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STAR RATINGS EXPLAINED
Unmissable 5 Stars
Excellent 4 Stars
Good 3 Stars
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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: Imitations?!

Thanks for clearing that up. ... More

Posted by The REAL Bozz at 14:14, 28 August 2011 | Report This Post


RE: Imitations?!

L: The REAL Bozz L: MonsterCat You just got served, son. 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! aul wasn't being serious in his original comment. He was taking the piss out of the sort of apologist nonsense that pops up in negative reviews of films like this.... More

Posted by adambatman82 at 13:52, 28 August 2011 | Report This Post


RE: Imitations?!

L: MonsterCat You just got served, son. 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! ... More

Posted by The REAL Bozz at 11:45, 28 August 2011 | Report This Post


Absolutely spot on review...

...no pride or passion for the story, just endless plot guffin, and none of the style or mood of the orginal. Jason Momoa did a more passable barbarian in Game of Thrones. ... More

Empire User Rating

Posted by hankeyjnr at 10:57, 28 August 2011 | Report This Post


RE: Disapointing

Id say that this was worse than 300, but that's not saying much. 300 had some really dynamic visuals but suffered from a bad script with really 2 dimensional characters. ... More

Posted by briza3059 at 02:30, 28 August 2011 | Report This Post


Added nothing of interest

Just unimaginative, Empire got this one right with the 2 star review. An opportunity lost with a pretty good lead character but after that it was just a sense of poor and lazy plotting and nothing we haven't seen before. ... More

Empire User Rating

Posted by bretty at 23:46, 27 August 2011 | Report This Post


RE: Imitations?!

Not my cup of tea.  The film bored me.  The plot couldn't carry it IMO but then again i wasn't expecting much so i wasn't disappointed.  I thought Jason Momoa was quite good as Conan and the guy who played his side kick was pretty good as well. ... More

Posted by princessa at 19:04, 27 August 2011 | Report This Post


RE: Imitations?!

You just got served, son. ... More

Posted by MonsterCat at 17:27, 27 August 2011 | Report This Post


RE: Imitations?!

Brilliant. 've tweeted him to explain though ... More

Posted by paul_ie86 at 15:57, 27 August 2011 | Report This Post


RE: Imitations?!

]old on though, does this mean Kim Newman reads threads that his reviews generate? Maybe he'll learn to avoid huge spoilers in each and every review of his from now on. ... More

Posted by matty_b at 15:46, 27 August 2011 | Report This Post


RE: Imitations?!

This is great. Poor Paul.  ... More

Posted by Rgirvan44 at 15:43, 27 August 2011 | Report This Post


RE: Imitations?!

L: Gretzky L: Olaf L: Darth Marenghi L: paul_ie86 What did you expect? It's not one of those nampy-pamby black and white arthouse films. It's was never going to win an Oscar. WHAT DID YOU EXPECT? ighly amused that Kim has just ripped Paul a new one on Facebook. I should probably tell him Paul was joking around./quote] Link please, bro. this sounds beautiful. oe Hill just retweeted it (how I saw it) : www.twitlonger.com/show/cm9snjote] just read this.... More

Empire User Rating

Posted by Piles at 15:35, 27 August 2011 | Report This Post


RE: Imitations?!

L: Olaf L: Darth Marenghi L: paul_ie86 What did you expect? It's not one of those nampy-pamby black and white arthouse films. It's was never going to win an Oscar. WHAT DID YOU EXPECT? ighly amused that Kim has just ripped Paul a new one on Facebook. I should probably tell him Paul was joking around./quote] Link please, bro. this sounds beautiful. oe Hill just retweeted it (how I saw it) : www.twitlonger.com/show/cm9snj ... More

Posted by Gretzky at 14:39, 27 August 2011 | Report This Post


RE: Disapointing

L: Wild about Wilder Just have to say if this is so crap then so's 300? ell yeah, 300 is god awful too. ... More

Posted by Piles at 14:01, 27 August 2011 | Report This Post


RE: Imitations?!

L: Darth Marenghi L: paul_ie86 What did you expect? It's not one of those nampy-pamby black and white arthouse films. It's was never going to win an Oscar. WHAT DID YOU EXPECT? ighly amused that Kim has just ripped Paul a new one on Facebook. I should probably tell him Paul was joking around./quote] Link please, bro. this sounds beautiful. ... More

Posted by Olaf at 13:57, 27 August 2011 | Report This Post


RE: Imitations?!

L: paul_ie86 What did you expect? It's not one of those nampy-pamby black and white arthouse films. It's was never going to win an Oscar. WHAT DID YOU EXPECT? ighly amused that Kim has just ripped Paul a new one on Facebook. I should probably tell him Paul was joking around. ... More

Posted by Darth Marenghi at 12:53, 27 August 2011 | Report This Post


RE: Disapointing

Just have to say if this is so crap then so's 300? ... More

Posted by Wild about Wilder at 09:52, 27 August 2011 | Report This Post


90 minutes of in your face action and gore and not much more

Aficionados of violence and gore will lap this one up. 'Highlights' include head slamming in ship wheels, molten metal poured over the face (OK technically that one is a sacrifice.) And the gore flies left, right and centre (and seems to be mainly for the 3D) but doesn't tend to be any more original than the odd splash of blood for the most part. What little plot there is doesn't really inspire much interest, of the 117 films I have watched at the cinema since Jan 1st this will be more forgetta... More

Empire User Rating

Posted by filmsunlimited at 09:51, 27 August 2011 | Report This Post


Disapointing

So disappointing....I have fond memories of the original from when I was a kid....but I knew I had to go in there with no expectations....that being said this film hand none of the charm or elements of the original, it was pure drivil. I think Mamoa would of been fine with better material but this writing was just crap. The most annoying thing was that the music kept sounding like it was about to spring into the theme from the original which was one of my favorite elements. It never eventuated a... More

Empire User Rating

Posted by briza3059 at 05:36, 27 August 2011 | Report This Post


RE: Imitations?!

The evil Khalar Zym seeks the parts of a mask which, when complete, will turn the wearer into a powerful god.  Meanwhile in the northern land of Cimmeria, Conan’s mother dies after giving birth to him during a battle. As a boy Conan starts to become a fine warrior, but then Zym and his band of brigands raid his village because it contains a part of the mask he is after, and kill Conan’s father.  The boy spends many years in the wilderness but never forgets his mission of r... More

Empire User Rating

Posted by Dr Lenera at 18:44, 26 August 2011 | Report This Post


RE: Imitations?!

d you expect? It's not one of those nampy-pamby black and white arthouse films. It's was never going to win an Oscar. WHAT DID YOU EXPECT? t a decent film not moronic drivel ... More

Posted by Bighousewill at 17:42, 26 August 2011 | Report This Post


RE: Imitations?!

No, they can't. Back to the 1920s I say.  ... More

Posted by Deviation at 17:36, 26 August 2011 | Report This Post


RE: Imitations?!

Woman can think for themselves?!?!??!?!?!??!?1?!? ... More

Posted by paul_ie86 at 17:34, 26 August 2011 | Report This Post


RE: Imitations?!

L: paul_ie86 What did you expect? It's not one of those nampy-pamby black and white arthouse films. It's was never going to win an Oscar. WHAT DID YOU EXPECT? film where the answer to a free-thinking woman isn't to gag her and tell her to go to sleep? ... More

Posted by Piles at 17:32, 26 August 2011 | Report This Post


RE: Imitations?!

What did you expect? It's not one of those nampy-pamby black and white arthouse films. It's was never going to win an Oscar. WHAT DID YOU EXPECT? ... More

Posted by paul_ie86 at 17:30, 26 August 2011 | Report This Post


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