Conan the Barbarian (2011) Recap

Jamie

After surviving an attack by the warlord Zym as a child, Conan grows up to be a powerful pirate, pilfering and banging ladies all day (high five). But when he overhears that Zym is back in town and looking for immense power Conan knows what needs to be done. Can he stop Zym (and get the girl) before it’s too late? Find out in Conan the Barbarian.

What?! Conan’s totally the boss from day one. He’s like ten years old and totes crushing his enemies under his Cimmerian heel. Unfortunately a dangerous warlord Zym and his sorceress daughter are hoping to get all the pieces of the powerful Mask of Acheron which definitely does… something… and guess who has the last piece? That’s right, Conan’s daddio and he gets killed trying to protect it. Flash forward years and Conan is still the boss and he’s a pirate extraordinaire. While he loves crushing brews and the ladies with his bros, he finds destiny calling when he learns that Zym is out to finish the job with the mask. To bring it to full power Zym needs the blood of a totally bodacious pure-blood and he’s right on her trail. But Conan’s right there to be like ‘psych’ and grab her instead. He pretends to want to trade her to Zym but really he’s there to karate chop Zym in the neck, but Conan is seriously injured in the ensuing fight. They go off oto recover on his pirate ship and eventually bone in a cave (obviously) immediately after which she’s captured by Zym and taken to his magical cave shaped like a skull (lots of caves in this one). Conan comes to the rescue, fights an octopus, battles with the sorceress, and eventually Zym falls into a crevasse and dies because he’s dumb. Conan and the lady then go off to setup a sequel. If anyone wants to put this in as the synopsis on Wikipedia feel free to do so. I’m pretty sure I summed it up the best. THE END.

Why?! Well the bad guy wants that sweet looking mask that definitely is super powerful. He wants to use it to bring his sorceress wife back from the dead using the pure-blood as a vessel. His daughter is like “but I’m also like a powerful sorceress,” but Zym isn’t too impressed and is like “you’ll never be like your mom. She was rad.” Conan mostly wants to freely kill and pillage to his heart’s desire, but when the chance to avenge his father comes about he’s pretty into that too.

What?! Sometimes even I forget that this section isn’t just for product placement (which might be hard to come by in Cimmeria), but also for MacGuffins. MacGuffins like the Mask of Acheron that Zym hopes to put back together to attain ultimate power. Except that the crown seems to need the blood of a pure-blood to work… so doesn’t that make the blood the real MacGuffin and the crown just something rad you wear while killing innocents? Something to think about.

Who?! As often seems to be a requirement in these types of films the main bad guy has an underling of immense size which our hero must overcome. In this case it’s Pro wrestler/MMA fighter/kickboxer/former pro football player Bob Sapp. While he doesn’t do much of any of that in the US anymore, he is still a pretty big star over in Japan fighting people and apparently a bear. He also pretty much loses every fight he participates in (including against said bear) and recently was accused of domestic violence… so things not looking great for Bob Sapp.

Where?! The lands of the Hyborian Age, duh (emphasis on the -Bor-, amirite?). Conan is from Cimmeria, but his adventures take him all over the place… which is just not worth me talking about since it’s all made up anyway. Hard to judge these things so I usually give it an N/A.

When?! After the sinking of Atlantis, duh (emphasis on the… uh… -Anti-… amirite?). People have tried to place this sometime around 10,000 B.C. but I don’t think that’s worth the effort. This is all made up. Don’t know if you heard but Atlantis is fictional. N/A.

At first I actually thought I might like this. There were bare-breasted ladies, limbs getting chopped, and other things that my lizard brain liked. But it pretty quickly got bogged down in the main thrust of the film focused around the mask and revenge. Blah. Can’t I just enjoy Conan being a pirate and learning of a big time treasure he wants to get (which turns out to actually be a sexy princess, ooh lah lah) and eventually coming to rule a kingdom? Do I need you to rehash and ruin the origin story of Conan? It seemed like they couldn’t even decide how to ruin the plot so they not only had a MacGuffin in the Mask, but also had the revenge subplot. Choose one and stick with it. Also Rose McGowan was not good. Patrick?

Patrick

‘Ello everyone! Conan the Barbarian? We haven’t had a movie about him in like … 30 years! Call up that swords and sandals screenwriter we have on retainer and give him a million, I want a script by Tuesday, we’ll lunch. That’s my impression of the producer of this film. Let’s go!

The Good – Uuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuh … uuuuuuuuuuuuuuh … this movie got me to watch the original again, and read another Conan short story. I know a lot more about pulp novels of the 30s and Conan because of it. Thanks terrible Conan movie.

Ps View on the Preview – I like where I went a few weeks ago with this, so I’m going to try again. There are 15 qualifying films in the sword and sorcery genre in Box Office Mojo (nearly 50% of the wide release films qualify, which I’ve now discovered is a higher percentage than 75% of the other Box Office Mojo genres). We’ve seen 9 of 15 qualifying films, the other six being Highlander 3 and 4, Red Sonja, Kull the Conqueror, Krull, and Quest for Camelot. There was a lot of cred to live up to for sure.

The Bad – This is the kind of movie which makes you think they ruined Conan the character (even though they didn’t really). It is an action film starring Conan instead of a Conan story. The acting is dire. And not just Momoa (who sadly captures none of the charm Arnold brought to the role), but everyone, especially Rose McGowan. The story is a bit too expositiony. The action a bit too clean. … I’m doing a terrible job describing this, but having watched the original and read another short story (see below) the heart of Conan was missing and replaced with Dungeons & Dragons (the movie). And that makes me sad.

Get Yo Rant On – This movie is far too convenient for me. Oh, Conan cuts the nose off of one of the villains henchmen so that he immediately recognizes him 20 years later, how convenient. Oh, Conan happens to fall in with an escaping thief who is something of a king of thieves and can pick any lock in the world, hope we have some locks to pick later (oh, we do? How convenient). Conan happens to save Tamara, totally by accident, who is (quite literally) the only pure blood of Achemon in the entire world, how convenient. Hell, the entire last fight scene involved Conan kind of accidentally not falling into a giant pit and dying. Too convenient, bad writing, kind of loses itself trying to set up big action set pieces. End of rant.

Welcome to Earf – Luckily this is a short one. Ron Perlman is in Conan the Barbarian and In the Name of the King: A Dungeon Siege Tale which also starred Leelee Sobieski who was in Here on Earth. Welcome to Earf!

The BMT – I think this will only be notable once we finish off the three and a half Conan films available (Conan the Destroyer, Conan 2011, Red Sonja, and Kull the Conqueror which was originally written as Conan the Conqueror). We’ve done two, and the other one and a half should be easy enough. I think this will be the least pleasant, if only because it is the only one without that 80s/90s sword and sorcery charm going for it.

StreetCreditReport.com – Looks like plenty. Here is it 19. Here is it 6. And Stuckman has it at 5. Basically it isn’t beating out things like Jack and Jill or The Zookeeper very often, but it was on the critics radar and widely disliked at the time. Since? I imagine it has mostly been forgotten. Maybe they’ll reboot or sequelize the older movies again.

Whoooeeeeee. And I actually did some homework! I re-watched the original Conan and read another of the short stories, Shadows in the Moonlight. The story was quite good. Goes into Conan’s chivalry, and also his tendency to be both a pirate and a thief, but also never actually pillaging or stealing during the story (it is always before or after the story). He’s an interesting character, and one I think Arnold portrayed quite well in the original. Which also had a much more effective beginning to the film (yada yada yada-ing a bunch of stuff with “and he was a slave and became super strong and learned to fight”), and a generally pleasant and true-to-character thief story that evolves into revenge. I don’t think the new movie did the character wrong in any way, it is a lot closer than I expected. But it still felt like a modern version of Conan with a heart and conscious of gold, not enough barbarian. It just doesn’t really sit correctly with the 1930s pulp novels vibe I would want. C- adaptation, better than I expected, but worse than it easily should have been.

Cheerios,

The Sklogs

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