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  Conan the Barbarian Musclebound MarauderBuy this film here.
Year: 2011
Director: Marcus Nispel
Stars: Jason Momoa, Rachel Nichols, Stephen Lang, Ron Perlman, Rose McGowan, Bob Sapp, Leo Howard, Steven O'Donnell, Nonso Anozie, Raad Raawi, Laila Rouass, Saïd Taghmaoui, Milton Welsh, Borislav Iliev, Nathan Jones, Diana Lyubenova, Alina Puscau, Morgan Freeman
Genre: Action, Fantasy, Adventure
Rating:  2 (from 2 votes)
Review: In ancient times, around the age of the fall of Atlantis, there was a continent on the planet known as Hyborea, and there was great upheaval in that region, especially when one tribe fashioned a mystical mask to raise the powers of the underworld. After many battles, the tribe was vanquished, the mask captured, and split into various parts so that it could never be reunited and that power once again blight the land, but there was one warrior, Khalar Zym (Stephen Lang), who was determined, obsessed with the influence such an artifact would give him...

That's all very well, but what did it have to do with Conan the Barbarian? He showed up presently, getting born on the battlefield as his mother perished to prove his badass credentials even as a baby, and we followed him growing up with his doting, tough but fair father (Ron Perlman), who did not look anything like his son which made you wonder if there was any funny business going on. After a brief interlude where we saw teen Conan beat some bad guys by smashing them up and beheading them, we were reintroduced to Khalar Zym, who wants those mask pieces, and Pa Conan has one in his possession.

So that is retrieved in predictable fashion as you're looking at your watch and pondering the amount of pussyfooting around before Conan became an adult and got to adventurin', but once he had his reason for wandering, hacking and slaying, this settled down. A little too much, actually, as pretty much every scene was approached in the same way, as macho as possible, as if they were trying to out-testosterone the original version of the Robert E. Howard character which starred Arnold Schwarzenegger in the eighties. Where that was just as serious as this, the Nietzschean philosophy was absent, and we had a more straightforward sword and sorcery affair in keeping with the movies that original inspired.

Fair enough, but in some ways this was less about the Howard universe and more a variation on those Ray Harryhausen special effects showcases, only crucially someone forgot to order the monsters, and instead substituted a few gallons of gore. Which was a pity, as it could have benefitted from more concrete fantasy trappings other than the increasingly hard to fathom machinations and ceremonies of Khalar Zym, who is to all intents and purposes seeking the last of a royal bloodline, and she happens to be Tamara (Rachel Nichols) who once she gets an idea she is a wanted woman, makes good her escape from the convent (sort of) she was residing in.

She meets Conan who is seeking the man she is running from, which puts them at cross purposes, but then a lot of this was a bit of a muddle as far as the plotting went, leaving you looking forward to the next action setpiece rather than the latest stretch of oh-so-grim dialogue. About the most fun in this was Rose McGowan as the bad guy's daughter, some kind of soothsayer who gives the actress the opportunity to vamp it up to an amusing degree, but she did get lost in the sound and fury of the rest of it when all was said and done. By the would-be thrilling climax, your tolerance for its nonsense may have been tested and you could be yearning for the days of James Earl Jones turning into a giant snake - seriously, would it have killed them to include one giant monster? The sand warriors didn't quite cut the mustard. If it wasn't quite as bad as its flop reputation, and not quite as up itself as the previous incarnations, that was not necessarily a recommendation. Music by Tyler Bates.
Reviewer: Graeme Clark

 

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