Grizzly Review: Conan the Barbarian

In 1932, writer Robert E. Howard created one of the greatest characters in the history American literature – Conan the Barbarian. Most people don’t realize he’s been around that long, commonly associating the character solely with the Schwarzenegger vehicles of the early 1980s. The uneducated masses, which until recently included myself in their ranks, are largely unaware of how in-depth the character’s history is. And now, 27 years after the last Conan movie, the Cimmerian is back on the big screen. And while I was initially underwhelmed by the casting of Jason Momoa, my mood changed after seeing him this season in Game of Thrones.

And now, having seen the movie, I can honestly say I think he was the perfect choice. And something to remember, this is not a remake of the Arnold version of the 1980s, this is a screenplay based off the source material. And it’s quite a bit different. This go-around there is no James Earl Jones in a ridiculous wig, there is no point at which Conan punches a horse in the face, and (much to the disappointment of at least one person I know) Conan never spends an entire decade pushing a wheel. So those are things that don’t happen, here are a few that do…

Spoilers Ahead…

So Conan, after being cut out of his mother’s stomach on the battlefield, is born into blood. Years later, still a boy, he defeats and beheads 4 full-grown attackers. While unarmed. You’d think this would be enough for early admission into the ‘Man Club’, but Papa Perlman isn’t convinced, and to prove a point, he pulls a ‘Ras al Ghul’ and dumps the boy through some ice.

After this we see the obligatory ‘crafting a sword that will later be stolen’ montage, and Conan is once again proven unready to collect his eventual mantle when he can’t answer his father’s trick question. It was a little cheesy, but this scene proved to offer some insight on how Conan would become such a legendary badass. We get a lot more on his parents here than in the Schwarzenegger flicks.

Enter the Party Crasher – Khalar Zym. Zym is scouring the country on a mission to find the pieces of an ancient mask, that when reassembled, would grant him the power to retrieve his wife from the afterlife. Conan’s father, Corin, leader of their tribe is in possession of one of these missing pieces. Though Corin fights valiantly, he eventually falls to an arrow in the back.  Weakened, Corin is brought before Zym and invited to join his ranks. Corin spits defiance in to the face of the invader Zym (see what I did there?) and is met with of the coolest forms of torture I’ve seen. More on that in a minute…

Upon Zym’s interrogation of Corin, an attempt to locate the mask shard, young Conan fights his way into the tent where is father is held, and in a moment of pure badassery, slices the nose clean of the face of one of Zym’s men. It was awesome.

Unfortunately, Corin and Conan are not able to fight their way out, and knowing that Corin does not fear death, Zym sets up a pretty neat little scenario. Molten steel hangs above Corin’s head and the balancing chain is held by his son. The building is then set aflame, so either Conan lets go of the chain and sees his father die, or he stays and they both burn to death. His son refusing to let go, Corin must take matters into his own hands and he pulls the steel onto his own face, thus saving his son. Now the big knock against this scene is “Why didn’t Corin simply side-step the pour and save himself?” To this – I can’t say, but it was cool enough that I’m willing to ignore the supposed flaw and simply assume that for some unforeseen reason that wasn’t possible. The whole thing was pretty reminiscent of A Golden Crown… 

For Conan, this is the kind of experience that breeds a special kind of hate in a boy. In the years after this, Conan grows into a weapon of mass destruction. On a mission of revenge, and fueled by rage of his father’s death, he sets off on a killing spree that would make Charles Bronson jealous.

From here, upon Conan’s fortuitous encounter with the man whose nose he removed years earlier, he systematically runs down each and every man who was in the tent where his childhood died. I loved it. Classic revenge flick, but with some awesome sword play and a lot of creative violence. It was a great ‘guy movie’. And while it had its flaws, I thoroughly enjoyed it. Not The Godfather by any means, but I thought it was every bit as fun a watch as the ’82 version, and I recommend it. My biggest issue is probably how forced the 3D was. It certainly didn’t seem to be shot in 3D, and I would’ve preferred not to see it in that format, but at the time we went, it was our only option.

As far as the cast, though not many big names (which surely contributed to the weak Box Office) was awesome. From Stephen Lang to Rachel Nichols to Nonso Anozie, they were all great. And McGowan was especially creepy.

Movie had that old 80s Action/Fantasy feel to it, and it was great. They kept the story simple and let Conan’s driven rage remain the focus. If you’re looking for a fun watch that heavy on violence and lite on all things feminine (other than Boobies) than this is the movie for you.

Overall, enjoyable but not life-changing: 3.5/5 Bears

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