Conan the Barbarian isn’t a terrible movie by any stretch but it is one plagued with numerous lifeless action scenes, thinly written characters and at best average performances from the cast. The costume design is OK although nothing we haven’t seen on Xena and the like.
Conan the Barbarian
Genre(s): Fantasy, Action
Lionsgate | R – 112 min. – $22.99 | September 19, 2017
Date Published: 09/12/2017 | Author: The Movieman
Note: Portions of this were copied from my 2011 Blu-ray review.
Screen Captures came from Blu-ray.
THE MOVIE — 2.25/5
The remake train is still in full force as Hollywood continues to run out of ideas, just updating “older” films with a familiar brand that will get butts in the seat, quality be damned. The latest is Conan the Barbarian, a medieval action adventure with emphasis on action than anything else, with any character moments taking a back seat.
Conan the Barbarian stars Jason Momoa, best known for his TV roles on a variety of shows including “Baywatch” and “Stargate: Atlantis”, as Conan, a man whose first taste as a baby was that of his mother’s blood after she was mortally wounded during battle. His father Corin (RON PERLMAN), leader of the tribe, cut his son out of the womb to save his life. Several years later, Conan shows himself to be a potentially great and blood-thirsty warrior. When the village is attacked by Khalar Zym (STEPHEN LANG), everyone including his father is murdered leaving Conan to be the sole survivor. Zym and his crew have been hunting down a mystical mask – its God-like powers established during a ho-hum prologue – one piece of which was hidden not so well in the village. With that piece in hand, he’s a step closer to grabbing ultimate power and to bring back his beloved wife.
We then fast forward 20 years where we find Conan trekking through the lands as a pirate, slaying enemies left and right with friend Artus (NONSO ANOZIE), as he seeks revenge upon Zym but the villain remains elusive. The reason he’s so elusive is he’s still needs one last piece to implement his ultimate goal which involves getting the pure blood of a descendent of the some other tribe. The only one left is Tamara (RACHEL NICHOLS) who is being hunted by Zym’s men when, thanks to some detective work by Conan (I’ll spare you the details), manages to rescue her, but his actions are hardly for heroics alone as he needs her to get to Zym.
Meanwhile, Zym and his sorceress daughter, Marique (ROSE MCGOWEN), use her powers to find the pure blood. Through air message (via one of Zym’s minions catapulted by Conan), they are offered the pure blood by Conan in exchange for gold. Of course, it’s all a rouse and a fight ensues between Conan, Zym and some mystical sand people, conjured by Marique, who apparently were left over from The Mummy movies.
Anyway, after the fight basically ends in a draw – meaning it was completely pointless –, Zym and his crew manage to capture Tamara where Zym’s process of total domination is near. Conan manages to sneak into the castle she’s being held, after battling a few mindless minions and creatures lost along the way to the set of Pirates of the Caribbean, makes it to the top level to square off and avenge the death of his father. You can see the ending from there.
Ok, despite my usual sarcastic tone, I didn’t think Conan the Barbarian was a bad movie, just one in need of guidance and some quieter, more character-driven scenes rather than taking the audience from one action piece to the next and expect anyone to actually care about the outcome. For his part, Jason Momoa was alright as Conan with the right physique and while he’s certainly a monster step above Schwarzenegger’s take (just to understand everything he was saying), he and the character have the personality of mud.
Ditto goes for Rachel Nichols as the damsel in distress, although she does get a moment in the climax where she’s transforming into Zym’s long dead, and evil, wife (oh, another thing stolen from The Mummy) and pleads with Conan to let her go. It was a good scene even if we did know what would happen.
As for Stephen Lang, obviously his one-note villainous turn in Avatar got him this gig playing another clichéd villain with little or no substance beyond the selfish nature by ruling the world, though what little was there for the part, he manages to bring some weight albeit it’s limited. And then I have to mention Rose McGowan as his daughter. Well, she’s under a lot of make-up that’s for sure, but it’s a very forgettable performance and character as she has even less depth than Lang.
Conan the Barbarian was directed by Marcus Nispel who you might remember, or like to forget, helmed the remake of The Texas Chainsaw Massacre, the action-thriller/box office bomb Pathfinder and yet another remake, this time of Friday the 13th, though I admit I kind of enjoyed that one… In any case, this movie is just as lifeless as TCM and Pathfinder where we go from one action scene to another with no emotional connection to the plot or the characters. This might work fine for a slasher movie but it doesn’t fly for a fantasy action-adventure like Conan.
SPECIAL FEATURES – 2.25/5
This release comes with a glossy slip cover inside of which is a redemption code for the Digital HD Copy.
A quick note, Lionsgate has chosen to include a boneless Blu-ray disc instead of the 3D/BD combo disc as originally released which contained all the features, so in order to watch the following, you will need to do so on your 4K player.
Feature Commentaries – There are surprisingly two tracks included on the disc. First up is director Marcus Nispel who gives the more traditional commentary providing some behind-the-scenes info and working with the actors. The second features stars Jason Mamoa and Rose McGowan who provide more of their on-set experiences between working with the horses (Mamoa hated his), stories about the wardrobe and even getting into alternate scenes that were not included.
The Conan Legacy (18:01; HD) explores the history behind “Conan” from the Marvel comic book to the Schwarzenegger film adaptation. We get interviews with the cast (including Jason Mamoa), crew (writer, producers, etc) and those with historical knowledge of the subject.
Robert E. Howard: The Man Who Would Be Conan (11:24; HD) – After getting a history lesson on Conan, now we get to learn about the man who created the character and his biography.
Battle Royal: Engineering the Action (9:55; HD) takes a look at the numerous action and fight sequences from the choreography to the filming itself. Again, we get comments from those involved as they prepare for the fights.
Staging the Fights (5:47; HD) is a collection of pre-visualizations/rehearsal footage as references for the filmmakers while shooting.
Theatrical Trailer (2:16; HD)
VIDEO – 4.25/5
|Conan the Barbarian isn’t exactly a movie that fully benefits from being in 4K. For one thing, this is a gritty looking picture to begin with; has plenty of grain and noise for some scenes. That said, detail is alright looking with some sharpness both with close-ups and more distant shots and colors are generally bright in spots, though nothing I’d call vibrant. Is it a good upgrade over the Blu-ray? Eh, not really. Does look bad? Not at all.|
AUDIO – 5.0/5
|The original 3D/2D Blu-ray release boasted a strong DTS-HD MA 7.1 (the Blu-ray in this is only 5.1 channels) so the Dolby Atmos track is perhaps a modest upgrade, but not much. The LFE channel is particularly heavy during the opening sequences while dialogue levels were very clear throughout and there’s nice depth during the action scenes. I noticed some decent levels from the rear channels reserved for ambient noises and the generic action-adventure score.|
OVERALL – 2.75/5
Overall, Conan the Barbarian isn’t a terrible movie by any stretch but it is one plagued with numerous lifeless action scenes, thinly written characters and at best average performances from the cast. The costume design is OK although nothing we haven’t seen on Xena and the like while the visual effects are at least half decent. The 4K meanwhile is adequate but hardly heads and shoulders better than the Blu-ray.
Check out some more 1080p screen caps by going to page 2. Please note, these do contain spoilers.