Saturday, August 27, 2011

Girl on...Movie? Action: Conan the Barbarian

Conan the Barbarian (2011)
Director: Marcus Nispel
Writers: Thomas Dean Donnelly, Joshua Oppenheimer, Sean Hood; based on the character Conan created by Robert E. Howard 

My Thoughts:

First things first - let me assure you that my thoughts about this movie are not at all influenced by the fact that I think Jason Momoa is a delicious piece of man-candy.  While he was the reason I desperately wanted to see Conan, I was expecting to see Clash of the Titans 2: Now with More Sexy (for some thoughts on Clash of the Titans click here and be whisked away to Wren's review).  Thus, I was pleasantly surprised to find that Conan the Barbarian was actually quite...charming.  I also have a confession to make, my dear daffodils, I, Doomwench, purveyor of good taste in all types of fiction, absolutely love silly, over-the-top action movies.  You should know, as well, that I attempted to watch the original Conan and I didn't even make it through the first 20 minutes due to extreme boredom.  I haven't read the novels either, nor the comics, clearly I'm not a Conan buff, or some kind of purist, so take this review for what it's worth: the thoughts of a fantasy fan, but not a Conan fan.

Here's a short anecdote about my movie experience.  Matt (yes, our dear friend RobotMatt) came to visit so we could see this flick together, but we hate 3D movies.  This meant we had to go see it at the old theater.  We were sitting there, waiting for our matinee to start and I looked around at the 4 other people sitting around us.  They were all, well, old people and I don't mean this in the funny "ha-ha you 30 year olds are so old" way, I mean actual senior citizens old.  For a moment I worried that we were sitting in the wrong theater, but, it turns out - they were all there to see Conan and none of them walked out after 20 minutes.  We concluded that old people must also enjoy violence.  Who knew?

Right, cute little stories aside, let's talk about the flick (for variety's sake I keep wanting to say "film," but that just feels wrong in this case).

In order to postpone fan-girl gushing about hot barbarians I'll tell you about some of the rest of the cast.  Ron Pearlman was epic.  He amazed from the opening scene where he cuts baby Conan from his mother's womb in the midst of a battle, to his intense and beard-y raising of his warrior son and into fiery molten metal death (although this did give me a Game of Thrones flashback).  Also, young Conan looked like he could grow up to be adult Conan, which was a nice touch (sometimes, child heroes look nothing like their adult counterparts in movies).  And Rose McGowan did a good job as the evil sorceress (some of you will be happy to note that there is a hint of incest!).  I really liked her spiky finger ring things.  I also quite enjoyed Conan's pirate friend and I wish that we would have spent a tiny bit more time in the City of Thieves with the guy whose name I'm not even going to attempt to spell.  Tamara, the female lead, last of the pure bloods and thus target of Khalar Zim's (main evil dude) nefarious plans, held her own, too.  It was nice to see that while she was a damsel in distress she killed her share of bad guys along the way.  While she might have screamed for Conan a bunch of times, he really only came in to finish cleaning up the enemies after she'd stabbed them with her dagger.

The only scene that really didn't fit for me was the sex scene.  It was...boring.  How sex with a barbarian in a cave can be boring I don't quite know, but that's what it was.  Fortunately, it was short so I didn't nod off or anything.

Since I highlighted a lackluster bit, I feel it's only right that I talk about something that totally worked for me, but it's hard to pick just one portion.  In the interest of not spoiling a big, dumb action movie for you I'll talk about something close to the beginning.  Conan lets himself get arrested to he can track down one of the men who helped kill his father - he recognizes the guy because young Conan cut off his nose - this entire sequence was amazing, but what I liked most is when our beloved barbarian sticks a finger inside this dude's face where his nose should be.  It. Was. Great.

And now for the unavoidable.  I can't put it off any longer.  I have to tell you about Jason Momoa as Conan.  He moved through every scene in this movie with swagger, with a warrior's grace, even.  Seriously, the role of Conan fit him like a well-crafted glove.  And, he was pretty funny (well, the script made him funny, anyway).  Somehow, he pulled off doing things that in a different movie with a different actor might have made me grit my teeth in the beginnings of feminist rage.  Stuffing a strip of cloth in Tamara's mouth and telling her to be quiet didn't make me want to smack him, because I fully believed that he'd have done the same to a garrulous male prisoner (no, this has nothing to do with my rather juvenile crush, though I sure do miss being a grown up).  My only quibble is that he spent way too much time holding his sword straight up in the air and I kept waiting for him to yell "by the power of Greyskull." Anyway, he needs to be Conan always.

Is there anything else you need to know?  I'm not sure how 3D would have added anything to this movie, but I don't see the appeal of 3D in any flick.  The effects were pretty standard.  I liked the costumes - especially Conan's kilt (to be honest, I did lament the lack of a beard, but the battle skirt made up for it, mostly).  What made the whole thing work for me was the funny script, the violence and the charisma of Momoa as Conan.  Contrary to the reviews I've seen, I had a good time watching this and I really don't know what everyone is complaining about.  It's not high art or ground breaking, but it was everything I wanted it to be (boring sex scene aside).  I walked out of the theater happy, because I'd seen an entertaining action flick.  Is there anything better in life?  Well, if you believe Conan there is: "I live, I love, I slay and I am content" (that's a great pick-up line if you ask me).


  1. what no stills from the sex scene? wtf!?
    i didn't want to see this movie until i heard ron pearlman and rose was in this, ow i am curious.

  2. It was too boring to even bother.