Saturday, December 10, 2011

Conan The Barbarian

The original Conan the Barbarian was a masterpiece.  Since remakes of classics are typically sketchy at best, I approached this remake with trepidation.  The horrible reviews and bad trailers only added to the concern and lowered expectations.  As it turns out, my expectations were not low enough, Conan was absolutely abysmal in every way. 

I didn't expect or even want a scene for scene remake, but the only things this disaster had in common with the original are a character named Conan whose parents were killed by marauders and leaving him to spend his life in pursuit of vengeance.  Apart from that, the remake is completely unrecognizable from the original. As a matter of fact, that's pretty much the only plot involved.  All plot development could have been squeezed into less than 10 minutes.  The movie consisted of 2 minutes of plot followed by 20 minutes of boring and pointless action, repeated for 2 hours. 

How can action scenes be boring?  No character development.  If you don't know and/or don't care who the characters are, you really don't care who they are fighting or why.  For example, in one scene a sorceress casts a spell causing 'dirt people' to rise up from the sand and attack Conan.  They all looked exactly the same, and when one would get killed, it would dissolve back into sand and another would rise to replace it.  It didn't take long before I started wondering, "how many of these things does he have to kill before we can get back to the story?"  The answer is:  way too many. 

The endless waves of disposable characters who look the same and you know nothing about is endemic of the lack of character development.  Conan is the only character I can name.  All we ever learn about him is that his parents, along with everyone in his village, were killed and he is seeking revenge.  They were killed by some guy, probably meant to look scary but he's not, who had a magic mask with which he plans to take over the world.  Among his minions is his daughter, a sorceress who is given a laughable hair style and costumes and covered in tattoos, also most likely in a failed attempt to make her look scary.  Her persistent posturing and scowling results in her coming across more as an emo/goth teen though.  There's another big, scary villain played by Bob Sapp, former University of Washington offensive lineman (and Bear and Viking) turned pro wrestler turned mixed martial artist.  He was the best part of the movie despite the fact that I know nothing about his character. Rounding out the characters in descending order of memorability are the damsel in distress turned love interest, the villain who had his nose cut off by Conan, and the thief.  None of them with any back story, name, or any other information about them.

With a large budget, you'd expect at least quality special effects and costumes, but again you'd be disappointed.  As previously mentioned, the costumes that were meant to make guys look intimidating instead made them look ridiculous.  The special effects are passable, but not what you'd expect from a big budget movie.  Some of the scenery and monsters looked good, but others looked obviously fake. In all, the result is worse than an episode of Hercules or Xena Warrior Princess.  The acting and script in this mess weren't even up to par.  So if you're a Conan fan and hoping that the reviews are mistaken and you can re-capture some of the magic of the original, give up hope.  Conan The Barbarian is one of the worst movies I've ever seen.
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