Tuesday, May 31, 2016

Conan The Barbarian (2011)


   Color me unimpressed with this reboot of the iconic Cimmerian's film franchise. I wanted to like it, I really wanted to, but very few things stuck the landing for my taste. It's not the writing, or the acting that I took issue with- as a fan of the Clash of the Titans remake and it's sequel, I'd be absurdly hypocritical if those were the things that broke this movie for me. Unfortunately, it's the story, the look, the design, and even the casting of the eponymous barbarian that killed it for me. This just doesn't feel like Conan to me. It's an adequate sword and sorcery flick, but it fails to hit the right notes for me- feeling like a movie assembled by people only vaguely familiar with the genre.

   Jason Momoa certainly has the physicality to convincingly pull off a barbarian role- Game of Thrones proved that, but he's no Conan. He might have the fierce gaze down, but he plays the character too small, too wordy. He seems bratty almost. Less like a world-worn warrior and more like a young man fumbling about with things he doesn't understand. He was better cast as Khal Drogo in Game of Thrones, a role suited to his looks and talent. But, whatever. It could've been overlooked if Momoa nailed the role. He didn't. Too bad. I'm not an anti-remake/reboot person, and I've found a lot of them to be unfairly maligned, but this movie did nothing but contribute to the negative stigma they get. It's a generic-looking movie that's all around bland.

  Nothing about this looked or felt like a Conan movie. I wasn't once transported to a fantastical land that convinced me it had lore and history. It was just one set piece after another, all taking place in cities with names the movie bothered to actually put on the screen- not that it mattered, or that anyone would care, because each location more or less blurs together in terms of visuals and production design. The movie only lets us know we're in a new place with a tacky establishing shot that looks like a grand painting- which equal the best shots in the movie. But they're pointless.

   The only good set- which was still underwhelming was in the mouth (I guess?) of a big skull cave. Which isn't even as cool as it sounds. It was pretty underwhelming given the scope of the original movie. Even the action scenes, bloody as they are, are generally pretty bland. The one good action set piece doesn't occur until the movie is literally halfway over. Everything else just feels like stuff I've seen before. I didn't care about the characters, they weren't engaging, ergo neither were the action scenes. The plot was inconsequential, but rushed all the same.

   The villains, played by Stephen Lang and Rose McGowan were probably the highlight of the movie, both chewing scenery like nobody's business. They were, at least, fun. Everything else was just a bland smear of genericness. This didn't feel like a big budget theatrical movie, it felt like something that SyFy put a bit of effort into. Which only just puts it above their movie of the week offerings. When you get down to it, this Conan The Barbarian is a competent and technically sound movie. It looks professional enough, but it's not engaging, or exciting. That's a major problem. It's just sort of... there. It's not colorful, or vibrant, or fun. 

   It was mediocre to average. At best it's decent background noise. Some of the action was attention grabbing on a basic "Hey look, there's blood spray!" level, but that's about it. For all it's grunting, roaring, and spilt blood... this Conan The Barbarian reboot simply has no heart or charisma to it. I can't believe the makers intended to kickstart a series of movies with this. To be clear, in conclusion, it's not a bad movie. Just an uninspired one. It's worst offense is being nothing more than something I've seen too many times. It's got no polish, no style, and no life in it. It's a movie you could skip, and miss out on absolutely nothing. If that's not a completely damning statement, I don't know what is.

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