Conan the Barbarian (2011) Review

This is going to sound ridiculous considering the film I’m reviewing, but I actually wanted Conan to have slightly more depth and a better story. The reason is, the film actually starts really well. It’s not an incredible, Saving Private Ryan opening, but it sets the tone of the film and introduces Conan as you’d expect, a child born in battle.

It also helps that Conan’s Dad is played by Ron Perlman. I’ve spoken before about how cool Ron Perlman is and he doesn’t disappoint in Conan either. If he’s not killing other tribes, he’s teaching Conan how to fight on ice or crafting a huge sword for his son. In fact, I was quite impressed with the opening ten or twenty minutes, as we began to se the origins of Conan and how he became a warrior.

The first ten minutes, with Perlman teaching a young Conan, is the best part of the film.

What then happened, after we saw why Conan became a vengeful, angry young man, was a flash forward. The film seemed to skip his formative years and we were introduced to Conan as a fully fledged, experienced but still very angry barbarian. This is where I think the film missed a huge opportunity. There was a much more entertaining story in the movie of how Conan came to be an experienced barbarian, good at killing and scarred to the max rather than the dull, fantasy-by-numbers film we actually got.

I would rather have watched a film where Conan, as a young boy, had to fight, steal and learn how to survive and was eventually picked up and taught how to fight by a tribesman or just learnt through his experiences in the harsh environment. I know this has also been done before but it is a much more interesting prospect than the “barbarian searches for the people who killed his family” film that we got. Add a crazy witch, a beautiful young, damsel-in-distress and plenty of blood, gore and topless men, and you have Conan as we’ve already seen him before.

I’d much rather watch a film about how young Conan became Conan the Barbarian!

There are some very cool moments. The battle between Conan and an army made of sand is probably the best part of the whole film. The only problem is, even moments like this have been done before. The Mummy and Clash of the Titans have both tread very similar ground and unfortunately, seemed to do a better job of it. The film also struggled to find an ending. There seemed to be about two different moments where the film could have ended but it kept on going, adding clichéd and predictable finale on top of another clichéd and predictable finale.

The acting in Conan is nothing special but you wouldn’t expect it to be. Jason Momoa was probably hired to play Conan based on the fact that he looks like he was sculpted by a Greek architect and he doesn’t really have to portray much emotion past happy (laugh manically), confused (look angry), angry (look angrier) and very angry (scream and swing a sword.) I haven’t seen the original Conan but I’m sure Arnie didn’t have much more of an emotional range to portray either.

This brings me back to my original point though. There could have been a much better story here. A Conan remake that could have been the Barbarians origin story. We could have had a film where he wasn’t so great at fighting straight away and we watched him become the hero that we were supposed to root for, rather than a hero we know based on reputation and past movies alone.

Overall, I know that the film is supposed to a bit brainless and good excuse for lots of blood, gore and silly fantasy moments but it still left me feeling like this was a missed opportunity. The film could have been the story of Conan’s origins and how he became the barbarian of the later films… with blood, gore and silly fantasy included.

Rating 2

(1 – Awful, 2 – Average, 3 – Good, 4 – Great, 5! – Must See)

Jason Momoa demonstrating one of the many “angry faces” which he was required to portray throughout the film.
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5 thoughts on “Conan the Barbarian (2011) Review

  1. I enjoyed this on a purely dumb fun movie level. But yeah, the best stuff was the early scenes. Although Mamoa physically is spot on for Conan. When Arnie played him in the 80s it was such a hit that that became the look people associated with Conan despite him being described as panther like in the books. You should see the original though. it’s pure 80s action fantasy awesomeness. The sequel, less so.

    1. I have been on the lookout for the original. I usually like to see the original before I watch a remake but it didn’t feel like it would matter with Conan.

      1. It’s fair enough here as technically this Conan isn’t a remake as such. It’s a different adaptation of the books/comics. Thankfully this Conan doesn’t try to copy anything from the Arnie film either.

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