Conan the Barbarian: Rated “R“ (112 Minutes)
Starring: Jason Momoa, Ron Perlman, Stephen Lang, Rose McGowan, Rachel Nichols
Directed by: Marcus Nispel
In Hollywood there is probably hardly anything more daunting for writers, directors, and actors than in re-imagining a legendary, classic, and/or beloved film that was helmed by an iconic figure in their respective field (Think Jeff Bridges reprising the role initially made famous by Hollywood Icon, John Wayne in True Grit). Well, one can only imagine that no small amount of trepidation ran through WWE and Game of Thrones star Jason Momoa when he was tapped to replace former Governator, Arnold Schwarzenegger as the legendary Robert E. Howard barbarian, Conan in the new Lionsgate reboot of the legendary character.
As fans of the original pulp and paperback character (not to mention a long-time readers of the various Marvel Comics Conan comicbooks) know, Conan has a long and storied career in print, as well as film, and well, this reviewer, has to say that we were pleasantly surprised with how much we actually enjoyed this interpretation. To be sure, it wasn’t better, but it wasn’t horrible either. In fact, it was actually quite good. (To be sure, we did miss the Germanic/Eastern European accent of the character himself as spoken by Schwarzenegger, but well, you can’t have everything.)
Still, when all is said and done, this film actually contains a much better story than the first Conan film, as it not only gives the northland Cimmerian a more far credible back-story. (The original film made Conan a slave ‘til he attained adulthood — something that was totally not the REH origin for the character — while this version stays closer to Howard’s version, and has Conan born on a battlefield, and growing up as a wild barbarian in the wasteland of his native Cimmeria.
This film introduces us to a young Conan who was always something of a wild brute. No, this Conan was always a warrior, and was always well skilled in the ways of battle. He initially achieved his potential when his village was pillaged by a combined of opposing tribesmen who were bound to the powerful warlord, Khalar Zym (Lang) who was seeking to re-assemble a dark, mystical mask that — legend has it — will grant him god-like power, allow him to reanimate his dead wife, and make him ruler of the entire world. Zym’s forces not only find the missing piece of the mask that was being hidden by Conan’s father (Perlman), but ravaged the village, killing everyone — save for Conan himself.
The young barbarian then spends the next several years tracking the warriors that killed his people; embarking on a quest that become an epic battle against hulking rivals, horrific monsters, and impossible odds. Eventually Conan realizes he is the only hope of saving the great nations of Hyboria from the encroaching reign of supernatural evil of the evil mask. In the final analysis, what the film lacks in the commanding presence of the lumbering Schwarzenegger, it makes up for with the addition of impressive CGI (and 3D) scenery, as well as the boundless energy of Momoa. Further, this version is rated “R” making it not only way more violent, but, well, far more sexual as well (granting its audience an impressive amount of nudity among the numerous on-screen slave girls).
So, no, this isn’t your father’s (cinematic) Conan, but we do suspect that it is closer in content to Howard’s imaginings than either of the previous films or the comicbook interpretations. We urge you to check it out, and do what we did, try to separate the film from what has come before (both in film, and comics, as well as the books themselves), and watch it for what it is — a savage adventure of a brutal world that may or may not have ever existed.
Robert J. Sodaro has been writing professionally for over 30 years. During that time, his movie reviews and articles have appeared in numerous publications, as well as on the web