Hail Crom, It’s Conan The Bore-barian In 3D!

Ugh. I gotta get another movie in me stat (my wife and I are thinking HOBO WITH A SHOTGUN on Netflix). We just got back from Marcus Nispel’s CONAN THE BARBARIAN and man, I think its 28% Tomatometer score is way too high. This film was freaking painful. I was actually sitting there aching, waiting for Conan to dispatch the idiot bad guys and bring on those consolatory closing credits.

(Will the real barbarian please stand up!)

Where to begin? How about with some artistic integrity! I want movies that try. I root for those. They get a 28% on the Tomatometer and I give them a chance. They usually win me over. There’s usually something worthwhile buried within the uneven filmmaking. Even summer’s lazy RomComs, Steve Carell’s stupid CRAZY, STUPID LOVE, or the Timberlake / Kunis unsexy, sex epic, FRIENDS WITH BENEFITS (FWB if you roll like that), show more ambition. And that’s saying a lot considering that each of those movies don’t even have swords, or sorcery, or mountains of skulls to boost their cool quotient. By Crom, movies with swords, sorcery, and mountains of skulls, should be superior to CSL or FWB, on general principle. These are strange times, Loyal Reader. I mean, how can they screw up something as cool as CONAN?

How is it that a pair of pedestrian, summer comedies have more bite and flavor than the big Cimmerian and his bone crushing sword technique?

I feel faint. My world feels off center. I’m not only disappointed in the film – I’m ticked off. Conan is one of the coolest intellectual properties ever conceived. With minimal effort, this should have been a fun B movie. Instead, horrible writing, inane, ho-hum villains, ugly cinematography, and shoddy direction destroy the project from the inside out.

(Hey ladies! Look, it’s Conan as a beach bum in his off-season! By Crom, what have we done?)

Jason Moma glowers on cue, but the poor guy is given nothing but a single, mono-syllabic sentence here and there. He looks the part, but the Conan I so enjoy reading about, the muscled, mischievous thief with charm, smarts and a sense of humor is nowhere to be found. Even worse, the baddies, an evil father and his almost, more evil daughter (Stephen Lang, who kicked mucho butt as AVATAR’S military psycho bad guy, Rose McGowan, who is never really good in any thing), have absolutely no edge. Their characters were made to chew scenery. I expected some hammy, over-acting. That’s what’s so awesome about sword and sorcery epics – the crazy villains. These wet blankets growl and giggle and affect nefarious malignancy (I suppose), but they never inspire fear or disgust or delicious, villanous glee. They suck the life right out of an already lifeless endeavor.

Lastly, though I could go on and on about how much this movie sucks, I have no idea what director Nispel was thinking. He did a nice job with THE TEXAS CHAIN SAW MASSACRE (2003) remake. In making that movie (an impossible feat considering the original is one of the finest horror films ever made), Nispel built suspense and fostered a nice, consistent, fog of dread. CONAN isn’t a horror movie, but it’s the type of thing that screams for atmosphere. Nispel seemed like the guy to do it justice, but his new film is so poorly made and so…well…toneless, I can’t believe it was made by the same guy.

There are several action scenes where Conan fights some threat or another while his primary target, a captain, or chief thug, or whatever, watches on growling and drooling and cheering. Nispel cuts from Conan swinging his sword at some tentacled monstrosity to the chief bad guy’s reaction shot (more of that growling, drooling, or cheering) and then back. And then he does it again, and again, and again. It’s so ridiculous (and so surprisingly amateurish) that I rolled my eyes, and shook my head, and lost complete faith.

(Great poster. Terrible movie.)

Alas, it’s over. I’m home. My senses are safe. The debacle is behind me. I need to watch the original CONAN THE BARBARIAN (1982) or maybe even the so bad, it’s good, CONAN THE DESTROYER (1984), to wash the putrid taste out of my mouth. Better yet, I need to sit down with some Robert E. Howard and read away the pain. Come on movie folk! We need a Hyborian world worthy of our imaginations.


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