Sunday, 14 October 2012

‘Conan the Barbarian’ (2011)

Every so often, a brief window of opportunity comes along where it’s not just kids DVDs being played on the TV and I get a chance to watch something that doesn’t involve Winnie the Pooh or Pingu. Ok, Pingu is quite cool (in very small doses) but even so…
One of those windows arose, a couple of days ago, so I took the opportunity to finally give last year’s ‘Conan the Barbarian’ a go. Now here’s a film that I haven’t heard a single good word about. The fact that it was for sale on the discount shelf, at Tescos, speaks volumes considering the film is only just over a year old. I went for it though. I mean, how wrong could I go with a film that only cost four pounds and features one of my favourite fantasy characters pretty much doing what he does best?

The answer is, well… I don’t know really. On the one hand, I watched ‘Conan’ and thought, ‘well, that was pretty much what I expected.’ On the other hand though, I watched ‘Conan’ and wanted to give it a good slap before sending it home to think about what it had done. Quite a confusing film then.

I think the biggest issue for me was the film makers decision to ignore all the previous ‘Conan’ continuity (Robert E. Howard’s works, ‘Savage Sword of Conan’, you name it…) and basically rehash the 1982, Arnold Schwarzenegger, ‘Conan’ film. There are a lot of excellent tales there that are waiting to be told on the big screen; why the big deal about a film that is essentially one that we have already seen before? It was a little disappointing, to say the least, to realise that I could have stuck with the original and not been any worse off. Making a couple of references to what Conan did, in Howard’s tales, didn’t come off as paying homage so much as it did remind me what this film could have incorporated. This was quite galling and I couldn’t help but wonder why Howard’s tales weren’t utilised more, is it a ‘rights thing’?

To add insult to injury, a lot of the dialogue is mumbled so you don’t really know what’s being said, only that such dialogue ends with Conan doing something violent to someone or bedding Tamara. There are some well-choreographed fight scenes that are fun to watch and really, that is what Conan is all about so I couldn’t complain too much about the film. It would have been nice though to hear what people were saying while this was happening… And what was with the whole ‘Conan must fight the ‘end of level boss’ before he can face Khalar Zym’? That really made things feel contrived when there was actually quite a smooth and straightforward path for the plot to follow.

But it was fun to watch though that’s the confusing thing. The filmmakers stayed true to Howard’s vision in that they kept things fairly simple and concentrated on Conan fighting stuff, both other men and some giant thing with tentacles. It was fun to watch and the backdrop to it all looked pretty spectacular albeit not really Conan’s world at all. You can’t just say, “here’s Cimmeria and here’s the coast of Zingara, definitely Hyboria then”, not when other parts of the continent seem to be called other things entirely. I wasn’t too keen on that either, if it’s going to be Conan’s world then make it Conan’s world.
Talking of Conan though, I thought Jason Momoa pretty much nailed it with the whole ‘brooding, violent and ready with a quip’ approach. I liked that :o)

‘Conan the Barbarian’ was a fun way to spend an evening then but anything more than that? Nope, not really. It looks like my wait for a decent ‘Conan’ film will take a bit longer…


Elfy said...

I saw this by accident on cable one day. I think my verdict was: an easy enough waste of a couple of hours, but glad that I didn't pay to see it.

Unknown said...

I suppose at least the Arnie version now has that retro 80s charm going for it; the remake has to wait a while before it can gain that kind of status.


shaneo52 said...

Yeah Jason Momoa nailed it I think.
I wish R.E. Howard would come from the grave and direct this!

Carl V. Anderson said...

I saw this in the theater opening weekend. Not sure what I was smoking because I KNEW there was no way they were going to do the Conan stories justice. It was fun...I guess...but such a silly mess on so many levels and it is so inexplicable. There is so much source material to pull from and they couldn't marry that with all the money they spent making this? I just don't get it.