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Sunday, June 24, 2012

Conan the Barbarian (2011) - Action

Conan the Barbarian (2011) -  Conan the Barbarian is a reboot of the great Robert E. Howard character made famous in movies by Arnold Schwarzenegger in the 1982 film. The first film a reasonable financial success of $68 million more than made up for its 20 million dollar budget. It also made Schwarzenegger a household name. This current film is a remake with some rewriting of the story but still basically the same origin and revenge story. The remake is so far a financial flop after spending $70 million to make the film it has only made back $21 million prior to DVD sales.

 Taking the lead role is Jason Momoa a television actor breaking into the big screen. His buff body and lumpy brow does allow him to fit the role although not so buff as the former Mr Universe Schwarzenegger. Although the story is basically the same Conan the Barbarian of the first film, It follows Conan from birth until he is a young adult and gets his revenge; the characters around him have changed. Instead of  Thulsa Doom (James Earl Jones) as the slaughterer of Conan's village we have Khalar Zym (Stephen Lang) doing his somewhat expected, exaggerated villain. Lang who recently appeared as the over the top Col Miles Quaritch in Avatar, and as the cartoonish Commander Nathanial Taylor in the short lived television series Terra Nova actually tones down a bit and does a decent job playing Khalar Zym.
  The story has a different more extreme beginning as Conan is still a fetus when the action opens. The village is being attacked and the Cimmerians are up to the task but Conan's mother is fatally injured as the beat off the attack. Instead of dying before her child is born she has her husband (Ron Perlman) cut the baby from her womb. She promptly names it and dies leaving Conan to be raised by his father. His skills as a fighter exceed his age and as a young man he joins the older boys in a ritual to become a tribe warrior. Holding a bird egg in his mouth the participants race up and around a mountain without breaking the egg. First one back egg unbroken can join the adults. Naturally the young men bang and fight with each other trying to knock out competition. On this occasion the boys are attacked by what look to be an even more savage tribe while running up the mountain. As they flee forgetting the challenge and fearing for their lives only Conan stands his ground. He walks into the village with the heads of three of the savages and then for good measure spits out the unbroken egg. This is one bad ass dude.
  The story at this point intersects with Khalar Zym because each of the tribes has a piece of a mask worn by an evil sorceress, Zym's former wife. When they defeated her by shattering the mask they divided it up so it could never be put back together and thus allow the sorceress to return to this world. Zym has other plans and is conquering the tribes one at a time to recover the pieces. He is obsessed and will go through great lengths to find the pieces. He is assisted by his creepy and magical daughter Marique (Rose McGowan) who shares the magical heritage of her mother. She can sense the pieces of the mask and leads her father to the villages where they are hidden. She is striving to be seen as special to her father a man obsessed with recovering his wife. The makeup for McGowan is great and she is almost not recognizable as the evil sorceress in training. Zym attacks Conan's village and eventually captures Corin, Conan's father.  He tortures the man in front of Conan and leaves the two to die in the burning forge.  The situation leaves it where either Conan or his father or both will die and you can guess that the noble Corin chooses to let his son live. This incident will be the driving force in Conan's future. The chance to get revenge on the man who killed his father.
  When we next see Conan he is all grown up and from the banter with his friend Artus (Nonso Anozie) he has had many adventures to get to the point where he is an exceptional killer of men. The rest of the story is taken up from this point. It is two tiered with one half being Conan trying to get close to and kill Khalar Zym who has at this point become king of the area. The second half is that of  Zym seeking the last thing he needs to make the now fully assemble mask magical, pure blood of a bloodline of Acheronian necromancers.  That blood takes the form of the lovely Tamara (Rachel Nichols) who naturally becomes Conan's love interest. He save her, at first they don't get along, then they find common ground and then they fuck, and then she is captured and he has to save her, yada,yada,yada. Actually this adventure becomes rather standard fair from the moment Conan sees Zym again. There is nothing surprising and we know what the outcome is going to be. It is fun viewing though with all the action and fighting. The gore in this film is decent and there is lots of it so sticking around through the entire film is acceptable. There are monsters and revenge and death for the bad guys. The outcome is never in doubt so really it is just a ride from that point on and it should be said director Marcus Nispel does a stand up job delivering the goods. His previous two major motion pictures Pathfinder, which is as close to Conan as can get and The reboot of Friday the 13th are both reasonably well made films. Here he gives us exactly what we expect out of this material and does so with enough style that it is a decent movie experience. I know I don't sound particularly excited but this really is nothing new in content or in construction, but it is an okay film. I will give it a marginal recommendation.
Rating (5.0) 5.0 and up are recommended but some are more recommended than others.

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