It would seem redundant to ask the question, ‘do we need another Conan movie?’ because in an age where Spider-Man needs rebooting after just 9 years, not just do we need another Conan, but the idea it has taken almost 30 years to reboot this franchise is reason enough to crush those who question it and hear the lamentation of their women. That said if you’re going to reboot something, do it like the people behind Star Trek, Sherlock Holmes and Planet of the Apes did and do it well. Do not make a film dominated by drawn-out battle sequences that is so void of charm, originality, purpose and stakes that I was driven close to passing out from boredom.
Baywatch model Jason Momoa takes the sword from Arnie to portray Conan, son of the leader of a tribe of Barbarians (played by the always cool Ron Perlman). Conan is the pick of the litter, a natural born barbarian – he can kill, he can roar and he has long, untameable hair.
Evil Khalar Zym (Stephen Lang) whose goal of world domination is dependent on retrieving all the pieces of a mask and then finding the pure blood – a woman with pure blood (whatever that is) – invades Conan’s village with his army of marauders to steal the final piece of the mask and in the process dispatches with Ron Perlman in a clever and rather emotive set piece where Conan is left holding a vat of boiling liquid above his father; the inevitable eventually happens and his father is burned to death. Conan escapes and swears revenge on Khalar.
Years later Khalar seems to have pretty much unquestioned control of the world, but along with his clairvoyant freaky-sexy daughter Rose McGowan sporting spikey fingers they have locked down the location of the ‘pure blood’ which leads then to the monastery and Rachel Nichols. She manages to escape the siege but is pursued by Khalar’s men; it is here that Conan – older, hairier, buffer and now Momoa – comes to her rescue as she is about to be captured. The two are forced to work together to kill Khalar, before he kills them.
If there is a director whom the title ‘remake king’ is deserving then Marcus Nispel is worthier than most. The Texas Chainsaw, Friday the Thirteenth and now this have received the rejuvenation treatment from him. And while ‘Chainsaw’ was a chilling and affective piece of filmmaking, Friday the Thirteenth was a misguided mess; Conan continues Nispel’s steady decline as a filmmaker.
Aesthetically the piece is great – the CGI is flawless, the sets and scenery are suitably bleak for the bucolic and barren locations. And the action is violent, gory and in great abundance. And Momoa looks the part; when I think of a barbarian I see him. But a leading man needs more than to simply look the part. Momoa’s Conan is void of this, which is odd, because in person, Mr. Momoa is full of charisma. And while one might question how much charm and character a barbarian should or would have, this is a barbarian with principles and moreover this is Conan!
Protagonist problems aside, the key downfall of the piece is a failure to establish stakes. I’m not sure what more power Khalar will gain and what more he can do to those who dwell in this wasteland – they’re already pretty ragged and downtrodden. And what’s more, I don’t care. I honestly don’t care about the characters of Conan or Rachel Nichols. And this lack of concern makes everything that unfolds, however well executed totally irrelevant.
So, for an enjoyable two hours and to avoid the queues that will be mainly made up of Momoa-meat craving females, rent the 1982 Conan with the original mass of muscle, Mr. Arnold Schwarzenegger.
Conan the Barbarian is out now in cinema’s!