Director: Marcus Nispel
Writers: Thomas Dean Donnelly, Joshua Oppenheimer, & Sean Hood
(Based on the character created by Robert E. Howard)
So after having to see The Green Hornet in 3D in January I said THATS THAT! and vowed to never see another movie in 3D again. I successfully avoided them until this and I am now throwing up my hands again in frustration. JUST SAY NO! The $4 charge, the headache, the darker screen, the ghosting of the image, I really would have a hard time with anyone who said they actually liked 3D. Monmouth Mall was playing both Fright Night and Conan ONLY in 3D. Usually they offer a choice but this weekend they didn’t and I really hope it is a trend that doesn’t continue. I think I spent about 40% of the movie with my glasses off enjoying the full brightness of the picture with none of the headaches.
I am now convinced that Nispel really has no idea what makes a good competent movie. Sure Conan has all of the dressings of a fine Conan movie but it is just so dull and lifeless, rarely doing anything new or interesting. It is a Sci-Fi channel original movie with a $90 million dollar budget.
Momoa does his best as Conan and I would say walking out he was the one thing I thought was alright. After the first 15-20 minutes or so the action became boring and repetitive and it became clear that all of the sidekicks was the filmmakers attempt and trying to give Conan a sort of Pirates of the Caribbean type whimsy which never ever contributes to or helps the movie. Instead it just annoys and distracts.
The film starts with Conan literally being cut from his dying Mother’s womb on the battlefield. OK, I thought, off to a promising start! But that is about as crazy or as interesting as the movie gets. It happens in the first scene. The rest of the movie is Conan on a quest to get revenge on Khalar Zym, the man who killed his Father. Khalar is also trying to find the blood of a pure blood to feed into his mask’s pulsing asshole (yes) so that he can bring back his dead witch wife. Tagging along with him is his Daughter Marique playing by Rose McGowan in a truly crummy performance. Giving a worse performance is Rachel Nichols playing Tamara the pure blood/dopey love interest/tough chick. Thank god she took her top off in one scene so not a complete waste.
Momoa looks beefy enough and snarls pretty good and is convincing enough with a sword so he wins already. Pretty much Conan gets a piece of information about where he needs to go next, cut to the place with text underneath so that you know how to spell what was just said, and then Conan finds somewhere to fight. Repeat this about seven to nine times and you’ve got a 110 minute movie. In one scene for some reason Marique conjures up some martial arts experts made of sand to fight Conan. For some reason sand people also get hurt just like regular people so when Conan cuts them they get hurt. At first there is one and then there are five and then all of a sudden they stop. Why I do not know. Why doesn’t she just make a hundred of them over and over? Surely he wouldn’t be able to fight them all off. It isn’t like there is a lack of sand in the desert!
What I really don’t understand is why in a Conan the Barbarian movie, with copious amounts of blood and dismemberment, the filmmakers thought it would be a really cool idea to see a guy cut computer animated sand. Is this The Mummy? The Prince of Persia? PEOPLE FIGHTING SAND ISN’T COOL! You know what is cool? People fighting people.
At least it should be cool. I mean this is Conan the Barbarian! We are in a golden age of genre/fantasy/science fiction movies. I guess maybe not in terms of quality but they are being released constantly, getting the most attention, and the biggest budgets and yet how are they still churning out boring ones like this? I know there are a lot of people involved but I look at the helmer and I can’t help but think that Nispel just has poor taste when it comes to making movies.
I think another egregious error, after the sand people, comes when it is time for the bad guy to meet his doom. Instead of some grand barbaric move in which he is eviscerated Conan simple knocks a piece of wood from a rickety bridge and Khalar Zym falls hundreds of feet to his death. No blood, no close up of him falling, he doesn’t fall on spikes even or into a pit of monsters. He just falls really far. Is this a Disney movie? Isn’t that how Disney villains get killed? Between that and the sand people I would almost think this was envisioned as a PG-13 film which is most disappointing.
I would really love to say this was good and that there would be more but I would say that this has surely killed any interest the public might have in the Conan character. And I would also guess that in 20 years, or however long it takes for someone to attempt this again, it would be rated R. That is a shame because there is a wealth of stories to draw from and plenty of actually talented directors that could do right by the material it is just a shame that Lionsgate, which, when it comes to genre films, have a pretty crummy track record. Everything just looks and feels cheap with them and this is no different.