To quote my buddy Nelson. “It was all right…”
To which I could only shrug and nod and say “Yeah.”
There was a lot to like in this movie, for sure. Unfortunately it was mixed in with plenty of things you just can’t get past.
The entire chapter about Conan as a boy was cool. He’s “born on the battlefield” and even as a child is a fighter to be reckoned with. His father (Ron Perlman) teaches him swordsmanship, and helps him craft a sword for himself. It’s not long however, before their village is raided by the Necromancer Khalar Zym (Stephen Lang) and his daughter (Rose McGowan), who are seeking a piece of an ancient mask which – legend holds – will allow them to raise the dead. Conan puts up quite fight for a little dude, but in the end, his father is killed, and Zym and his daughter make off with the piece of the relic.
Thus begins Conan’s quest for revenge.
When we next meet Conan, he’s a fully grown warrior (Jason Momoa). He fights and wenches his days away in a suitably barbarian fashion, while he searches the four corners of the Earth for the sorcerer and his daughter. When he finally crosses paths with one of their former henchman, he has found their trail at long last.
Momoa certainly looks the part. He’s dark and musclebound and I think they had him roll around in dirt each day before they rolled film. I don’t think any of the character’s shortcomings can be blamed on his acting, per se. I mean, he’s not asked to do much except glower. In fact, there are times when he lends some roguish charm to the character. Something that the non-film versions of the character have always had, but that Arnold was really never that good at.
What stood out to me though – glaringly – is not just his, but the entire cast’s perfect english. I mean, there’s a couple of characters that try silly accents, but those two stand out because nobody else is trying to do anything but sound southern Californian. It’s not just that Ahnuld put such a stamp on the character, it’s that we associate “Barbarians” with 1) the middle ages and 2) Central Europe (even though the Greeks used the term for ANY non-Greek). So to not even attempt to make the English “Olde”, and to not give them any sort of European tinge whatsoever is just kind of jarringly anachronistic. I mean, its like doing Robin Hood and not giving him a british accent. Oh, wait.
I’ve never considered Schwarzenegger’s germanic, guttural garbling to be an asset of his, but in the case of the original Conan, it actually lent itself to the strength of the role.
As to the rest of the film, the plot is thin, but it’s an action movie. So, hey. They do a good enough job with it. The action itself is maddening. It was great through 80% of the flick – I was totally prepared to say something to the effect of “the strength of the film is in its action sequences”. They were paced well, unique enough, the fight scenes were well choreographed… and then the finale was just… more than a little silly. Just when you needed the action the most, it lets you down.
The director, Marcus Nispel, hasn’t really got any great credits to his name (although, the Friday the 13th remake was one of my favorites in the series), and here, every time he puts his “stamp” on the flick, it’s unwelcome. He’ll show up with a slow mo shot, or suddenly start quick cutting even though prior sequences didn’t and you’re just thinking… dude, go away. You would also think a movie with such a thin plot would be free of plot holes, but there’s plenty of times where you’re like “Wait, where did those guys come from?” or “Now why would she do that?”
Finally, I’d like to use my soapbox to bitch about a personal gripe. Is it really THAT expensive for Hollywood to use practical effects for blood anymore? Honestly? That is one area where film-making has taken a giant step backwards in special effects. If Sonny Corleone were shot on the causeway today, it would be all CGI blood and it would look like shit. That was 30 years ago and the effects were ten times as realistic as they are now!! I understand why “Spartacus: Blood and Sand” employed it, that was tv, they were keeping the budget down, and the cheese added some style to what otherwise could have been a bland show. But this is a HOLLYWOOD MOTION PICTURE!! Can I get a &$%#ing squib or two now and then? The fake, drawn on the screen, CGI blood splatters ruined several moments of what otherwise would have been perfectly acceptable battle sequences.
Anyways, there’s plenty to enjoy if you’re looking for a diversion. It’s a fine enough little B Movie with a couple of battle scenes and action sequences where I was like, wow, this is really pretty good. But just where it could have shifted itself into a higher gear and claimed its place amongst the best movies of the summer, it stalls out and falls flat and leaves you a little disappointed. Because somewhere in here is a franchise worth rebooting.
I just don’t think this is it.