"So much brutality and combat, it lost its sense of direction and managed to avoid the actual plot throughout…"
I’m already a remake cynic. I can’t see the point in the majority of remakes, as they, more often than not, bear far too many similarities to the original feature, and often seem far too gratuitous and just a lazy attempt at filmmaking. Therefore, with the original Conan the Barbarian, featuring Arnold Schwarzenegger, already covering all bases in the fantasy continent of Hyboria, this remake had very little on the 1982 cult classic, and merely proved to be an expensive, needless and unnecessary rehash.
Conan the Barbarian (Jason Momoa), based on the character created by Robert E. Howard, is a Cimmerian warrior, born prematurely into battlefield, depicted rather graphically in the film. As he grows into a natural leader and destroyer, he battles to save Hyboria from the pending reign of paranormal evil, whilst avenging the death of his Father (Ron Perlman) in the meantime.
The film failed to contain any existent structure. I’m partial to the odd sword fighting scene here and there, but Conan the Barbarian was relentless in this aspect, and it relied too heavily on its fighting scenes, which became inane and boring after a while. So much brutality and combat, it lost its sense of direction and managed to avoid the actual plot throughout.
As a fantasy action film, it bears similarities to contemporary films such as the Scorpion King, except that particular feature had Dwayne Johnson in it, otherwise known as the Rock; therefore making it somewhat worthwhile. Maybe this film would benefit from including a washed-up, struggling actor from the former World Wrestling Federation too. Instead, we have former model Jason Momoa. It’s fair to say few models-turned-actors have little potency in Hollywood, and Momoa didn’t let us down. To be honest though, I feel quite bad criticising his performance, as all he really did was shout “arghh” a lot, and hit people.
Also, in these epic fantasy thrillers we need to be on the same side of the hero and empathise with his principles. However, Conan is a misogynistic prat. Yes he may be quite an effective warrior, but he knows it. He comes across as being full of himself, and bears an unwanted resemblance to that bloke who starts fights in pubs on nights out, and I hate those guys.
Also, as the sceptical filmgoer that I am (I’m a critic – I can’t help it), there were various small points that frustrated me. Firstly, the older characters didn’t age. We first follow Conan as a vigorous child, and then as we see him a grown man various years later, while the elder characters just look exactly the same despite the 20 year jump. Also, while we’re on the subject of cynicism, there was one fight between two female characters, between an innocent young girl who grew up in a Monk monastery and a malevolent girl who was brought up in the hands of evil, and has daggers for fingers. The Monk won.
Aside from the nitpickings, I feel that the film was aesthetically gratifying. The film was produced on a big-budget and looks the part. The backdrops and landscapes were impressive, as the film managed to depict the historical war-zone well, portraying burning villages amidst the scenic yet shattered ruins.
I also liked the fact the film wasn’t overly sentimental, particularly in regards to the romantic storyline. Often these fantasy films are tainted with the pointless romance between our hero and the leading actress. However, there was little significance in the romantic aspect, and although existing, didn’t defer from the action and violence, which suited the nature of the film.
I must say, I was relieved to see that the film concluded well. I was worried at one point that a cliff-hanger was on the cards and we’d have to sit through a sequel, but fortunately the film cut off its loose ends.
Also, it sounded like Morgan Freeman doing the narration to the feature, which gives the film an ounce of faithfulness, but then again, I can’t help but feel disappointed in Freeman for taking on the role, and no doubt remarkable pay-check. I would double-check to see if it was indeed him, but then again, as his dependable voice and composed demeanour proves to be one of the films few shining lights, I’m happy to be unaware and give it the benefit of doubt.