Review: Conan The Barbarian

A new bash at the Robert E. Howard character and, at the very least, it is better than the Schwarzenegger ones. I will admit that, as a small boy, I did have a passing phase for reading Conan comics and books and I think the small boy me would have mostly approved of this version.

It provides most of what you want from a Conan movie – tits and dismemberment (not enough of the former and far too much of the latter but we'll cover that later).

Conan is set in the Hyborian age, which by my understanding of prehistory is roughly after the dinosaurs but before the hobbits. The story follows the usual sword and sorcery jigsaw puzzle format – someone put something together, then it got taken apart and now the baddie is trying to put it all together again – all intoned by Morgan Freeman on the voiceover.

Conan's parents have, of course, been killed so there's all that revenge to deal with too.

My own vision of Conan, based on the Marvel comic books, was a man exactly resembling Dave Watson, the rugged England centre back in the Ron Greenwood era. Momoa looks a little Chippendale at times, but he's not a bad Conan.

It's a film which tries to be true to the character and play fair with the fans. The action is unrelenting but mostly unimaginative. It doesn't really feel like a mainstream Hollywood movie, but rather a big scale B movie. Its problems are down to trying to be too faithful, much in the way Watchmen was.

Firstly, it's a bit too po-faced for the casual viewer. It's all very bleak and dark with barely a moment of levity in the whole film. The movie is available in 3D but, oddly, that wasn't the version at my showing and I can't see how a film which is already pretty murky is going to benefit from 3D. It's also ferociously violent. I'm guessing the BBFC will excuse the 15 certificate by saying that it's fantasy violence.

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I can't really understand how a man torturing someone by poking their finger into an open wound can be deemed as somehow 'fantasy' just because the torturer is wearing a loincloth rather than a sharp suit.


Director: Marcus Nispel

Starring: Jason Momoa, Rachel Nicholl, Stephen Lang, Rose McGowan, Nonso Anozie and Ron Perlman

Length: 112mins