thu 19/09/2019

Conan the Barbarian | reviews, news & interviews

Conan the Barbarian

Conan the Barbarian

Pneumatic Jason Momoa picks up the Barbarian baton from Big Arnie

Jason Momoa as Conan, legendary lunkhead on a quest for vengeance

The Conan yarns are familiar from novels, comics and TV series, but most of all from the early-Eighties Arnold Schwarzenegger movies, Conan the Barbarian and Conan the Destroyer. In this new remake, the title role is stretched around the pneumatic bulk of Jason Momoa, the half-Hawaiian and half-Irish veteran of the celebrated cheesecake opera Baywatch.

Plot-wise, it's a point-and-go revenge saga with an added long arc of ancestral evil

Momoa doesn't look as if he likes to waste time studying the Method or boning up on the Nouvelle Vague, but he fills a Conan-sized 3D hole on the screen. Yet where Arnie was capable of the occasional glimmer of neanderthal wit, Momoa is merely a primeval lunkhead, slaughtering his way across... uh... Hyboria on the trail of leering megalomaniac Khalar Zym (Stephen Lang, sporting an incongruously exquisite set of Rodeo Drive orthodontics to set off his mud, blood and battle scars).

Plot-wise, it's a point-and-go revenge saga with an added long arc of ancestral evil. In the mists of the backstory, Zym and his crew of murderous low-lifes paid a visit to the Cimmerian village where the young Conan and his family lived, in search of the missing fragment of the Mask of Acheron, which, when reassembled, will equip Zym with god-like powers. However, Zym gets on the wrong side of the adolescent Conan by torturing his father, Corin, regarding the whereabouts of said fragment, causing his dad's death by means of a pot of molten metal. Corin is played by Ron Sons of Anarchy Perlman, one of a handful of actors who can play a werewolf without make-up, but that can't prevent him from vanishing in a ball of yellow fire (Ron Perlman with Leo Howard as the young Conan, pictured below).

young conan_smallConan's quest leads him through haunted forests, across turbulent oceans, over freezing mountain ranges and past soaring turreted cities, as though our hero were climbing through the levels of a complicated computer game. En route, he rescues comely female monk Tamara, played by a strangely normal-looking and unenhanced Rachel Nichols (pictured below), who happens to be a whizz at unarmed combat. Zym needs some of her pure blood to make the Mask of Acheron start functioning again (it starts writhing horridly like something from Alien). There's a big battle at the end, to go with all the other big battles sprinkled throughout.

The characters make the Smurfs look complex and neurotic, and there must be an iPhone app that can write better dialogue than the stuff it took three screenwriters to concoct. "I live. I love. I slay. I am content," says Conan, in a rare rhetorical flight. Tamara matches him with a Wildean flourish: "Are we all just doomed to chaos and ruin?"

tamara smallIt's poppycock. I shall go further - it's complete tripe. But several of the set pieces stick in the mind. There's a jovial sequence starring a hideous sea monster with squirmy man-eating tentacles, while the young Conan's bloodthirsty encounter with a squad of ferocious Iroquois-style warriors loosens your teeth and makes your ears ring. Best of all is the episode where Conan and Tamara are beset by weird dust-warriors, who come swirling up out of the ground, but can be shattered like dry stone with a well-aimed blow. Moments like this stir up memories of Ray Harryhausen and his classic animation work on Jason and the Argonauts or Clash of the Titans, though the new technology is generations removed.

So if you don't mind anti-characterisation and grunting noises where the words are supposed to be, and you think slaughter, disembowelling and even a battlefield caesarean section are right up your alley, Conan is your man. At least it's not quite as long as those Lord of the Rings movies.

Watch trailer for Conan the Barbarian


Conan's quest leads him through haunted forests, across turbulent oceans, over freezing mountain ranges, as though our hero were climbing through the levels of a complicated computer game

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