'Conan' the Bore-barian

Article Published: Aug. 25, 2011 | Modified: Sep. 29, 2011
'Conan' the Bore-barian

"Conan! What is best in life?"

"To crush your enemies, see them driven before you, and to hear the lamentation of their women!"
I still think the latter should have surfaced in Arnold Schwarzenegger's gubernatorial campaign, but let's keep things in context.

Thanks to Arnold's delivery, it's one of many memorable moments in 1982's "Conan the Barbarian," directed by John Milius ("Red Dawn").

While hardly perfect, the film, based on author Robert E. Howard's pulp adventures, is packed with sinewy memories - stunning cinematography, a rousing score by Basil Poledouris, villainy from James Earl Jones and unchecked badassery from Schwarzenegger.

Most importantly, it was - and still is - a fun film, which cannot be said for director Marcus Nispel's 2011 adapation.

A master of lousy remakes, having helmed 2009's "Friday the 13th" and 2003's "Texas Chainsaw Massacre," Nispel again misses the point, substituting fun for gore aplenty, while simultaneously taking the subject matter way too seriously.

It's like a blood-soaked Ben Stein reading "Calvin & Hobbes" in his trademark monotone, only less memorable.

Utterly bereft of fun, the new "Conan the Barbarian" stars Jason Momoa (HBO's "Game of Thrones") as our titular hero, born on a battlefield via a particularly gruesome C-section (the "C" is for "carve") and raised by his battle-hardened smithy father (Ron Perlman, "Hellboy") in the fictitious land of Cimmeria.

When his people are butchered by malevolent despot Khalar Zym (Stephen Lang, "Avatar"), Conan makes a vow of vengeance that will forever shape his future.

Living the life of an adventurer, Conan matures on the battlefield, accepting odd jobs and quests, all while searching for Zym. He's unaware, however, that his mortal enemy has since become a king, making his vendetta all the more deadly.

Meanwhile, Zym is hellbent on completing a ritual that will grant him godlike powers and resurrect his slain witch of a wife. With the help of his sorceress daughter (Rose McGowan, "Planet Terror"), he seeks the last living member of an ancient bloodline, Tamara (Rachel Nichols, "Star Trek"), for a human sacrifice.

As Zym's forces draw near, so does Conan, who rescues Tamara to use her as a bargaining chip. The two forge a fast, um, friendship, and one thing leads to another.

In fact, that sums up "Conan" rather well - one thing leads to another.

It doesn't lead to character, however. Nispel concentrates so much on gore-drenched brutality that any semblance of character is lost of the fog of war, along with choreography.

He attempts style, but most of the battles are filmed in such a cluttered and hectic manner that it's hard to discern who's dismembering who or who really cares. Add to that a threadbare plot, mind-numbingly two-dimensional characters and run-of-the-mill special effects, and you've got a boring swords-and-sorcery flick on par with 1997's Kevin Sorbo (TV's "Hercules") vehicle, "Kull the Conquerer," minus raspy-voiced anachronism Harvey Fierstein ("Independence Day").

Momoa brings nothing but brawn to the character, but, in all fairness, he didn't have much to work with, the story more of a bloody mess than an actual narrative.

Per usual, Perlman makes the best of a lousy situation, while Lang - quickly becoming Hollywood's go-to man for villainy - follows suit.

Simply put, the film is boring, lacking the charisma and self-aware charm of the 1982 version. It's just another tedious rehash that offers nothing new, except for one appalling act of barbarism - a ticket price.

"Conan the Barbarian," rated R for strong bloody violence, some sexuality and nudity, is playing at Regal Cinema 7 in Boone. For show times, see page 16 or visit http://www.mountaintimes.com/showtimes.

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