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Aug 23

Review: Conan The Barbarian

When watching something like Conan the Barbarian it is advisable not over complicate the experience. So first off, try not to put too much thought into plot, a barbarian’s life is really quite simple, there is usually some larger arcing story around him, however, his job consists of saving some girl from some thing while fighting against gods, armies and mystical creatures. The rest of his time is mainly spent lowering the population of slavers and evil doers in his homeland, Hyboria. All of this is usually solved using excessive amounts of hacking and/or slashing.

With Geek Actually, we tend to advise people to switch their brain off in films like this, to try and enjoy it as a simple violent action flick. However, this remake/rebirth/re-imagining of Conan the Barbarian makes doing this very difficult by taking what should be the simplest things to get right, and making them it’s greatest weakness. The problem begins with everything being over produced. Conan is a barbarian sure, this means he will kill a great number of foes as he tears across the planet, however the violence in this film will numb you within the first 20 minutes and from there none of it hits with any real impact. Secondly, in the original mythology Conan lives in a tough world and there are a lot of tough people around him. In this version however, it seems that there is nothing that can even challenge him. With no risk involved, none of the conflicts had him even mildly challenged (bar a fight where he is cheated), leaving the viewer bored and uninterested of its outcome.

Also, (note to the director) having Conan putting out more testosterone than a entire rugby team does not make up for a lack of character development. Unfortunately there is no term lower than “one dimensional” otherwise I would’ve used it.

Strangely, the film seems to get progressively worse as it goes along. The opening scenes with a young Conan taking on an entire troop of bad guys was solid and effective. From there we fast-forward to a older Conan playing the pirate version of a car hoon, riding around, causing trouble and picking up chicks. Instead of development, the plot begins to fly forward at a speed so quick it will make you wonder what amazing form of transportation this world has. Whatever it is, it seems to allows them to move from city to city without even a “whew, that was a long journey” line of dialogue to at least dampen your fears that it wasn’t even taken into consideration. Though this may seem like a small gripe, while watching the film the effect is quiet jarring.

With Conan the Barbarian it seems that someone decided that the best way to make up for a lack of decent story or character development, was to move too fast for the audience to successfully process what was unfolding on screen. The result is like the visual equivalent of being hit over the head repeatedly and the problem is, through the sea of blurry action and horrible dialogue, we were still able to make out the film’s faults. So, by the time the film concluded after a bizarrely uneventful crescendo involving a blood drinking octopus crown, bad sword fighting and the most unspectacular boss ever put in a barbarian story, the idea that this film was a waste of time had well and truly sunk home.

Suspending disbelief is something I pride myself on and usually I can enjoy a mindless action film with the best of them. This film’s lack of focus meant the viewer cannot latch onto any one aspect of the film. While attempting to isolate what I liked about the film, I was just left confused. Most of the experience was spent laughing at the film, instead of with it.

– Josh Philpott

“Conan The Barbarian” is directed by Marcus Nispel and written by Thomas Dean Donnolly, Joshua Oppenheimer and Sean Hood based on characters created by Robert E. Howard. It stars Jason Mamoa, Stephen Lang, Ron Perlman, Rachel Nichols and Rose McGowan. It is now open in cinemas.