AccessReel Reviews – Conan the Barbarian

AccessReel Reviews – Conan the Barbarian

A quest that begins as a personal vendetta for the fierce Cimmerian warrior known as Conan, turns into an epic battle against hulking rivals, horrific monsters, and impossible odds, as Conan realizes he is the only hope of saving the great nations of Hyboria from an encroaching reign of supernatural evil.

Marcus Nispel, director of previous horror remakes ‘The Texas Chainsaw Massacre’ and ‘Friday the 13th’ brings us his take on ‘Conan the Barbarian’, with Jason Momoa taking on the lead role. Created by writer Robert E. Howard in 1932, the character has appeared in books, comics, video games, board games and of course the two previous films starring Arnold Schwarzenegger released in 1982 and 1984.

Over twenty five years since the last film, a third feature film based on the character has arrived, rated MA15+in Australia, ‘Conan’ sets itself apart from other films of the genre with a higher level of both brutality and nudity than what we often see at the theatres in current times. Overall ‘Conan’ presents an enjoyable revenge story which is ultimately largely predictable yet manages to bring a fun adventure to the screen.

The sets and scenery throughout bring the harsh tone and feel of the lands of Hyboria effectively to the film, the different costume designs bring a nice touch as the audience is introduced to the various factions involved in the story. The score of the film complements it well however don’t expect anything quite as memorable as Basil Poledouris’s work on the original 1982 film.

Where the film falters somewhat however, is in drawing upon some of the very rich mythology available in the previous works, and conveying this effectively via the film. Through ‘Conan’ we travel to various locations through the lands and see several of the different groups making up civilisation in this mythology, however there is little meaning and substance given to these characters, locations and backgrounds with only a superficial interest generally being presented. It’s difficult not to feel that as the audience there is a lot of detail being glossed over, and some further context behind some aspects of the story would have gone a long way to giving the film some more substance and potentially giving the franchise more longevity.

The characters are generally underdeveloped as are the relationships between them with the script definitely given a priority to action sequences and ‘Conan’ does deliver this well. The audience is rarely given much time to take a breather and it certainly makes for a fast paced film. The action is entertaining and as mentioned above takes a more brutal approach to things, supporting this is a combination of practical and computer imagery which blends together effectively.

The cast of ‘Conan’ deliver sound performances throughout, ‘Jason Momoa’ carries a certain charisma and is an effective leading man, he manages to walk the fine balance of brooding and likeability and is convincing in a physical role, neither ‘Stephen Lang’ or ‘Rose McGowan’ are given much diversity in material however they perform well in their mostly one note roles, as does ‘Ron Pearlman’ in his support role.

The preview screening for ‘Conan’ was the 3D version, generally the 3D aspects of the film are pretty lack lustre, it’s definitely effective in parts but these are too far and few between to justify the additional cost of 3D. For anyone other than the most devoted 3D fans, this is a film probably best left for the 2D experience.

Overall ‘Conan’ is a breath of fresh air into the sword and sorcery genre, in an era of films generally presented to the widest audience possible it’s refreshing to see a film with strong production values that takes some risks and brings more mature content to the big screen. Without a thorough knowledge of the source material I cannot largely comment to the effectiveness of this translation in capturing the spirit of the character, however this is an enjoyable film populated with a setting which is ripe for further exploration.

I’m giving ‘Conan the Barbarian’ 3 out of 5 stars, it’s released in cinemas Australia wide on Thursday 18th August 2011. You can view the trailer here.