Review: Conan the Barbarian

Review: Conan the Barbarian

“I live, I love, I slay, and I am content.” So says our barbarian hero during this newest film adaption. And really, that kind of sums up the appeal of the new film, as well as how well it keeps to the source material.

Now, some may say I’m a tad biased, given how I’ve talked about Conan and my love for the character the last few days. And this is a tough film to explain my feelings about because it hews close to my fanboy love. Well, let’s try and explain it.

When the film opens, Morgan Freeman (I am not kidding, it’s actually him) tells us of the Hyborian age, and of the Acheron empire and its evil sorcery, including the Mask of Acheron. The Mask was shattered by barbarians who united against the Acheronians, and each tribe took a piece. Flash forward millennia later, and we see the birth and childhood of our hero Conan (played by 14 year old martial artist Leo Howard). Conan’s father Corin (Ron Perlman), blacksmith and chieftain of the village attempts to curb the natural savage tendencies of his son and make him a balanced warrior. And then the village is attacked by Khalar Zym (Stephen Lang) and his army built from the people he’s conquered. He’s seeking the Mask fragment, and to that end decimates the Cimmerian village, leaving only Conan alive. The story flashes forward and our hero is a man (Jason Momoa), and when chance gives Conan the opportunity to avenge his father and people, he’ll have to work with Tamara (Rachel Nichols), a novice monk who Zym seeks. Conan will have to face warriors, monsters, and Zym’s elite led by his witch daughter Marique (Rose McGowan).

The story is a simple one, but it works. It’s basically told as one of the adventures Conan could have had during the stories Howard himself wrote. In fact, they go the extra little bit to reference past stories to help place it in the timeline. And it’s fast paced. Not at any point does this movie drag, it’s mostly action followed by more action. That isn’t to say that there aren’t quiet moments, but the film does not drag, which is a major plus. And another plus is how they present the Hyborian age, both as a wondrous and savage place. This is a great visual introduction to the world of Conan, and I’m glad they went the extra mile.

The acting is pretty good for a film of this kind. Momoa manages to bring the “melancholy and mirth” that Conan is known for as well as the avenging savagery, and also conveys that the Cimmerian is meant to be as fast as he is strong. Also, he is amazing with that sword. These may be the best fight scenes committed to film for a long time. Lang is great as an insane villain who you know is outright evil and mad. Rose McGowen was a nice surprise as Zym’s witch daughter Marique, who has many scenes where she is just creepy. Believe me, you’ll understand what I mean when you see it. Even the minor characters are pretty fun. Rachel Nichols’ character Tamara can be a bit annoying as the wide-eyed innocent girl Conan teams up with, but she gets better as the film goes on. The weak link may be Zym’s generals, who don’t have many lines and serve mostly as obstacles for Conan to battle.

The production value here is impressive, and not just the amazing locations that they use to bring Hyboria to life. The swords are an amazing collection of designs, and the monster effects (particularly the sand warriors sequence and the aquatic Dweller creature) are really well done. This is also another post-production 3D film, and as that goes, it’s not Avatar but it’s also not as bad as some 3D films like Green Hornet. Still, probably better to see in 2D.

One thing I want to make clear is that this is an old school fantasy action-adventure. The main thing is seeing a hero fight his way through to the climax. That may seem simplistic but as I stated, it’s possibly one of the most fun films I’ve seen this summer, and the first film that feels like a Robert E. Howard story. And that may be the film’s big weakness. It’s literally meant for people who love these kinds of stories, so if you don’t like them, you may not have fun with this movie. For the rest of us who love our films big, epic and fun, this is a treat. I hope that if you watch this you have the same amount of fun I had.


Solid action, great effects and locations, and the best adaption of the classic Conan stories I've seen.The 3D is average, and if you're not a fan of the sword and sorcery genre, you will not have fun during this film.
95 out of 100
Ahmed is not just a fanboy, but also a martial artist and an indie author who has published such fantasy adventure books as "Lunen: Triblood".

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