(Read this in my publication In Retrospect – Issue 1)
Directed by Marcus Nispel, Conan The Barbarian is based on the character created by Robert E. Howard. However, it is a new interpretation of the Conan mythology and is not related to the films featuring Arnold Schwarzenegger which were released in 1982.
Beginning with Conan (Jason Momoa) as a young boy, his village is attacked by warlord Khalar Zym (Stephen Lang), and he is left as the only survivor. 20 years later, Conan discovers that Zym is planning to sacrifice the pure blood descendant of the sorcerers of Acheron in order to unleash the Mask of Acheron’s power, a weapon he wishes to use to revive his dead wife and conquer Hyborea. Now a skilled but violent warrior, Conan seeks his revenge.
Zym and his daughter, the sorceress Marique (Rose McGowan), attack a monastery in order to find the pure blood, tasting the blood of women as they go. At this point, we don’t know why they are looking for a pureblood. We don’t even know what a pure blood is until a little later on, and by then we have already come up with a Harry Potter reference of our own. The pureblood that was in the monastery, Tamara (Rachel Nichols), has already been warned of the attack and has run away, finding herself in the ‘safe’ arms of Conan.
The film follows with many more seemingly unnecessary fight scenes, and on a whole is very hard to follow. A lot happens with scenes changing frequently and quickly, often leaving you to guess who’s the bad guy and who’s the good guy, why they are doing what they are doing, and, wait, who even are they? It’s easy to guess when Conan turns up as, even though he is brutally violent, he is apparently one of the good guys. If you follow what he’s doing then you might just be rooting for the right side in whatever fight is happening next.
The storyline itself is quite well thought out. The characters look good, the acting throughout the film is good. Unfortunately, the cloud of confusion engulfing all of this blurs out any potential that the film may have had, leading you to lose interest quite early on.
Whilst some films that are fight scene after fight scene can be successful, with the mass amount of gore being one of the best parts, like with 300, Conan isn’t one of them.