11 February 2012

Movies: Conan the Barbarian 2011

Conan the Barbarian (2011) http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0816462/

Fantasy Action Adventure

Not a remake of the 1982 classic starring Arnold Schwarzenegger and James Earl Jones, but more a retelling, still inspired by the Robert E. Howard books.  I can't see doing an in-depth 2011 vs. 1982 sort of thing here, the two stories are that dissimilar. I'll just mention that the two Conan origin stories are barely similar. In consideration I think I rather prefer the original film's take.  It carried more weight and served as a much more powerful driving force through the original film's story.  And the original film had a more raw gritty epic fantasy feel to it as opposed to the smoothly polished modern look of the new film. There's something positive to be said for old-school effects and creative location casting.

Jason Momoa plays the new Conan. I remember him best as Khal Drogo from the awesome first season of HBO's "Game of Thrones" (which is a must see if you haven't yet and love a good fantasy series). Others might remember him from "Stargate: Atlantis" or "The Game" or "Baywatch" - none of which I've watched so I had no clue who the dude was before Game of Thrones.
His arch-nemesis Khalar Zym is played by Stephen Lang, most recently recognizable from "Terra Nova" and as Colonel Quaritch in "Avatar".  Zym's daughter is played by a nearly unrecognizable Rose McGowan. I mean that in a good way.

The new film isn't terrible. It is action-y and adventure-y, has a coherent story, the new Conan has a bit more dialog. Story-wise there are some parallels in that Conan sees his village destroyed, his parents are dead, he grows up seeking out the man responsible. The dude responsible has continued to gain more power in the intervening years, there are some magic elements involved.  But the core story also differs in characters involved and the journey taken by Conan.  However Conan's motivations just don't feel life-encompassing, they feel more like things that just happened to happen at some point in his life. Regardless, it stands steady on its own as a capable modern fantasy film with CGI sets.

I do have to say there are some parts in this film I liked, such as spending a little more time in Conan's childhood village and using that time to show a foundation of Conan's bad-assness. The early part of the film is almost better than the latter parts of the film.

It is an entertaining enough film, not necessarily a must-see but not a disappointment either. I still prefer the 1982 film for its deeper story telling and heavier sense of intertwining fate. The new film just didn't have quite the urgency of revenge and retribution that drove the older film. I doubt it will carry the cultural impact of the 1982 film.

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