When it was announced that a remake/reboot of one of my favorite action movies, the John Millus sword n' sorcery classic "Conan the Barbarian", I was one of many that was unsure of the idea. I mean, on one hand, I think it's not the best idea, but on the other, the 82 movie is more Millus and Oliver Stone's take on "Conan" than it is the Robert E. Howard creation. I didn't see the movie in theaters, so now that it's on DVD and Blu-Ray, let's take a look.
Opening with a prologue narrated by Morgan Freeman (okay then...), we learn that Conan was born on the battlefield. By that, I mean his father Corin (Ron Perlman) delivered a c-section on his mom during battle. Why a pregnant woman is fighting in war is beyond me, but hey. Years later, young Conan (Leo Howard) watches his village and people become destroyed, and his father killed by warlord Khalar Zym (Steven Lang) and his men.
As an adult (Jason Momoa), Conan is a thief and pirate, who finds Lucius (Steven O'Donnell), who was one of Zym's men that he disfigured as a child. After getting some information out of him about the whereabouts of Zym, he finds out that he's a name known across Hyboria, and he and his daughter Marquis (Rose McGowan) are searching for the pure blood princess Tamara (Rachael Nichols) so they can bring back Zym's wife and enslave humanity. So now, Conan must save the princess and save the world in the process of his quest for vengeance.
If there's anything the new "Conan" really gets right, it's the casting of Momoa as Conan. Simply put, he feels more like the Conan of the stories, as he's not just some brute. He's intelligent, hatches plans, has goals, and can talk fluently as well as he can go into violent rage. The action scenes are also very well done, and bloody as hell, while the sets look like the Hyborian age of the stories. Also, Perlman does fine work as Conan's father, and Lang delivers a fun (albeit scenery chewing) performance. McGowan meanwhile...she's not good, but she vamps it up so much that I kinda liked her. Finally, while it's nowhere near as great as the original, the score by Tyler Bates does it's job-I especially like the Celtic touches.
Sadly, that's where the positives end. For one thing, the direction by Marcus Nispel (whose "Friday the 13th" remake I enjoyed) is the definition of nondescript, as little of it feels epic or fun, and lacks the edge of the original. The story meanwhile, is incredibly dumb, and feels like it was rejected by the SyFy channel, while the script is filled with holes and bad dialog (while Momoa is great, I had to cringe when he delivered lines like "I don't want your gold-I want your head!") The conclusion is also lacking, as it feels anticlimactic, while the rest of the performances-especially Nichols-are all pretty poor.
Which leads to my biggest complaint-the movie lacks fun for the most part. Sure, the action scenes look great, and there's moments that let us know how much of a badass Conan is, but as a whole, it doesn't have the adventurous, pulpy greatness of the original stories. This is a movie with a man who doesn't take any shit, has a code of honor, and is an all around certifiable bad motherfucker who gets girls, kills villains and is tougher than nails. Yet, while it has a great Conan, the story, direction and plotting feel beneath such a character. The end result feels more like a studio patch-job in which they went "Okay, we've got a well known property, let's do make a movie with it" without doing much and ignoring what the final product might look like.
It's a real shame too, because there's some stuff I really like here, and there's a fun movie hidden somewhere. However, the end result just feels lukewarm, and isn't anywhere near as enjoyable as it should be.