Sunday, December 18, 2011

Conan the Barbarian

Created by pulp-master Robert E. Howard, Conan was elevated even further into popular culture when Arnold Schwarzenegger appeared to inform us that "Crom laughs at your four winds" in John Milius' 1980s blockbuster. In 2004, I discovered Conan through the Dark Horse comic book series by Kurt Busiek, Tim Truman, Roy Thomas, and now Brian Wood, that is still going on today on a month-by-month basis. If you are a Conan fan and you haven't read the books, you are really missing out. As an incentive it features a lot of "lamentation of the women."

Now, Jason Momoa (Stargate Atlantis, Game of Thrones) has undertaken the role for a film that I'm sure if it was a success it would already have a sequel planned, but the film was a huge box office bomb (prompting one of its screenwriters to write a truly interesting piece on what the whole process is like, check that out). Momoa certainly has charisma, but here he is without the guidance of the writers and directors of Game of Thrones. Instead, this film is helmed by Marcus Nispel whose three previous theatrical films (remakes of The Texas Chainsaw Massacre and Friday the 13th as well as Pathfinder) contained numbing violence, a lot of loud noises, and excitement that would only last a second no matter how inventive an action scene might appear. Those elements are also present in his adaptation of Conan the Barbarian. I mean, even the art direction was bad. You are making a movie about crazy tribes that fight each other in medievel settings. Can I at least have a cool looking castle or cave to look at?

Conan also has no motivation beyond revenge (hence why he is called "the Barbarian"). Even the most revenge-centric movies have characters with some other distinguishable trait that makes them multi-faceted. As for the other actors in the cast, like Momoa, they are mildly interesting to watch despite the bad material. Stephen Lang, Rachel Nichols, and Ron Perlman have some cheesy fun. Although I often find Rose McGowan unbearable unless she is in something that is more of a parody like Robert Rodriguez's Planet Terror. Here she is hamming up an already hammy role in a very hammy movie to the point of no return for my tastes.

What a shame that in a year where some phenomenal visual effects, CGI, motion capture, etc. were pushed to such an artistic level in the confines of a variety of stories, that the special effects in this big budget blockbuster feel so shallow.

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