This weekend three new movies that can be seen in 3D are opening up. One is being touted as the first 4D movie, but this is not the time to discuss semantics. Two years ago there were a limited number of screens that were capable of showing 3D movies. Today, movie theaters have more 3D screens than ever; but, that number is far from abundant. While some movies make the effort of presenting a good 3D experience by shooting with 3D cameras other movies choose to convert to 3D in post-production with usually less than stellar results. Conan the Barbarian is one of the new 3D movies and is guilty of this crime. Unfortunately, the crap 3D effects that Conan the Barbarian displays are the least of this movie’s problems.
Remakes/re-imagined movies are the norm these days. That has to be accepted. Sometimes you get pleasant surprises, like the other 3D movie opening this weekend, Fright Night. Conan the Barbarian is one of those remakes that makes you cry out, “Why did they even bother?”
Conan the Barbarian shares very little story line with the Arnold Schwarzenegger original. Conan, this time portrayed by Jason Momoa, is the only surviving member of his village. When Conan was a boy, the village was destroyed by Khalar Zym (Stephen Lang). When Conan is old enough, he begins his quest for revenge. Those basic plot points are all that the original and remake have in common.
There are so many problems with Conan the Barbarian; it’s hard to pick where to begin. The fact that the screenplay deviates so much from the original is not the issue. Often, that is usually a better choice. Does anyone remember the shot-by-shot remake of Psycho? The problem is the weak story that is taking place. Zym is trying to piece together an ancient relic whose pieces have been scattered around the world, a plot that has been used countless times on other movies. Arnold Schwarzenegger’s Conan was a man of few words. Jason Momoa’s Conan almost never shuts up and has to rattle out such witty dialogue like, “I live, I love, I sin and I am content.” Riveting, yes?
Arnold may not have given an Oscar worthy performance when he played Conan, but no one complained about the acting in the original. The acting in the new Conan the Barbarian is largely flat. There’s no real spark behind Momoa’s eyes that lets the audience root for Conan. Frankly, audience members may find themselves rooting for Stephen Lang’s Khalar Zym. It would be unfair to compare Zym to James Earl Jones’s Warlord Thulsa Doom. Lang does way too much overacting, but at least he’s showing SOMEthing. Rachel Nichols, who plays Tamara, seems to spend most of the movie screaming her head off, playing the damsel in distress. The only performance of note comes from Rose McGowan who plays Zym’s daughter, Marique; although the Freddy Kruger finger knives she sports are pretty laughable.
Since this is a Conan movie, there are plenty of swordfights. All the fight scenes are a mess! Thomas Kloss’s cinematography is very choppy during these scenes. It looks similar to the way The Hurt Locker and Battle: Los Angeles were shot. The shots look handheld and shaky and the editing is quickly cut. This may work for a war movie with guns, but not with swordplay.
Conan the Barbarian is directed by Marcus Nispel who also directed the re-imagined Texas Chainsaw Massacre and Friday the 13th , so he is clearly in his element; however, when a movie is this boring, a finger must be pointed at the director. There are some shots in the movie where characters look like they were waiting around for Nispel to yell, “ACTION” before they moved. Perhaps some of that blame can be attributed to Editor Ken Blackwell. Tyler Bates’s musical score does not help matters, either. Perhaps a few nods to the late Basil Poledouris score of the original would have helped.
As stated earlier, the 3D is pitiful. A great way to tell if you are watching a badly converted 3D movie is to take off your 3D classes every now and then during the movie. If the shot is not a special-effects-added landscape shot, chances are you will be able to see the movie clearly. The only thing the 3D imaging does in the new Conan the Barbarian is that it makes the movie look darker. The movie is cheesy enough as it is. It really did not need to be converted into 3D outside of hoping to snare some extra dollars from movie goers.
It’s rare to come across a movie this bad. Usually there are a few redeeming factors that can be found in even the worst movies out there. Conan the Barbarian can’t even fall into the category of “So bad, it’s good.” The movie is not only wasting space on 3D movie screens across the country, it is wasting movie screen space, period. It is rated R for strong bloody violence (not as much as the original), some sexuality and nudity.