Saw Conan the Barbarian on Wednesday night. I tried to keep an open mind going into it, because how else can you give something a fair chance? I have been avoiding detailed reviews and message board chatter, but it was impossible to not notice how quickly it was vanishing from theaters in the greater Puget Sound area. So we managed to grab a bite to eat and some beers at the Southcenter BJ's and then take in the 8:10 3D showing of Conan.
I thought it started well enough. Kid Conan killing and beheading the scouts was great (if not a tad outlandish - then again, he is a Cimmerian). But it was all downhill from there. Ron Perlman (Sons of Anarchy, Hellboy, etc) was a decent choice for Conan's father, and hey, he even invoked Crom's name - pretty sure that was the only time Crom was mentioned in the entire flick. And he talked about "the mystery of steel" when he was making swords, but that was it.
So the village is attacked, the population slaughtered, the last piece of the mask is discovered by the bad guys, Conan watches his dad die before his very eyes, and he himself manages to avoid death. The voice-over that follows talks about Conan growing up, thieving, whoring, and otherwise adventuring. Fade in to adult Conan, a chiseled and brooding (but otherwise bland and unlikeable) Jason Momoa.
Conan, now a pirate/mercenary, attacks and frees a slave camp and continues his pursuit of the bad guys who wiped out his village. He allows himself to be captured (to gain some intel), and then saves a woman named Tamara, who just happens to be the last piece of the puzzle that will give the bad guys their sought-after ultimate power of doom. Conan suffers an epic fail, and loses Tamara to the bad guys.
He tracks them down and does battle with the bad guys, foiling their plans to rule the world. A climactic battle ensues, and Conan kills the leader of the bad guys and his evil daughter (Rose McGowan). The end. I mean COME ON! He kills the bad guy by causing him to fall into some second-rate Gorge of Eternal Peril. Sheesh. At least he could have run him through and fired off a great line before lopping his head off or splitting him in twain. Meh.
So what exactly did I think sucked here? Hmm, time for a list:
1) The story was not good at all. Look, I didn't want and didn't expect the new Conan to be a carbon-copy rehash of the original Conan. But the new story was uninspired, choppy, and not epic.
2) Conan was not larger than life. Momoa was not able to give his Conan the charisma, the mystique that Arnold was able to give his Conan. Maybe that's the writers fault, but nevertheless, I just could not like Momoa's Conan.
3) The bad guys sucked. Thulsa Doom was evil, charismatic, and had some snappy dialogue. Khalar Zym was just another dime-a-dozen wannabe tyrant, who was totally lacking in all bad guy aspects.
4) The supporting cast was hollow. Conan's pirate friends were OK, but we don't know anything about Artus. Same goes for Ela-Shan, the liberated thief who Conan later calls upon to help him enter the bad guy's impenetrable fortress of e-vil. And Tamara, while certainly attractive and smart, is suddenly able to fight like a pissed-off lioness. Riiiiight.
5) 3D is overrated, or at least not well utilized in this Conan. It mostly seemed to be layered scenery, which really didn't do anything for me. How about some good locations and great cinematography instead?
What could have been an awesome epic for a new generation of Conan fans was instead a shallow, disjointed mess. It wasn't even a good swords & sorcery romp. No one is going to go around spouting quotes from this Conan for decades to come. No one is going to pull off Arnold poses and facial expressions. Instead, it fades into obscurity as yet another remake that failed, and failed big time.
The Thing prequel, however, looks a LOT more promising. And there's also the Red Dawn remake (North Korean soldiers invade Spokane? WTF? At least this time the Wolverines will use the Cascades as their base).