- Directed by Marcus Nispel
- August 11, 2011 (Los Angeles premiere) / August 19, 2011 (United States)
A warrior with vengeance in his heart sets off to get revenge on a warlord that destroyed his village in his search for the pieces of a magic mask.
Conan the Barbarian 2011 is a prime example of a film that should not have been made. People have been itching for years for another Arnold Schwarzenegger film in the Conan series yet someone somewhere thought “Let’s reboot the whole thing and ride the coattails and nostalgia of the first two films.” So we got this.
One of the bigger sins of this film is that they at points attempt to rip off or borrow from the Schwarzenegger Conan films. The movie opens with a narration by Morgan Freeman that starts out very similar to the one from the first film by Mako and then diverges from there. Within the first few minutes they are trying to use nostalgia and that is not a good sign for the quality of the film.
The originally had serious themes and moments of philosophy that this tries to (poorly) emulate. In the beginning Conan’s father Corin (Ron Perlman) gives this film’s version of The Riddle of Steel which in the original Conan took the whole film to understand and was never handed in a straight explanation to the audience. Here we get an explanation and a visual demonstration of that philosophy. Does the director and writers think so little of the audience that they need to lead them around?
Jason Momoa was not a bad choice for Conan. I think the Jason well we got in Aquaman was physically better than the one we got here but overall not a bad choice. He can play the noble barbarian type well enough. The problem was that this Conan was not a strong character. He just was and his relationships just were. This was not a John Milius or even a Richard Fleischer Conan.
In the story Conan has a thief friend named Ela-Shan (Saïd Taghmaoui) who is indebted to him for saving his life and helps him along the way. The character reminds me of Malak (Tracey Walter) from Conan the Destroyer. I dare say he is the same character with just a name change.
Marique is the daughter of the warlord that ruined Conan’s life. She is a powerful witch who is perhaps the most interesting character in the film not only from a physical standpoint but also from a portrayal standpoint. She is disturbed and purely evil and in a rather icky turn seems to want to completely replace her mother. I mean COMPLETELY. And it is implied in a scene when one of her father’s subordinates comes crashing through the ceiling that she has!
Part of the plot involves a woman named Tamara (Rachel Nichols) who is a novice of a monastery. She is a pureblood descendant of a bloodline of necromancers and this makes her magically important to the film’s villain Khalar Zym (Stephen Lang) who also happens to be the individual Conan seeks vengeance upon. She is presented as Conan’s love interest but it is a rather tepid romance. She is rather boring as a character. She is not Conan’s equal like Valeria was nor is she a particularly interesting character in her own right. That is a problem throughout this film: no strong characters.
The villain is not fearsome nor philosophically opposed to anyone. Conan is not a hero you really wish to succeed but you also do not wish him to fail. He is just your only option. His supporting cast is just milquetoast.
The plot of the film also revolves around a nifty looking piece of magical headgear that will grant great power to whoever reassembles it. This will allow Zym and the gang to bring back his dead wife with all her secrets from the afterlife and do whatever nasty things the Mask of Acheron allows you to do. But honestly this world threatening magical item feels like it was an afterthought to the story. It barely factors into everything. The pureblood that they need to track down is a little more important but something about the story makes it feel like Conan is more stumbling towards his confrontation with Zym rather than events are propelling him towards fighting the warlord that ruined his life.
There are good action scenes but there is no excitement in the film. There are cool moments, but cool moments and cool action scenes do not make a great film. This film had plenty to make itself interesting. Stephen Lang is not a bad actor though I think he was miscast as the villain. Jason Momoa was not a bad choice for Conan. Rose McGowan can be a very interesting actress and her character was good as a dark sorceress. Visually the film is interesting but none of these elements really came together to create something special.
This Conan the Barbarian misses the mark. It has good ingredients but fails to produce anything that is good. Everything was mixed together and we got tepid. You can skip this.