Mania Review: Conan the Barbarian -

Mania Grade: D

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  • Starring: Jason Momoa, Rachel Nichols, Stephen Lang, Rose McGowan, Said Taghmaoui, Ron Perlman and Leo Howard
  • Written by: Thomas Dean Donnelly, Joshua Oppenheimer and Sean Hood
  • Directed by: Marcus Nispel
  • Studio: Lionsgate
  • Rating: R
  • Run Time: 112 minutes
  • Series: Conan The Barbarian (2011)

Mania Review: Conan the Barbarian

Get the barbarian his bottle...

By Rob Vaux     August 19, 2011

 I’ll tell you the moment that Conan the Barbarian lost me for good: when the steaming turd farm that is this movie officially passed the point of no return. It came early on, as the young barbarian to be (Leo Hoard) watches his entire village getting slaughtered before his eyes. His father (Ron Perlman) – strapped into a fiendish trap in which molten metal will eventually be poured onto his face – looks over at the boy and says, “I love you son.”

If you have to ask what’s wrong with this picture, you sir are no Conan fan. Being a barbarian means never having to say, “I love you.” They don’t coddle their kids, they don’t get in touch with their feelings, and they never use the “l” word to anyone under any circumstances.  Perlman’s unfortunate dialogue thus signals the total pussification of cinema’s greatest loincloth-clad bad ass. From there, the film only adds insult to injury. It finds a girly perfumed princess for him to love for no apparent reason, a bunch of slaves to free because he hates to see people in chains, and countless other details that basically eliminate the whole “barbarian” part of the equation. This Conan’s a stand-up guy, he fights for what’s right, and his uncouth edges only disguise the pure core of saintliness that all of his… wait, what?!

The original 1982 movie possessed no such squeamishness. It presented a world in a moral vacuum: divided not into good people and bad, but survivors and carrion. We watched its hero grow into the person he became through relentless, merciless punishment: the only crucible that could prepare him for such a landscape. His girl was an absolute equal who decked miscreants harder than he did; his reaction to people in open need of aid was “I missed the part where this is my problem.” He punched camels in the face, he spent priceless jewels on gruel and whores, and the only worthwhile act he ever committed came in the name of bloody revenge. That was a barbarian, by Crom!

The ethos also lent the first Conan a distinct identity that turned it into a minor classic (despite its overt campiness). This new version strips it all away. Conan (Jason Momoa) is born a mighty warrior and remains that way for the rest of his life, transforming him from a Niezschien ubermensch into a dull and colorless protagonist. Oh, he drops the pain hammer on the occasional miscreant and quaffs grog in all the local pissholes, but under that Neanderthal exterior, he’s just another nice guy with some six-pack abs. Momoa can deploy the Skunk Eye as often as he likes (and believe me, he does); it ain’t gonna change those basic facts.

A similar fate befalls the villains of the piece, none of who can hold a candle to James Earl Jones. Thulsa Doom held his followers in absolute mental thrall, such that they would cheerfully jump off a cliff at his command. How can a guy with a sword fight that? But again, the new Conan removes any actual interesting stuff in favor of by-the-numbers crap. The evil Khalar Singh (Stephen Lang) butchers villages like hogs and plans to bring a dead god back to life, but basically he’s just another fighter who Conan can dispatch the same way he does everyone else. Singh’s freakalicious daughter (Rose McGowan) prances around in pancake make-up and slices people open with a set of Freddy Krueger claws, leading one to wonder why Conan isn’t hanging out with her instead of the passive young ditz (Rachel Nichols) they set him up with.

So it goes through scene after excruciating scene. Enemies are dispatched with predictable amounts of Lionsgate CG blood, buxom wenches bare their breasts for no discernable reason, and the dusty landscape descends into perpetual gloom thanks to the interminable 3D glasses. Director Marcus Nispel manages to bungle every one of the multiple fight scenes with poor framing and nonsensical progression. The movie thus becomes a tedious hash of pointless conflict, progressing from nowhere to nothing and leaving only a greasy taste in the mouth as a reward.

In some ways, it’s not fair to compare it to the Schwarzenegger version; this Conan is blessedly its own beast and should be judged on its own merits. Even then, however, it trips right over its giant furry boots, and with that title in place, you can’t help but look back at the infinitely superior version that preceded it. We should be grateful to this new one, which only illustrates how much the older film brought to the table without our even realizing. That doesn’t make it any less of an ordeal to sit through, however. This guy isn’t Schwarzenegger; he isn’t even Kevin Sorbo… and he sure as hell isn’t Conan the Barbarian.  How dare this film pretend otherwise.


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FerretJohn 8/19/2011 5:14:13 PM

So, Rob Vaux hates it.  Seals the deal for me, I'm definitely there. 

EagleManiac 8/19/2011 6:18:52 PM

 I have already read so many negative reviews, and my own personaly feelings about this before it even came out, solidifies my belief that this movie was going to SUCK!!!! 

MrJawbreakingEquilibrium 8/19/2011 6:21:25 PM

Sorry but the first one kind of blew as well. Only liked it evidently because I was a kid. It wasn't "Conan" either. In fact his character was indistinguishable from his character in Red Sonja who wasn't even Conan. Sorry.

jetpackjesus 8/19/2011 6:29:12 PM

"buxom wenches bare their breasts for no discernable reason"

And this movie didn't get an A?!?!?

Seriously, though, this movie never looked even remotely promising.  I'm not surprised that just about everyone in the world hates it.

violator14 8/19/2011 6:44:04 PM

LoL.... I love reading Rob's reviews.

Jarik05 8/19/2011 7:34:20 PM

Rob, I get a kick out of some of your reviews, agree with some but disagree with most..I never comment, but I feel you need to be called out on this.

You are hating just to hate, just like all of the other revewers who have done nothing but crap on this movie.

Most people made up thier minds without even seeing it, because it wasn't the Arnie Conan. Quite a few people talking bad about this move on this and other sites didn't even know Conan is a...what, 70 or 80 year old character not somthing made up in 1982.

While I very much enjoy the Arnold version of Conan, it isn't really Conan as written by Robert E. Howard.

This Conan is much more accurate and faithful to the real Conan.

Jason Momoa is what Conan was described to look as, and he did a great job with the character.

The movie lost you because a character said "I love you"? Really? Are you that big of a pompus ass?

You complain about the female lead, who although she wasn't Valeria, still wasn't all that bad.

You complain he freed slaves, yet instead of finding in the books him being self centered, you refer to a movie that wasn't even a faithful adaptation. Hey, he was an adventurer and he even <gasp> helped people from time to time. And if you want to point out that he didn't free slaves or help people because he felt it wasn't his problem and refer to the movie...he freed Subotai, didn't he?

You complain about the villians, I thought they were pretty decent..Thulsa Doom and Khalar Singh are like apples and oranges...same basic motivation, two totally different ways to go about it, neither was any better than the other really. Sure James Earl Jones was more imposing, but Stephen Lang held his own...oh, and just for the record...Conan cut off Thulsa Dooms head, so saying "just another fighter that he can dispatch like everyone else" kind of makes you sound like an ass too.

I don't think I need to go on any further to make my had your mind made up when you saw the movie, and you wrote a crappy review just so you could sit at the cool table with all the other pompus ass reviewers that don't know anything about the source material. Hell, some of them didn't even watch the movie if you really read the reviews. Was the movie it wasn't. Was it the steaming turd you make it out to, not by a long shot.

I've been here since this was Cinescape and I used to get the magazine delivered to me as well...I have noticed a trend with like what Rotten Tomato says people like and hate what they say people hate.

Here is an idea, read the books Robert E. Howard wrote, or at least check out the comics from the 70's which were pretty faithful and then go watch the movie again, heck I'll even pay for all of it, then come back here and tell me this movie isn't the Conan Mr. Howard created.

You end the review by saying "he sure as hell isn't Conan the Barbarian. How dare this film pretend otherwise."

I say "you sure as hell don't know what you are talking about. How dare you pretend otherwise."

hfc7036 8/19/2011 7:47:38 PM

 Well, I think I'm still going to watch this.  Jason Momoa did great for Stargate, and this review is basically like comparing the new Batman movies to Tim Burton's.  I'm not looking for that.  I'm looking for THIS movie review.  I have no doubt that the originally has a huge advantage over this movie, but this is a reboot.  It's not supposed to be the same.  Thus, making it crazy to try and compare it to the old movie.  So...  See you tomorrow Conan.

6dra6on6 8/19/2011 8:30:17 PM

I grew up reading the Howard stories and the comics of the 70s. To say Conan wouldn't care if people are chained up is contrary to Howards character. Conan despised slavery and he would most certainly save people from that life. He was also known to despise the rich for hording everything and allowing others to starve and live a life of poverty. He was known to steal and share some of his wealth with those less fortunate. In one story Conan wonders to himself how a shopowner selling food would allow a man to starve outside his shop and not feed him - something that would never happen in his homeland of Cimmeria. And aside from Belit, the female pirate captain he meets later on and becomes lovers with, all other women he bedded were of the softer variety. Just to name a few examples of where Rob falls short here.

Yeah, Rob, try referring the "real" source material before you bash this film.

With all that said I will see this movie this coming Sunday and if it's a crap film I will say it's a crap film because it's crap and not because I based my opinion upon the comparison with the 1982 version.

goirish83 8/19/2011 8:41:45 PM

Rob Vaux OWNED by Jarik05.  I never put any stock in his reviews, I read them just to see how much more pretentious he can be (he rarely lets me down).  The joke is that he fancies himself and writes like a serious reviewer and gives Final Destination 5 a B.   

Jarik is correct too, this movie is more of a true vision of Conan, people got all crazy because it's not Arnold in the lead.  And don't be hating on Jason Mamoa, he ruled on "Game of Thrones".

zipahead 8/19/2011 8:53:53 PM

The editing was awful...the worst I've seen in a long time...the fight scenes were butchered with fast cutting and broken axis..but I think Jason Momoa really nailed it as Conan.

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