Conan the Barbarian is yet another movie based on the Conan character who was created by writer Robert E. Howard. We have thus far seen stories featuring Conan in a plethora of media formats such as films, games, comics, tv shows and no doubt several others. I none the less have never really been all that excited about the character or the stories he has appeared in. However the prospect of a blood soaked sandle epic does appeal to my taste in films (especially with the current lack of such films) and sadly whilst Conan the Barbarian does provide for that, it has several shortcomings.
Conan the Barbarian starts of with a gloriously ridiculous scene of Conan's birth. Who is born in the middle of a blood soaked battle as his father cuts him from his dying mother and then holds Conan up in the air as he screams (presumably both in pain and joy). After some overly obvious exposition we are then introduced to a still young albeit no longer infant Conan and his combat abilities and mastery are quickly shown and the plot soon after kicks in (which of course required the previously mentioned ham fisted exposition to even make any lick of sense). Khalar Zym (played by the terrific Stephen Lang) seeks to bring back his dead sorceress wife back to life with the aid of his daughter Marique (played by Rose McGowan). Zym holds the belief in doing so he would become a God and the ruler of all. Simply put Zym is on a conquest for power and for a reason that is barely touched on the film believes his all powerful albeit dead wife would be able to grant him his wishes if she was brought back to life (though if she was defeated before why couldn't she be defeated again?). That is more or less all their is to the story and whilst the plot is solid it is childishly simple and uninspired. None the less it remains functional and is not one of the main issues present in the film.
The acting in Conan the Barbarian varies from mediocre to absolutely appalling. The previously mention Stephen Lang and Rose McGowan do their best as the villains but the characters ultimately fell underdeveloped and the reasons for their motives are barely touched on. As father and daughter they also share a creepy scene that hints at an almost incestuous relationship (or at least the possible desire for one) which whilst creepy ultimately adds nothing to the film. Such issues permeate throughout the entire film and 'characters' who already tend to have little screen time and characterisation, have what little they do often squandered on meaningless moments such as the previously mentioned semi-incestuous one. As a result the film makers seemed to rely on cheap visual cues such as an eye patch so as one can remember who particular 'characters' are. The lead actor in particular seemed content in mumbling his words with minimal articulation which is further hindered by an uneven audio mix that often had voices far to soft. None the less Momoa as Conan does himself few favours and whilst he physically looks the part of a ruthless Barbarian out for revenge, his acting ability (at least in this film) is a far shoot from being even remotely good enough to carry any film.
In spite of the above issues with the performances and character a film such as this can can still easily be enjoyed if the action is suitably well staged and exciting (an epic fell also tends to help). Conan sadly has very little of this. The action sequences are over edited and feature an almost nauseating amount of camera movement combined with constant cuts between different shoots that often do not flow from previous shoots. I actually don't mind the shaky camera effect and also feel the overly aggressive editing can work when used well and thus can be an effective tool in enhancing a films action scenes. That however is not the case here. Their are other extremely noticeable issue in editing (although they are likely to stem from filming issues) such as the time of day during the boat fight. The 'bad guys' sneak onto the boat and it is clearly dusk or dawn and moments later when they are detected it is suddenly a bright and sunny day. Such an instance isn't to bad in of itself and by no means something that ruins a film, but it does highlight the issues that are constantly present in the action scenes which jump around with no sense of flow from shoot to shoot and ultimately make this hard to garner any enjoyment.
The pacing is also problematic in that it is practically non existent and as the movie jumps from one action scene to another over and over again. The result is a complete lack of any sense of danger for the lead characters. Conan the Barbarian simply fells as if it's constantly deflating and slowly winding down towards the inevitable finale which to its credit does try to fell bigger and more epic then the previous action scenes, but is none the less plagued by the same issues that are present throughout the entire film and thus the film sadly ends with a whimper.
It saddens me to say that whilst Conan the Barbarian is by no means the worst film released this year and whilst it is not without its positives, it is none the less a film that was ultimately more often boring to watch then it is fun. Conan the Barbarian is simply overwhelmed by numerous issues which successfully zaps near on all the fun the film could otherwise have had to offer. Conan the Barbarian does not come recommended.
Conan the Barbarian is also available in 3d and as has far to often become the case is a complete 2d to 3d conversion. Conan the Barbarian was not shoot in 3d and it was not shoot for 3d and whilst a good conversion can look amazing and add to many films (usually only when intended or wanted by the film makers) that where never intended to be seen in 3d . In this case it however sadly adds nothing to this film and if anything it makes the already poorly edited action sequences even harder to watch as the hectic editing is anything but 3d friendly. The 3d is also minimal and takes on an every flat appearance that does nothing to enhance the story and as previously mentioned actually hinders the action scenes. Hence if you do decide to see this film I would urge you to ignore the 3d option and see it in 2d.