Conan the Barbarian Review


Everybody knows the classic Arnold Schwarzenegger movie; in which he played the behemoth of a character created by novelist Robert E. Howard; and there have been several fans who’ve openly opposed seeing anyone else taking on the guise of such an iconic filmic and literary figure, but this re-telling has been a long time coming, is soon to be released in cinemas, and will likely change many a skeptical fans’ mind, when they watch the latest incarnation of Conan the Barbarian.

Jason Momoa (Game of Thrones’ Khal Drogo) takes on Arnie’s classic role, and stars as the titular barbarian; being a much leaner and more agile fighter/warrior than the bulky Schwarzenegger; and spends the majority of the film searching for the an who killed his father (when he was but a boy); hoping to one day exact his revenge on the power-hungry murderer.

Plot-wise there’s little else going on in Conan the Barbarian, aside from seeing Khalar Zym (Stephen Lang, Avatar) massacre a few more villages; with the aid of his witch daughter (Rose McGowan, Charmed); as he seeks a magical crown, and the blood of a specific woman (Rachel Nichols, Star Trek); who unsurprisingly teas up with Conan, and provides the movie’s love interest; in order to resurrect his dead wife, and rule the entire fantasy land of Hyboria (not unlike the plan held by the bad guy in The Mummy a few years ago).

But while the plot maybe extremely basic, cliched, old-fashioned, and tired, it doesn’t really matter, as the main draw of a movie like this is undoubtedly the action sequences; which kick-off about eery 3 minutes, and are impressively raw, brutal, and gory (check out this opening scene to see the damage a young Conan can inflict); and to a slightly lesser extent the epic fantasy land in which the characters and action find themselves; which again doesn’t disappoint, remains huge, expansive, imaginatively crafted, and visually breathtaking.

Hyboria is realized in Conan with some great effects work, solid set design, and excellent costume choices, but that, and the action, would have meant nothing if the casting wasn’t right; as the success of the entire movie hinged on the performance of one man; but thankfully Jason Momoa is fantastic in the role (despite mumbling a few of the barbarian’s lines), really can fight like a true warrior, provides the most faithful incarnation of the fighting legend, and, to my mind, is the best Conan by far.

Having said that, and in spite of the fact the entirety of the casting is solid; Stephen Lang has already proven he can play a power-hungry military leader in Avatar, Rose McGowan looks, sounds, and acts, perfectly weird enough to be the witch, Rachel Nichols’ performance is suitably reminiscent of Lucy Lawless’ as Xena, and Ron Perlman (Sons of Anarchy) was perfectly cast as Conan’s warrior father/mentor Corin, as was the excellent Leo Howard (G.I. Joe) as the young Conan; Conan the Barbarian clearly isn’t a film for everyone; it’s definitely a man’s film, and only for people who love their fantasy tales filled with swords, and buff, no-shirt-wearing, hero, and plenty of gore.

Conan is far from a high-brow picture, contains no real plot (other than a thinly veiled revenge tale draped over some spectacular action sequences), and is far from being considered as a serious awards candidate, yet if you like fantasy action movies, you’ll love this; no-one can argue than Jason Momoa is the perfect Conan; it’s bloody, brutal, and busy, and one that action fans really will enjoy (though they should be warned, that despite the expansive fantasy setting, they will be far better off watching it in 2D rather than 3D; which in this case adds little to the film, isn’t brilliantly pulled off, and can make some of the swift action sequences more difficult to follow).

Matt Wheeldon.

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Matt Wheeldon is the Founder, and Editor in Chief of Good Film Guide. He still refers to the cinema as "the pictures", and has what some would describe as a misguided appreciation for Waterworld.