Friday, September 2, 2011

Simply Barbaric to Watch

Cutting through a sea of uninteresting adversaries, the bloody reboot of Conan The Barbarian dares viewers to try to follow a wandering tirade of unfocused vengeance and lackluster storytelling.


Arth Vader (AV): Conan is truly one of the few characters that can withstand a near endless horde of re-boot attempts and still remain intact. The telling (or re-imagining) of the tale of a young Barbarian boy in his journey to become the fabled warrior-king of Cimmeria almost begs us to engage in his trials and adversities from boy to he-man. Conan The Barbarian ignores earlier renditions (along with other key details like how to tell a story and how to keep the audience interested) and asks the viewer to enjoy a fruitless ride. What do you think, P-Man?
THE PONTIFICATOR (TP): Continuity is really something that can’t be destroyed with material like this. There has been so much written about the character, that muscles, a sword, and much blood will satisfy the criteria. Compared to the first film with Schwarzenegger, it takes a different direction and follows a path that could be viewed as not Conan-like when making the comparison.
Casting, Directing and Acting
TP: The casting was ridiculous. After I spotted Bob Sapp, I knew it was going to be a long movie. Stephen Lang and Ron Perlman were the only established actors in the movie and they weren’t given much else to do but scream while swinging a sword. In fact, that’s all anyone did in this movie...a testament to the absurd directing and thoughtless acting. The script seemed like it was written by a barbarian, as if that would give it some kind of authenticity. Everything else after that was downhill. What do you think Vader?
AV: This is where this movie comes apart for me, too, Pontificator. This movie's casting seems to just randomly throw actors at me who simply don't seem to work at all in their roles. Lead man, Game of Thrones hunk, Jason Momoa is an Olive-skinned Adonis who is easy on the eyes and seems to be a decent choice – until he opens his mouth! Once he speaks, he sounds less like a warrior and more like an east coast nightclub Guido on the prowl for "hotties". Mentored by supposed "Warlord/Dad" Ron "Hell Boy" Perlman, (who I think held better onscreen presence than Mamoa) the movie moves haphazardly from one random set of events to the next.
TP: High marks for the gore factor. Unfortunately, the movie was so bad, I didn’t care. Besides a couple of scenes in particular, there wasn’t much need for any effects apart from spurting streams of blood and enveloping splatter. There was no new ground broken and some very old terrain was trod upon again. I failed to see the need for 3D as, again, it was underutilized in a film that could have done so much more with it.
AV: Agreed. The SFX highlight of this movie comes as the surprisingly well-executed battle with the sorcery-empowered sand men. For me, this surpasses every other sequence of the movie. Conan seems like a golden opportunity to tell a story that would scream for monsters, over-the-top panoramic scenes and demonic creatures. That opportunity, like so many others in this movie, is squandered.
Taking A Deeper Look
TP: The deeper I looked, the less I saw. I was not impressed with Momoa’s physique, and I should have been if I’m to believe he’s Conan. I was impressed with how articulate barbarians are...better than some scholars, but they shouldn’t be. The plot was laughable and the story took the character in so many directions, it became a chore to watch as I lost interest in his motivation. I was expecting to be entertained by the swordplay...after all, it’s Conan. Instead I was treated to tight camera angles that badly hid the fact nobody wanted to put any serious effort into the fight scenes. I was never convinced that Conan was the barbarian that shouldn’t be angered. He was more impressive as a child than anything I saw him do as an adult...and here I was thinking he’d be better later on having traveled the world and gained so much experience.
AV: Well stated, Ponty! This movie makes little sense. We are forced to accept Conan's pointless casting decisions and not question things like lineage or ethnicity. Bronze-skinned Momoa would not have been sired by two parents of clearly northern European lineage, raised in a snowy tundra. While I cannot even begin to determine if Conan takes place in our world or a fictional 'Middle-Earth' setting, everyone seems to be white. Even for what is clearly a tropical/sub-Saharan environment.
TP: The motivation of the villain fell in line with all the greats (ruling the world) but fell short of convincing since the meeting between he and Conan was anticlimactic and the great weapon to conquer the World was just as unimpressive as everything else in the movie. All that time and effort to get a mask, to resurrect your she can make you into a god? Yawn! Vader, you were saying something about ethnicity?
AV: This is hardly the place to discuss racial imperatives in modern media but, this movie does a horrible job in casting believable actors – even down to ethnic origin. If the movie takes place in a tropical climate, where people's skin color tends to be darker, it should be ok to show that. It's ok Hollywood, really. It's 2011, we have an African American President. Times have changed, try to keep up?
The Governator
Looking Ahead: Sequels
AV: I for one could either take or leave any follow-up Conan attempt. This movie tried so hard and ended up leaving me so indifferent, if the word Conan was never mentioned again, I for one would be ok. Pretty sad, too, since the intellectual property of Conan has endless possibilities. That could be the biggest let down of them all for this movie. Pontificator?
TP: Please don’t let them make a sequel! I’m not even interested in a reboot. I’m very much content with watching the Governator do his thing all those years ago...and hopefully I can forget this recent mistake. The truth is, with a character like Conan, there could always be a sequel looming as he wanders the earth looking for something to do. If we’re lucky, he’ll keep wandering and never find a thing to get into.
ARTH VADER Rates Conan The Barbarian: A host of brand name, A-list talent – including a monologue and prologue voiceover by Morgan Freeman – couldn't save this movie from imploding. To be fair, the movie has its moments and would not be a bad rental, but watching Conan unravel before your eyes is a disappointing, laborious chore at best. Cheesy acting, poor casting and a less-than interesting script deflates what could otherwise have been a fun and exciting fantasy/adventure film. I begrudgingly give Conan The Barbarian a mostly undeserved four-and-a-half busted blocks.
THE PONTIFICATOR Rates Conan The Barbarian: I’d have to be a barbarian to like this film any higher than three and a half busted blocks...and I’m being generous.
Conan The Barbarian: 4/10 Busted Blocks
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