Friday, November 18, 2011

Conan The Barbarian (2011) - not that bad

hi everyone

well, with some reluctance, if i am honest, i decided to give this new version of Conan The Barbarian a try. when approaching any remake / "re-imagining" there's always the great risk of being left not so much disappointed as angry that so much time and effort was wasted. every now and then, it goes right of course - however, for every True Grit, there's always a Wicker Man or Nightmare On Elm Street lurking to remind you or just how bad an idea revisiting classic films can be.

just how "classic" the original film was is subject to debate. i and many others loved it, but it's hardly held up, either by critics or financial figures, as one of the greatest films of all time, is it? that said, as this film is aimed at the same fan base as a market, it would have been wise for the makers to ensure they didn't offend or evoke any memories of the Schwarzenegger interpretation.

the short version of the review is that i sat with the remote ready to switch it off if it offended and i did not use the remote. it's not too bad at all, really. as a remake, it falls into the same category as the recent-ish remake of The Italian Job - had they just given it a different name to the original it would have been accepted as a "homage" and probably seen as an even better film due to the lack of an invited comparison.

with the short version gone, everything after the poster should be considered as containing *** POTENTIAL SPOILERS ***

i am not as familiar as i could be with the series of Conan short stories or the novels that they were eventually consolidated into. i really only have the original film adaptation to work off in regards of any knowledge of the character as such, so my apologies, if required, to any of the fan base for stuff i may have in ignorace missed out. i also don't know, as a consequence, which if either of the films is "true" to the source material, and i have no idea if that is even relevant to enjoying the film or films.

whereas the original film was give a grand, epic scale and a minimalist, sweeping vision to tell what was quite frankly a preposterous yet enchanting tale, this new version, to pick a fault for first, thinks it is doing the same but, alas, does not. the 1982 Conan followed something of a linear map; this version has Conan visiting what must be half of the known world in the context of the film - very briefly for little reason and with not much interest generated due to the pretty but also bland CGI created backgrounds.

this kind of gets annoying, to be honest, but not as distracting as to make you switch it off. the story generally moves on despite this, something that certainly did not happen when they did the same stuff in the awful, awful film Tales Of An Ancient Empire. but more on that film later.

before going on then, the place where it really falls flat compared to the "original" film is that it just isn't as visually striking.

moving on to the plot takes a "similar but different" path to the original film. essentially it's still "Conan seeks to avenge the death of his father" of course, but this is no colour-by-numbers replication. the birth of Conan presented here is certainly interesting, borrowing to a certain extent from the notion of "you are what you were born into" from the excellent film Perfume. unfortunately the rise of Conan and his training is more or less ignored as irrelevant in this film, you are kind of just expected to accept "he is Conan" as a reason for his immense power, skill and strength.

a point many shall argue is that Conan is Arnold Schwarzenegger. erm, OK if you fall into that group. i'm not against other actors taking on "classic" roles - think, for instance, of James Bond or Batman. i had little or no idea as to who or what a Jason Momoa was before he was announced in the part. he looked like he would be OK from the early press photos, and in fairness he does a rather good job. he doesn't replace the image of Arnold as Conan but he also doesn't look out of place or wrong.

perhaps wisely Momoa isn't given any scenes which could be a direct copy of the Schwarzenegger film, not that you are allowed to, for example, kill a buzzard by biting its head off or even punch a camel's lights out in films these days. he is, by comparison, a good deal more talkative than the Conan we know. who knows, though - perhaps the 1982 Conan would have featured a right jabbermouth of a protagonist if he wasn't being played by someone who at the time had a rather strong, particularly difficult to follow Austrian accent? either way, it' something that catches you rather offguard at first.

Conan's father is here played by one of the few actors that you may have heard of before seeing the film, Ron Pearlman. This piece of casting, i am led to believe, somewhat appeased the fanboy brigade who were angry with the idea of a remake. i can only imagine this relates to his appearance in the Hellboy films and him lending his voice to some sort of game based on Conan, for his appearance in things like Alien Resurrection and Blade II certainly didn't lead to much forgiveness for what those films did to the original premises.

as it happens, Ron Pearlman is the one who walks away with the most credit from this film, with as good a performance as you could ask for to his name. it probably helps that he easily got the very best of the dialogue on offer in the film, which indeed isn't saying all that much.

as for the "big bad of the film", that would be a character called Khalar Zym, played by someone called Stephen Lang. it is whilst he is busy doing something along the lines of reclaiming the parts of a crown made from the bones of kings in order to resurrect his wife that he stumbles upon and subsequently kills, or arranges for the death of, Conan's father.

yes, indeed. looking at the above i think you can see a bit of the problem with this casting. he is no James Earl Jones as Thulsa Doom, is he? it's not quite as big a mismatch as, say, Arnold versus the beer bellied Vernon Wells in Commando, but it is not as far away from that as it could be.

he is at least aided by his daughter who has inhereted the powers of sorcerey from her mother.

and, as you can see, she has also inhereted the looks of Juliette Lewis via those nun/witch type characters which featured in the 80s version of Dune too.

the sorcerey comes into play when Khalar Zym needs the pure blood from the bloodline of the kings from which the crown was crafted, who happens to be a woman, who falls under Conan's protection, etc, etc, blah blah blah. i don't give too much detail here for the film makers opted not to either. whoever she is (i cannot for the life of me recall her name), she is no Valeria from the 1982 film.

oh dear me. reading this lot back, well, other than being disjointed somewhat, it seems i have given a lot of negatives for the film. this version of Conan The Barbarian is, however, well worth a look if "swords and sandals" is your kind of thing. if your thing is also a good deal of designer violence, gore and the ladies (and indeed gents) not wearing as many clothes as they perhaps could, then this film is for you.

going back to an earlier point, the great missed opportunity with this film is perhaps that it was made as a 'Conan' film when, quite frankly, with a bit of adjustment this is really what the world would have wanted in the form of a sequel to The Sword And The Sorcerer, as opposed to the load of rubbish we eventually got in the shame of Tales Of An Ancient Empire. if Conan was instead Talon or a child of Talon, this would have gone down rather well. ho hum, never mind.

this film has been left "open" enough for a sequel, but i somehow doubt we shall get one. it hasn't done at all well financially, and there's a clue on the poster as to perhaps why not.

yep, this is yet again a film that was released in "3D" for no apparent reason. movie fans are growing in ther number for being fed up with this format, and thus it's little surprise that at the Box Office it brought in all of $21 million against a budget cost of some $70 million. had they just released this in a normal, fan and cinema patron friendly way, it may well have done slightly better.

it might well find a natural home on DVD, really, as indeed all good quality "sword and sandals" (bar Gladiator, which did well wherever it was released) seem to do. despite the reservations and complaints above, it really is worth your time having a look at this film, it being 100 minutes or so that you shall not regret using and shall more often than not be entertained in.

be excellent to each other!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!
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