Before we begin, the most important thing to know is that Conan the Barbarian is not a remake of Conan the Barbarian. Most people are familiar with Conan from one of the many sources that features the famous barbarian: comic books, movies, cartoons, or literature among others. Of those, the most well-known is probably the 1982 film starring Arnold Schwarzenegger. Despite being very different from the original source material it was a solid film, and is beloved by many moviegoers. In an era that featured more than a few fantasy films, most of which were bad, the first Conan film stands as one of the few examples that is still watchable today. Last weekend moviegoers were treated to a new Conan film, one that is very different from the one they might know. Preliminary results are in, and it looks like the most recent entry in the Conan franchise is going to be a box office failure. So does that mean it’s not worth seeing? Not necessarily.
Conan stars Jason Momoa as the titular character. Some of you might know him from Stargate Atlantis, some of you like me might never have seen that show. Much more importantly he played Khal Drogo in the amazing Game of Thrones HBO series. While he failed to blow my mind with his acting, he was competent as Conan and Drogo. Also he really looked the part. Much like Jake Gyllenhaal in the Prince of Persia film, Momoa transformed himself to look like the fictional barbarian given life. Actually that movie is a good comparison for this Conan film, both are watchable films that deliver a fun experience, but fail to rise above mediocre writing and directing. Steven Lang, the ‘bad’ guy from Avatar is the villain Khalar Zym, and Rose McGowan plays his large foreheaded daughter, the witch Marique. Some people out there have been making a fuss about the incestuous undertones between them, but considering the content of the film I think it fits just fine. Finally we have the gorgeous Rachel Nichols as the monk/damsel-in-distress Tamara. You probably know her from the much worse G.I. Joe live action movie. Just a little incentive to see this movie, she totally gets naked.
Actually, on that note, let us discuss boobs. This film has them. With the vast reduction of R-rated films since the 80s, it is sometime easy to forget how many action movies go for the PG-13. It’s a numbers game really, since they say that an R-rated film automatically loses about 100 million dollars guaranteed. Conan really could have used that money with a dismal 10 million dollar opening weekend. As a fan of the original Conan stories that this movie tries to emulate, I have to appreciate the courage necessary to make this a hard R film. This movie has boobs in significant amount, plenty of blood, it even opens with Ron Pearlman cutting a baby from his wife’s stomach on a battlefield. Yeah, that happens. For everything this movie gets right, it gets another thing wrong, in some cases very wrong. Conan suffers from an immaturity that makes the adult content seem cheesy instead of awesome, along with plot holes and clumsy execution that take away from the film as a whole. So between the failures that made the critics hate it, and the objectionable content that made many casual filmgoers avoid it, this film failed to find much of an audience.
Personally I enjoyed watching this movie. It was not necessarily bad, and is totally watchable. With a little clean up this could have been a good movie, as it stands Conan the Barbarian is not going to have a sequel. Considering the box office failure it also makes it unlikely that we will see another Conan movie for a long time. Because of that, I recommend that any of you who appreciate this character get to the theater to get your barbarian fix while you can. For the rest of you this might be worth a watch if you have an action craving, otherwise just wait until it comes out on DVD.