As it usually goes with remakes, there’s always one big question looming: Why do one? I can see why they wanted to do a remake of John Milius’ 1982 fantasy action film “Conan the Barbarian,” because if you’ve seen it you’ll know that it is ridiculously campy and outdated.
More importantly, it was the movie that launched Austrian actor/body builder/ politician Arnold Schwarzenegger’s career and it’s difficult to hate something with The Governator in it. But Schwarzenegger and campy fun can only go so far.
The 2011 remake, directed by Marcus Nispel, is sleeker and has much more action and gore. Though that isn’t a compliment. It is an incredibly boring action movie that might as well be a video game. You’re better off just seeing the original.
“Game of Thrones” star Jason Momoa plays Conan (the muscle bound barbarian on a mission to avenge his father’s death) and frankly it’s just not the same without Arnold. Momoa gives it his all no doubt, with his flowing hair and chiseled body, but he takes the role a little too seriously. Schwarzenegger played Conan “seriously” but with hints of jolly giddiness and did these random outrageous things like punching a camel.
Meanwhile Momoa spends the whole movie with the same grimacing look on his face, talks in a low gravelly voice and does no outrageous things. Granted, he does talk more than Arnold does but with scriptwriters Thomas Dean Donnelly, Joshua Oppenheimer and Sean Hoods’ awkward and silly dialogue to spout, he should have kept his mouth shut.
“Conan the Barbarian” is essentially a revenge fantasy. The evil Khalar Zym (Stephan Lang, playing a far less interesting villain compared to James Earl Jones’ Thulsa Doom) has killed Conan’s father Corin (Ron Pearlman) when Conan was a child.
One thing I did like in this film, compared to the original, is that Nispel does a good job of establishing the story. He emphasizes young Conan as an ambitious warrior and stretches out Corin’s death, giving us a reason to really hate Khalar (as we’re supposed to do in revenge movies) and root for Conan.
However, when we get to the main plot with Momoa the movie becomes nothing but action. When Conan and his companions aren’t fighting, they’re getting ready to fight. One thing that surprised me about the original was that there wasn’t as much fighting as there could have been, whereas here it’s Action! Action! Action! There’s no time for the movie to rest. So by the end when Conan confronts Khalar in their final battle it isn’t satisfying. The movie is an hour and fifty minutes and yet nothing much happens.
The biggest difference between this one and the 82’ version is that (because of 3D) Nispel’s is much more flashy and in your face. The opening prologue is so busy and bursting with colors and visual effects that you’re overwhelmed and your eyes don’t know where to focus. Although compared to most 3D movies, “Conan” utilizes the 3D very well. Some of the battle scenes (like one in the beginning that involves young Conan) are fluid and full of energy. Even so, the battle scenes become so repetitive that in the end it doesn’t matter how good they look.
Knowing Hollywood I wouldn’t be surprised if they’re going to make a sequel to this new “Conan.” After all, they made one to the original entitled “Conan the Destroyer,” which unfortunately goes overboard on the silliness. It shows us that back then Conan was all right one time around but too much a second. The new “Conan” film shows us that one remake is far too much.