Conan the Barbarian
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The most legendary Barbarian of all time is back. Having thrived and evolved for eight consecutive decades in the public imagination -- in prose and graphics, on the big screen and small, in games and properties of all kinds -- Conan's exploits in the Hyborian Age now come alive like never before in a colossal action-adventure film.A quest that begins as a personal vendetta for the fierce Cimmerian warrior soon turns into an epic battle against hulking rivals, horrific monsters, and impossible odds, as Conan realizes he is the only hope of saving the great nations of Hyboria from an encroaching reign of supernatural evil.
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This movie tries and does get a lot right. There are nice bits like the reference to Acheron in the opening narrative. We get to see Conan literally born on the battlefield. The young Conan here is the sort who according to Howard’s Conan was already the talk of the campfires at fifteen. The Picts who attack Conan in the opening are a nice mix of historical Picts and the Comanche who so obviously influenced Howard’s depiction of the Picts. Momoa credibly looks not just physically imposing but pantherish and shows a bit more of Conan’s personality.
But then you have weird stuff like Ron Perleman, caveman. His death scene is needlessly drawn out. For a guy who kills four Picts with an egg in his mouth as not quite a man, Conan’s rough edges have been sanded off. The villain here is as banal as James Earl Jones’ Thulsa Doom was compelling.
More to the point, it doesn’t have the craft of the 1982 version. I loved that movie from the first time I saw it as a kid. But rewatching it now with a more practiced eye, I only appreciate Milius’ craft more. The 2011 movie commits the ultimate sin for a Conan story. It’s conventional, and Howard’s original stories were never conventional.
For all the savagery depicted, this film is curiously detached, passionless, with characters as cold as the sets they pose on. I forgot what I saw the moment the film was over. Hardly a glowing endorsement.