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Conan the Barbarian (2011)

Film review: Conan the Barbarian (2011), directed by Marcus Nispel

Remember the film from somewhere in the 1980s where Arnold Schwartzenegger brandished a big sword? I don’t, I’ve never seen it. Nor have either of the main protagonist actors of this film … which is probably a good thing, if Arnie in furry diapers doesn’t appeal to you.

Conan is a boy born on the battlefield, his mother (Laila Rouass, Spooks) dying in the process. Some years later, brave cold-blooded and bloodthirsty young Conan (“aww, you’re gonna be a psychopath when you grow up, aren’t you, sweety?”) watches his blacksmith father (Ron Perlman), and indeed his entire village, killed. Evil man Khalar Zym (Stephen Lang) is after a piece of a mask which means he has lots of magic and can bring his dear ol’ wife back from the dead.

Years later, Conan (now Jason Momoa, Stargate: Atlantis and Game of Thrones) is still looking for the bastard who killed his family, in order to exact his revenge. Not so much in a “you killed my father, prepare to die” way, more of a “RRRRAAAAAAAAAWWWHHHHHHH!!!!!” kinda way. He is, after all, a barbarian.

Paths cross with Tamara (Rachel Nichols), a woman living in some sort of a convent or that kind of thing. Because of her bloodline, she’s imperative to the bringing back of TEH EBUL MAGICKS, but in reality, maybe Marique (Rose McGowan, Charmed), Khalar Zym’s sourceress daughter, just wants to snog her. Which, you know, would have made a change from all the blood and carnage, of which there is a lot.

The storyline holds together, but if it doesn’t take your fancy, a continuously shirtless Momoa should. And he’s also a much better actor than Arnie ever was. Lang is TEH EBUL, McGowan is TEH CREEPY EBUL and Nichols is the damsel in distress who can do a bit more than just cry and wait to be rescued. Aside from when she’s actually tied up hands and feet, where she has no choice.

While we’re on the subject, wouldn’t it have been easier to tie her up after they’d gone to the place where she was going to be tied up? One of the goons could have easily carried her there slung over his shoulder, but instead, they made a big thing about tying her up on a wheel thingy, and then they had the kerfuffle of trying to move said wheel from one awkward place to another awkward place. Just because you are TEH EBULZ doesn’t mean you’re TEH PRAKTICULZ, obviously.

Special effects are pretty good, fight scenes are well-choreographed, outfits are skimpy, location titles … pretty meaningless, and even though there’s a lot of bare skin, there’s not a lot of sex. There’s but one scene, which mainly just made me giggle. The thing about casting actors to play roleplaying characters is that when two come together on screen and do something the roleplay characters would not do even if you paid them … well, hilarity ensues.

Well, anyway. I had a rant yesterday about re-makes of films from the 1980s, and this is one of those. But with a decent budget and better actors, not to mention better graphics, this re-make stands up for itself. It’s not half bad. It’s not half good either, and it’s way too violent and gory for my taste, but Conan seems to be a decent bloke underneath that six-pack eight-pack (if you can see past that distracting heap o’ muscle, that is), I quite like Tamara, and I actually enjoyed Conan the Barbarian more than I thought I would.

3 out of 5 squid masks.


An easily distracted Swedish introvert residing in Robin Hood Country (Nottingham, UK) with a husband and two cats. She's an eager participant in tabletop and play-by-post roleplaying, woodworking, photography and European travel, when there's not a plague on.

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