“The Barbarian” Assaults the Mind

Photo Courtesy of Lionsgate

Summer is near its end, and every movie coming out in the next few weeks wants to end the summer with a blast. “Conan the Barbarian,” however, does not deliver that summer ending explosion of cinematic entertainment. This film has to be without a doubt the worst film of the summer, if not the entire year thus far.

Marcus Nispel directs “Conan the Barbarian,” which is a remake — or rather a reboot — of the original “Conan” movies staring none other than Arnold Schwarzenegger. Nispel is best known for directing and producing remakes of “The Texas Chainsaw Massacres,” “Frankenstein,” and “Friday the 13th.” Like most of his other movies, “Conan” has been blasted by critics and fans alike, who note that the dialogue, terrible plot and lack of character development are truly detrimental to this highly anticipated movie.

“Conan,” starring Jason Momoa as the titular hero, is a bloody tale of violence, love, retribution, sorcery and more violence. The film starts off with a summary of the barbaric world and all the troubles plaguing the region, narrated by none other than Morgan Freeman. The film progresses to a bloody battle of complete and utter randomness — with heads, blood and limbs flying everywhere — where Conan is born, or should I say cut, out of his dying mother’s stomach.

The film then fast-forwards to Conan’s adolescent years where he is being raised by his father and training to become a fierce Cimmerian warrior. Conan’s skills are remarkable for his young age, but his arrogance gets in the way of his becoming a true warrior in the eyes of his father.

Conan’s world is turned upside down when an evil warlord, Khalar Zym, wages war on his tribe. Khalar Zym is in search for the final piece to a magic mask that endows its wearer with the power of a god. The only person standing in the way of retrieving this last piece to the mask is Conan’s father. Khalar Zym finds the last piece and kills Conan’s father, leaving Conan as the last surviving member of his tribe.

Conan grows up into a huge, strong warrior traveling the world to find the man who killed his father. Meanwhile, Khalar Zym and his daughter seek to find a pureblood to power up the magic mask. It’s a race against the clock to stop Khalar Zym and his pursuit of ultimate power—very cliché and unoriginal.

This film is an absolute mess. There are so many action sequences that you lose track of whose limbs are falling off. The film is not for the light-hearted; it is bloody, gruesome and violent for no apparent reason. There is one scene where cannibals attack Conan and, after a few bad puns and fancy fighting moves, Conan takes the fight to whole new level by scalping his enemies. Just the sight of Conan carrying back the scalps is disgusting.  We know that “Barbarian” is part of the film’s title, but the amount of on-screen blood and guts is just obscene.

“Conan the Barbarian,” also lacks a linear plot. Storylines are introduced every five minutes, but none of them are developed. The film is a mix of bad dialogue, repugnant action sequences, nudity and characters who stand around obliviously.

The biggest flaws in the film are the lack of character development and lack of engaging dialogue. These two elements are the prime ingredients in creating an enjoyable film. Heroes are supposed to learn and grow as the story goes on; however, Conan kills first and asks questions later. He doesn’t want to change, he is satisfied with the way he lives his life. There is no growth at all. This lack in development would have been OK if there was good dialogue. Sadly, Conan speaks like a caveman through the entire film, saying lines like, “I live. I love. I slay … I am content.” Then he kills some more. It’s hard to watch actors delivering such unimportant lines.

The most compelling character is Khalar Zym’s sorceress daughter Marique, played by Rose McGowan. McGowan is not new to playing a witch, as many may remember her from “Charmed” as the young, magical Paige. She does an excellent job in portraying the dark and sensual Marique. Out of the whole cast, McGowan’s character has the best lines, and she delivers them well. She is also able to make the snake-like, Lady Gaga-esque Marique sinister and sexy.

This remake of “Conan the Barbarian” is nothing like the original 1982 film, which was a breakthrough role for the former Governator. However, those who have seen both films would agree that Jason Momoa plays Conan much better.

“Conan the Barbarian” is not for the squeamish, nor is it a family summer blockbuster. This film is all action, gore and no substance. If you want to watch a good comedy, then this is the movie that people will be laughing at all the way home. This film had a lot of potential, but was completely ruined by bad writing, dialogue and plot. “Conan the Barbarian” is completely barbaric and just plain sad. Viewer discretion is advised.

Rating: 1.5 out of 5