Conan The Barbarian

Director: Marcus Nispel (2011)
Starring: Jason Momoa, Stephen Lang, Rachel Nichols, Rose McGowan
Find it: IMDB

Charmless barbarian Conan (Momoa) roams dingy deserts and dingy cities with a big sword, hoping to kill the men who murdered his father (Ron Perlman) with it. He learns some lessons in humility when he runs into Tamara (Nichols) the 'pureblood' girl villains Zim (Lang) and Marique (McGowan) are trying to sacrifice. The poor girl is essentially kidnapped from the moment we meet her (even by Conan) until the end of the movie. Her story just skips from one kidnapping to the next. Also, comedy misogyny. Sure, when I gag a girl with her own dress and tell her to STFU and go to sleep, it's considered bastardly. But when Conan does it, it's all sweet and romantic and shit. One rule for the barbarians...

Conan is the least interesting person in his own movie. Hunky actor Jason Momoa has a nice set of abs and a kick-ass pair of guns, but no presence. Arnold Schwarzenegger might not be able to act (unless you like Terminators) but the man had charisma. And he punches a camel. Momoa hits a horse with a big chain, but doesn't punch any camels and certainly doesn't have charisma. Conan is supposed to be quite the ladies man, but he just comes across here as a sulky tit. For someone whose motto is supposed to be about loving life and having lots of sex, Conan doesn't seem to enjoy any of it much. Conan is an arrogant misogynist - and I'm not complaining about that, it sort of fits the character - but can't back it up with anything other than being quite good at stabbing people. And even that, he doesn't really seem to enjoy.

Everyone else fares a lot better. Nichols, despite being little other than a Damsel In Distress and required only to look pretty, be tied up and dangle off things, is easy to empathise with. When the lead character is so dull and unlikeable, you can't help but look elsewhere. Lang and McGowan are wonderful. Lang does creepy and sinister and angry really well, whilst McGowan gets to wear a Freddy Krueger glove and look at once sultry and horrible.

The action sequences, too, are brilliant. There's a big action scene every ten minutes or so, ensuring that Conan at least isn't boring. I particularly enjoyed a bit of nasal torture with Conan and the fat guy from Bottom. There's a nice fight with a giant tentacle monster thing, which I would like to have seen a bit more of, and the opening quarter (basically, everything before Momoa turns up) is the best of the whole movie. Even Morgan Freeman turns up to narrate something. Ron Perlman is reliably good as Conan's pa, although somehow he looks like Will Ferrell in this film.

I enjoyed Conan, but nowhere near as much as I should have. It's humourless, too dingy - too much like a less penile version of Your Highness - and its lead actor is a charisma vortex of glares and punching. It's improved tenfold by its villains and action sequences, but is nothing like it could have been.


  1. Conan is an arrogant misogynist - and I'm not complaining about that, it sort of fits the character

    Robert E. Howard's Conan was actually noted for being far more respectful towards women than other men of the Hyborian Age, on account of the Cimmerians being more egalitarian: women frequently fought alongside the men, after all, and half of their war-deities are female. There's even a story where Conan, still not used to civilized ways, expects the queen he's working for to put on armour as she marches off to battle, not realising that she wouldn't actually be participating. When he's being dismissive of women, it's mostly because he's disgusted that they simply aren't as badass as barbarian lasses. Conan loves spirited, independent, resourceful women who fling society's misogynistic system back in its face by becoming pirates and warriors - just look at Valeria, Belit and Zenobia.

    In this film, Conan is the most misogynistic character of the lot. It's about as dramatic an inversion of Conan's personality as raising him as a slave was.

    It's humourless

    I don't know, the knee-to-the-groin shots with the victim mugging for the camera, the awful comic-violence and that whole catapult thing were pretty hilarious for all the wrong reasons.

  2. Sigh, my ignorance strikes again. I do need to read some Robert E. Howard and probably should have done so before such sweeping statements.

    Your comment was very insightful and left me wanting to read some Robert E. Howard, so thanks!