Conan the Barbarian (Blu-ray)
We live in an age of cinematic remakes; while there are new ideas aplenty Hollywood seems stuck on regurgitating old stories. This doesn’t bother me at all when the movie has something new to offer to the world. When you watch CONAN THE BARBARIAN it is clear that they intended to do just that, but the film fails on many levels and just doesn’t keep your attention. I’m not saying that Conan should be like the Godfather, but when you include as much dialogue between the action you have to have people who can pull it off.
CONAN THE BARBARIAN is presented as an origin story. In comic books (and their movies) this is the base story upon which a franchise is built. The original story is usually full of exposition, focusing on establishing character, his/her powers and flaws, the world, and carrying the story arc through the first major conflict. CONAN is no different, beginning with a bit of exposition (with voice-over by the talented, but out of place, Morgan Freeman) before plunging us into Conan’s backstory. He was “born of the battlefield” when his mother was dying but is taught well by his father (Ron Perlman of HELLBOY, SONS OF ANARCHY) until their village is destroyed and his father killed.
Conan is left to die in the burning Cimmerian village but he instead escapes and goes forward fighting and hunting for the man who killed his father. The big-bad in this movie is played by Stephen Lang (AVATAR), who does a decent job despite being a little over-the-top a little too often. Jump ahead 20 years and Conan is now a respected fighter still searching for his father’s killers. This is where we are introduced to Jason Momoa as Conan for the first time. He is stoic and reserved but I actually really liked him in this movie… well, I liked how he LOOKED as Conan. He adds little flourishes to his swordplay and looks natural in the part of the world’s greatest barbarian. The problem is that his acting just doesn’t work.
There are two fundamental flaws with the movie as a whole. The first is the acting, with the only shining moments come from Perlman (who exits the film in the first 30 minutes), a few of his scenes are very well done. After this, though, everyone except for Momoa and Rachel Nichols (who plays Tamara, Conan’s love-interest and the key to the plot) seem absolutely awkward. Rose McGowan looks completely uncomfortable in her own skin as Marique, the witch’s daughter helping her father (Lang) trying to raise his wife/her mother from the dead.
The other fundamental flaw with the movie is that it is simply unoriginal. Even people who haven’t seen the original CONAN THE BARBARIAN (1982) with Arnold Schwarzenegger know the look and what Conan is… this movie just doesn’t break any new ground (at least not any that is worth the time). And while the Conan story may stick to the original source material better than the original, it’s tired material that we’ve all seen before. The special effects are pretty nice and the movie isn’t nearly as bad as I thought it might be, but it’s not one that I recommend.
Video: (1080p, 2.40:1 Widescreen) The movie looks great in high definition. The video is crisp and clear.
Audio: (English DTS-HD Master Audio 7.1) The sound is also very well done. The mix is never overbearing and allows you to enjoy both the quieter scenes and the loud action moments.
Audio Commentary with Director Marcus Nispel: This is a pretty good commentary if you want to hear a lot of little stories from the making of the movie. Nispel is proud of his work and he talks a lot about filming in Bulgaria and the actors. He does seem a bit more enamoured of the Conan universe and his cast than he does of the actual final product, but that’s alright. There are quite a few pauses but he usually picks back up pretty quick.
Audio Commentary with Actors Jason Momoa and Rose McGowan: Listening to this commentary actually made me like the movie more. While I think McGowan certainly wasn’t anything special, it’s nice to hear that both she and Momoa really cared about this movie and wanted it to be something special. Considerably fewer pause moments than in the Director commentary.
The Conan Legacy (18:01) The filmmakers discuss why they wanted to make this movie to continue the Conan story with an idea true to the original stories by Robert E. Howard. There have been some great stories over the years featuring Conan and this featurette ties up these characterizations and how they play in the movie.
Robert E. Howard – The Man Who Would Be Conan (11:24) This is a quick look at the author. Experts discuss how Howard created this universe and give historical perspective to his stories. Filled with pictures from Howard’s life, this is an interesting featurette that I enjoyed quite a bit.
Battle Royal: Engineering the Action (09:55) This feature focuses on the fight choreography. There were some great moments in the film, but I actually felt like the choreography left something wanting. Maybe it is the way that it was shot or edited. The one thing that truly excelled was Momoa, his elegant skills with the sword were incredible.
Staging the Fights (05:47) These were the fights that were staged by the stunt coordinators and shot during preproduction to use as a visual reference on set while staging the action. They are shown split screen with the actual film footage. Very cool, I’m glad they included this.
The disc also contains the original Theatrical Trailer for the film.