Sunday, 28 August 2011

Review of Conan the Barbarian 2011

Conan the Barbarian (2011) bears the same name as the 1982 film, but rather than being a remake, the producers aimed to go back to the roots of the character and restart the franchise. Their hopes were high when the opening weekend approached, although most Conan fans were worried about what they had seen on the trailers and many of them feared the worst. The opening weekend was rather underwhelming and some even called the movie a flop. This naturally rid me of my remaining hopes and expectations for the movie and I went to the theatre expecting the worst. Not quite Uwe Boll worst, but close.

Happily, my low expectations allowed me to actually enjoy the movie and the two hours sped by faster than I could have imagined. I went in expecting little or no story and that's what was delivered. I went in knowing that the director, Nispel, has no idea how to make grand, sweeping moments in his movies and I didn't get any (who could forget the travel scenes with Poladouris' music in the 1982 movie – how I miss those). I went in knowing that the director is not a character director, so I was prepared to the overblown acting and embarrassing moments caused by lines delivered at wrong speed and with wrong timing. I knew that the script bore only passing resemblance to the Conan from Robert E. Howard's stories. Lastly, I knew that the designing department had been doing their best to create the ugliest swords ever seen on the big screen.

With these expectations taken care of, I was left with the mere expectation of an action adventure movie with the focus heavily laid on the action. And that's pretty much what I was treated with. The actors pulled off their parts as well as they could with the sub-par character director (there are only a handful of experienced actors who can create stunning performances without the help of director). Jason Momoa gave a nice performance of Conan and looked the part better than any other actor has before. He was the gigantic panther that Robert E. Howard described in his stories. Steven Lang overacted his part as the main bad guy, but the last minute changes to the script at least gave him some motivation for what he was doing and he seemed to have lots of fun being the bad guy. The other actors were never really given time on-screen to fully realise their characters, but they did their jobs more or less well.

Overall, the two hours passed by quickly and I found that I had enjoyed the movie more than I had expected. It could have been far worse. But with a good director, better script and better music it could have been a lot better, too. If they ever do make a sequel, I hope they improve on those three aspects and do so by bringing Conan even closer to the Conan that we know from Robert E. Howard's works. I want to see the reason people are willing to follow Conan. I want to see his natural leadership. I want to see the makings of a king.

6/10 in IMDb terms. There may be bonus points for the fact that the main character was called Conan in there... ;)