant), suggesting this should be seen as a continuation of that, rather than as a relaunch for the movie franchise.

Though it has a decent Conan and a halfway acceptable off-the-peg baddie in Stephen Lang as Khalar Zym, nothing else works. The good girl (Rachel Nichols) is dreary and the bad girl (Rose McGowan) ridiculous — note that the villainess is the only woman in the film who doesn’t show her tits (seven Russian ladies are credited as ‘Topless Wenches’). Characters drift into frame, fight beside or against Conan, and wander off or die without troubling to introduce themselves. The plot meanders from place to place without urgency — when Khalar Zym finally puts on the magic mask, it doesn’t seem to make him more formidable. Action scenes spring up and blow over like summer storms (a carriage chase is the best bit), with moments of CGI-augmented bloodiness which ought to be more shocking than they are. And it has that muddy, ugly, drab look common among mid-range 3D movies. Theoretically exciting, it’s somehow very dull.

Leaving aside Milius’ Conan The Barbarian, this is thinner beer even than Conan The Destroyer, more on the scale of imitations like The Sword And The Sorcerer and Hawk The Slayer – if lacking their intermittent sense of fun. Howard’s fans were better served earlier in the year by Solomon Kane, though that also made the strange decision to use one of his characters but not adapt any of his (still readable and stirring) stories.


Verdict
Possibly better than Red Sonja or King Kull — but let’s face it, that’s scarcely a major breakthrough. Next time, get a director with a personality and actually read the source stories.


Reviewed by Kim Newman

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Your Reviews

Average user rating for Conan The Barbarian
Empire Star Rating

RE: Conan The Barbarian

Good action film does what it's support to do. A film where just watch and don't have to think ... More

Posted by Stringfellowfilms at 19:30, 06 March 2012 | Report This Post


RE: Conan The Barbarian

Good action film does what its support to do. A film where you watch and don't have to think ... More

Empire User Rating

Posted by Stringfellowfilms at 19:29, 06 March 2012 | Report This Post


Better than expected Conan

Solid action film. Okay acting and plot. Decent CGI. ... More

Empire User Rating

Posted by lynnshep at 22:35, 23 February 2012 | Report This Post


Better than expected Conan

Solid action film. Okay acting and plot. Decent CGI. ... More

Empire User Rating

Posted by lynnshep at 22:35, 23 February 2012 | Report This Post


I agree

This was a pretty poor remake or reboot. It just passes as light hearted sunday afternoon entertainment if you're bored and I can't say that there was a memorable fight scene or moment in the film. The boy who plays young Conan was a weed too, completely unconvincing as he takes on and kills about 4 barbarains single handedly. A dissapointment! ... More

Empire User Rating

Posted by dannyfletch at 21:46, 12 January 2012 | Report This Post


RE: Absolutely spot on review...

It's closer in tone to the original Howard stories than the Arnie version which I applaud, but it's a poor film and nowhere near as good as the 1982 version. ... More

Posted by garvielloken at 13:56, 13 December 2011 | Report This Post


RE: Absolutely spot on review...

No No No No No ... More

Posted by kargon at 13:06, 13 December 2011 | Report This Post


RE: Absolutely spot on review...

Crom laughs at this puny remake! ... More

Posted by Rgirvan44 at 13:05, 13 December 2011 | Report This Post


RE: Absolutely spot on review...

I just watched this and actually I quite liked it. It reminded me of an old joke that's still on the web "how to be an evil overlord" and can't help but think that if Zim had read that he would have been much better off as he broke every rule in the book. Even his castle fell down for no structural reason n any event it was what I expected from a film like this if the script had been a bit better it may have achieved cult status but as the script was dreadful I'll file it under extended episode... More

Posted by DanTDavies at 00:04, 13 December 2011 | Report This Post


Not A Patch On The Original

yes I have to say that I was confused with Conan The Destroyer and thought that that film was the original but I just realized this when I found the special edition dvd of Conan The Barbarian (The original pre destroyer) And it was such a good film that by comparison the 2011 version is utter garbage so just watch the original and you will see what I mean ... More

Empire User Rating

Posted by Bighousewill at 18:36, 09 November 2011 | Report This Post


Conan

just a little bit better than a part from Xenia or Hercules TV series. the characters weren't really intriguing except the sorceress. By the way, why her forehead was blurred out? ... More

Posted by szoni at 13:19, 14 September 2011 | Report This Post


RE: No concessions - The best it could be

This looks shit ... More

Posted by kargon at 11:35, 10 September 2011 | Report This Post


RE: No concessions - The best it could be

L: Rgirvan44 L: Deviation Didn't the original 1982 Conan have a rather powerful female character? he was like a valkyrie hey killed so much beauty in that film. What a waste. ... More

Posted by Deviation at 13:07, 07 September 2011 | Report This Post


RE: No concessions - The best it could be

Momoa was ok and the sand warriors were cool, but everything else really wasn't very good at all. In fact, I almost doozed off at one point and I say this as someone who was really looking forward to it. Rubbish script, generic baddy, awful lines ("I will be a GOD!"), none of it really made much sense... A disappointment 2/5 ... More

Posted by Timon at 11:25, 07 September 2011 | Report This Post


RE: No concessions - The best it could be

L: Deviation Didn't the original 1982 Conan have a rather powerful female character? he was like a valkyrie ... More

Posted by Rgirvan44 at 17:39, 03 September 2011 | Report This Post


RE: HMMPH......

ockquote]/i] ORIGINAL: The REAL Bozz e:RIGINAL: MonsterCat You just got served, son. I just read that Twitter thing, bit harsh if you ask me. I've seen plenty of decent reviews for this so I'm still looking forward to it. I wouldn't explain myself if I were you Paul. Sounds like a right grumpy old fart. Calling you names and everying! Shockin! Paul wasn't being serious in his original comment. He was taking the piss out of the sort of apologist nonse... More

Posted by Evil_Bob at 17:36, 03 September 2011 | Report This Post


HMMPH......

Not difficult to see why this thing tanked in the states. After watching it, you get the impression that everyone involved had put in an awful lot of blood, sweat and tears to get the film off the ground - but bottom line - it's still rubbish. That big prick Nispel has obviously never read a single Conan story in his entire life. And where's Arnie and John Milius when you need 'em. The old 1982 version is starting to look like a master work compared to this drearily mounted Scorpion King knock o... More

Empire User Rating

Posted by ROTGUT at 10:22, 02 September 2011 | Report This Post


HMMPH......

Not difficult to see why this thing tanked in the states. After watching it, you get the impression that everyone involved had put in an awful lot of blood, sweat and tears to get the film off the ground - but bottom line - it's still rubbish. That big prick Nispel has obviously never read a single Conan story in his entire life. And where's Arnie and John Milius when you need 'em. The old 1982 version is starting to look like a master work compared to this drearily mounted Scorpion King knock o... More

Empire User Rating

Posted by ROTGUT at 10:22, 02 September 2011 | Report This Post


RE: No concessions - The best it could be

Didn't the original 1982 Conan have a rather powerful female character? ... More

Posted by Deviation at 13:24, 01 September 2011 | Report This Post


RE: No concessions - The best it could be

L: Mindwick Conan orders the woman around and there is no feminist turning of the tables. aybe if this was meant to show how much of a barbarian he was, or if it was to be a 'sign of the times', it would be fine. But it seems to be played out for comedic effect more than anything, and I certainly felt that the director thought it was hilarious. It didn't sit right at all. ... More

Empire User Rating

Posted by Piles at 13:14, 01 September 2011 | Report This Post


No concessions - The best it could be

Sword and sorcery films cannot be on the level of intricately crafted art films. But Conan is the highest point any movie of this kind ever got. For the first time perhaps there is a blockbuster film that makes no concessions to attract a larger audience. These films usually have stupid preadolescent humor (Thor) or comic relief (C3PO or JarJar in Star Wars) to attract children and teenagers, they have a love interest to attract women and are incredibly infuriating when they show the hero refu... More

Empire User Rating

Posted by Mindwick at 22:14, 31 August 2011 | Report This Post


RE:

I hate to say it because I was really looking forward to seeing this as I am a big fan of the character and also of the original Schwarzenegger flick but this film was truly awful!I woulda been happy with something similar to 300 which itself is no masterpiece but has bags of style, decent action sequences, nasty monsters and half-decent performances (llyConan has none of this. Yes there are heads being lopped off, some ok swordplay and nasty monsters of sorts are indeed present - and these thi... More

Empire User Rating

Posted by lukeyboy at 11:35, 31 August 2011 | Report This Post


Not as bad to be funny. Not enough bloody to scary, too boring to be a bit exciting. It's like a bad shooter game - from location to location. No actual plot and every line of dialogues sound like "Ok, audience need to know what's going on (even nothing going on) do we need a get another location. So let get this shit throught and blow shit the fuck up". Now really I don't know what is worst - PotC 4 or Conan?? ... More

Empire User Rating

Posted by ARmy2510 at 00:19, 31 August 2011 | Report This Post


RE: Imitations?!

Gotta agree, it was freakin awesome. Went in with very little hope for it after reading some terrible reviews but found myself loving it, Momoa was great as Conan and could see him easily becoming synonomous with the role if they get to make another couple sequels. Tops the original for gore and pace (found the Arnie version as slow as a snail on prozac). It's not a classic or anything close to that but it is a good action film. Rachel Nichols was the worst thing about this but i alre... More

Posted by hairymonster11 at 09:50, 29 August 2011 | Report This Post


RE: Imitations?!

Saw this tonight and thought it was AWESOME! Much better than the original.Momoa is a great Conan and the film is non stop action all the way.It also doesnt hold back on the violence and gore which is a rarity for these kind of films these days. The only disappointment is that the Basil Pouledouris Conan theme isnt used. This will be an instant purchase for me when it hits Blu Ray. ... More

Empire User Rating

Posted by darth silas at 01:46, 29 August 2011 | Report This Post


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