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Christopher Webster [Celluloid 08.19.11] movie review horror fantasy

Year: 2011
Directors: Marcus Nispel
Writers: Thomas Dean Donnelly/Joshua Oppenheimer/Sean Hood/Robert E. Howard (character)
IMDB: link
Trailer: link
Review by: agentorange
Rating: 7 out of 10

This is the kind of movie critics ravage. Like the armies of Khalar Zym marching over the horizon, you can just see them coming in hoards to rape and pillage this movie until there's nothing left on its bones. I don't know why pulpy, loud, sexy, violent, balls-to-the-wall earnest action movies gets their goats but they just do. They are like the weak monks at the Temple, whereas I'm more like Conan: ripped and coming to slice them up with my own monosyllabic opinions.

Here's the deal: No matter where you stand on the new Conan the Barbarian movie, chances are it will generate the same feeling in you. That of being slapped in the face for two straight hours. Because, if you can just go along for the ride, you'll be bowled over by the film's relentless pace and non-stop, face-smashing action. If you're a Robert E. Howard purist looking for any kind of relevance to the original character you'll feel violated in a whole other way. Within the first few minutes of the film (right after Ron Perlman slices baby Conan free of his mother's womb in the heart of battle), I knew which side of the fence I stood on. I was going to skip along with Nispel and bounce from one bloody set piece to the next until the credits rolled. And man, was it fun.

Everyone knew that Conan the Barbarian's success hinged on the character of Conan and the guy they got to play him. He's a strangely un-cinematic character. He doesn't have a lot to say. He doesn't (and shouldn't) have much depth beyond the deadly stink-eye he flashes at his enemies and he never wears a shirt. I mean, as he says in the film "I live, I love, I slay. I am content." That's it really. Put him next to other Howard character's like Solomon Kane and he's pretty much the most one note character ever created.

For a writer, crafting that character for a film would be hard. But I think playing that charter would be even harder for an actor. Jason Momoa absolutely kills it though. He is clearly Conan for a new generation and he plays the character with all the brooding ferocity needed. He's completely savage, hellbent on revenge for the slaughter of his people. He slays without mercy and tortures with impunity (one scene in particular will have you grabbing your face in horror). Nispel makes him do a few funky things, like thrust his sword in the air and yell at the sky (more of a He-Man thing really), but I just thank Crom the writers didn't load the script with bad one-liners and turn Conan into Kull as played by Kevin Sorbo.

On the evil flip side, Rose McGowan and Stephen Lang are simply awesome baddies. I loved watching MacGowan's slithery witch Marique as she fetishistically sniffs around and slinks sexily though scenes. And Stephen Lang is just pure bat-shit crazy, spitting a drooling through his lines.

The movie's plot is wafer thin but at least Nispel knows it and doesn't try to make it seem more than it is. The entire movie is quite literally one battle scene after another. I started to count the amount of non action scenes between action scenes and there was, on average, one. One scene of plot development or talking about the plot before an action scene occurred. Thankfully, Nispel manages to add something new to every fight scene. People are sliced and diced in horrible ways too numerous to count, while we skip to a plethora of different environments including snowy Cimmeria, pirate ships, castles, forests and quarries. But you know what? This isn't just Conan. This is Conan as seen through the prism of Lionsgate and Millennium Films. If you thought the film would be anything but adrenaline and muscles you were simply deluding yourself.

In terms of the 3D element, it's fairy crappy to the point of distraction. It does some funky things to the visual FX at times and makes some of the vistas look like cardboard cutouts. I'm hoping to see the film again 2D (if possible?) and get a better sense of the cinematography which made Bulgaria look impressive as Hyboria.

Some of the editing was quick to the point of headache inducing and you'll often strain to catch of glimpse of the mayhem. But there is enough well choreographed action to enjoy. Watch for the "sand zombies" fight scene. It is just awesome to behold.

Final thoughts? You already know if this movie will insult you. Nispel doesn't care about you and he doesn't pander. His movie is gloriously thick-headed and savage. My gut is that it won't beat Fright Night at the box-office this weekend, nor do I think we'll get a large scale sequel. But it was dang fun and I hope to catch it again soon.

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