Conan the Barbarian
1 1/2 stars (out of 4)
“I live. I love. I slay. I am content.”
Well, that looks after you, Conan, but what about the rest of us who would like a little plot with our mindlessly splattering gore?
The character that made Arnold Schwarzenegger a star in the 1982 movie based on Robert E. Howard’s pulp fiction hero, Conan the Barbarian, returns in the reboot that is the very definition of the dumb summer flick, designed to squeeze a few last bucks out of the kids before school starts up again.
So it’s puzzling why this version, starring Jason Momoa of TV’s Stargate: Atlantis and Game of Thrones as the title muscle-bound savage in the sword and sorcery fantasy, is so relentlessly bloody it nets an 18A rating.
The very audience of young fellows who would enjoy this turkey can’t get in the door.
With several directors, including Larry and Andy Wachowski, Robert Rodriguez and Brett Ratner all linked to the Conan project at one time, German reboot master Marcus Nispel (Friday the 13th, The Texas Chainsaw Massacre) finally signed on.
He inherited a fragmented script that is little more than battles stitched together by a jumbled, aimless story and mindless dialogue as characters are impaled, slashed, hobbled, clotheslined with chains, raked, baked, smashed on rocks, decapitated, stabbed and disemboweled, all in 3-D.
One poor baddie loses his nose — and then faces an even worse indignation. It’s disgusting.
We meet Conan’s sword-making pop, Corin (Ron Perlman) who is busy, along with his missus, mowing down the first of many bad guys in a gory scene that sets the tone for the rest of the movie.
Blood arcs up in great sprays thanks to 3-D trickery, as heads are smashed and limbs separated from bodies. Baby Conan is literally born in blood on the CGI-spawned battlefield, leading him to be a natural warrior as a kid.
Evil warlord Khalar Zym (Avatar’s Stephen Lang) and his hissing sorceress daughter with the leather bondage wear and metal manicure, Marique (Rose McGowan), are playing the world ruler game.
They’re seeking the missing piece of a magic mask that will make him Zym the all-powerful.
They waste Corin — which is a shame because Perlman plays such a wise lug — and burn the village in another bloody raid. This leaves adult Conan to avenge his father’s death while wandering around his CGI-created Hyboria homeland and oceans, freeing slaves with fancy swordplay.
Heavy-browed and with impressive muscles, Momoa looks like a missing member of Whitesnake and is a worthy successor to Schwarzenegger in a role that requires the actor to be more physical than artful in his work.
Momoa is as wooden as a garden stake, but he’s a better actor than Schwarzenegger was in the role and he has the right moves.
The gore gets a rest when the girls arrive. In fact, the credits list seven “topless wench” roles.
Rachel Nichols, who is as exciting as a dish of rice pudding, plays monk-nun (are you kidding me?) Tamara, who has some kind of unique “pure” blood that will help Zym and Marique fulfil their evil destinies.
She also makes a tasty diversion for Conan with some PG sexy time.
“Woman, come here,” he growls.
Who could resist?
Nearly two hours of relentless blood and guts wears on the nerves and accompanying adults will be checking their watches by the halfway point.
It’s hard to figure out just who this movie is for. Its boneheaded earnestness and wretched script means it’s not going to achieve a so-bad-it’s-good fan following and the level of violence is disturbing.
I’ve seen horror movies with less gore. Pick up your sword and go home, Conan, and don’t you dare think about a sequel.
Linda Barnard is a syndicated movie critic with The Toronto Star.