by Ryan Hill
Hollywood has been trying to get a new “Conan” movie off the ground for years. Before Arnold Schwarzenegger (the original Conan) became governor of California, he was set to reunite with original “Conan the Barbarian” director John Milius for a sequel with Conan as an old king and the action revolving around his son.
Once the Governator became a household nickname and that idea became impossible, the production was scrapped, and now we get a straight reboot with “Conan the Barbarian,” a movie that can only be described as an action craptacular that, were it not for a massive budget, would have ended up going straight to DVD.
Jason Momoa (TV’s “Game of Thrones”) is Conan in this latest iteration of Robert E. Howard’s pulp hero, and while he certainly passes the eyeball test to take over the sword from Schwarzenegger, he fails the acting test as he portrays Conan as a bratty Robin Hood type with a fake scratchy voice. This Conan doesn’t even care about avenging his parents until the film is ready for that plot point to occur, not because of any motivation from the character.
Credit for this mostly goes to director Marcus Nispel, who’s already made one mess of a sword fighting movie with “Pathfinder,” and screenwriters Thomas Dean Donnelly, Joshua Oppenheimer, and Sean Hood, all of whom need a lesson in story, character development and, most importantly, dialogue.
All of the acting, from Momoa to co-stars Ron Perlman and Rose McGowan, is not only flat but downright boring. And Rachel Nichols, who plays Conan’s love interest, goes from killing bad guys one minute to screaming for Conan to save her the next. Who is she? A warrior? A damsel in distress? Who knows. The only exception is Stephen Lang, who manages to infuse the film’s villain with actual dimension.
Yes, this new “Conan” is loaded with action and violence, but there’s no sense of geography or how many people/monsters Conan is fighting. Most of the time, it’s only clear that fights are over when the B-movie score tells the audience it’s over with a few rousing musical notes. In fact, there’s so much of Momoa running and jumping around that halfway through the over-two-hour running time, the sequences feel less like an action film and more like a video game, with Conan tearing through low-level minions before he can fight that level’s boss.
To top it all off, taking a cue from the original “Conan,” they have a narrator. Only this time it’s Morgan Freeman, whose voice isn’t the first that comes to mind to narrate a film about a Barbarian – probably not the best idea to have the man who narrated “March of the Penguins” also narrate a film called “Conan the Barbarian.” Just saying.
Grade: 1.5/4 stars