Tuesday, 23 August 2011

214: Review - Conan The Barbarian

CAUTION: Yen's blog contains harsh language and even harsher notions of propriety. Reader discretion is advised.

Conan The Barbarian 2011 Poster

Conan The Barbarian
22nd August 2011. Location: Cinema

Pre-amble (1): Cineworld are pushing the Unlimited card quite hard at the moment, and for the first time since I've had mine (about four years), they've actually put on a pre-release exclusive screening for Unlimited card-holders. You'd think that the best way to boost sales of the card would have been to pre-screen Harry Potter, or The Inbetweeners, wouldn't you? Do you think that many people are bothered about the remake of Conan, this late into the summer season? Me neither, there were less than 15 people at tonight's showing. The preview was in 2D, but I don't think that's what was putting people off. In many respects, even the 3D version of this film will be in 2D.

Pre-amble (2): I've never been a fan of the whole sword'n'sorcery thing. I'm also not really familiar with Conan's previous iterations, either in novel, comic or movie form. Largely because, as I said, the genre doesn't bother me. In that respect, I viewed this film as blank-canvas-punter; with no baggage, but no expectations either.

The Good: Some of the matte-work in the locations and establishing shots is absolutely breathtaking. Well on-par with Lord of the Rings. The costume design is good, if a little flamboyant (considering how impractical it proves for fighting in). And the on-screen deaths are frequent, brutal and (if I'm being honest) fairly satisfying. The choreography works when the editing allows us to see what the hell's going on. Jason Momoa's pretty good as Conan, but he's not given a lot to work with.

The Bad: Where you want me to start? The dialogue which is more cumbersome than a two-handed battle sword? The magic-helmet which seems to be a crossover of The One Ring from LotR, and the Horcruxes from Harry Potter? Or the fact that so many clichés are piled on top of each other that the only thing that's original about the film is how over-done it is? Classical formula is one thing, but there is literally nothing new here. I could forgive that if this was a brains-out-entertainment fest, but it didn't even keep me engaged. Armies of people fighting all wearing brown and grey, with fast-cutting shots and desaturated colour means that for the first hour of the film, as soon as the swords come out, you don't know what the hell's happening until they go back again and Conan is left standing surrounded by bodies.

Oh, and Spudgun out of bottom is one of the baddies. Yes. Spudgun. He appears to be in there for some quasi-comedy which doesn't quite work.

The rest of it? gruff/moody hero with heart of gold, trusty sidekick, swords, firm-but-fair father, megalomaniacal villain, magical artefact, feisty heroine/love-interest, magic spells, more swords… you've seen this before. And it was better the first time. In all honesty, I could write a laundry-list of moments that grated on me, but that would involve watching the film again. Not going to happen.

The Ugly: When a film has a continuity error in its opening scene, you know you're in trouble. Conan's mother on the battlefield is filmed from two angles. The first shot has blood smeared across her teeth, whereas the second, closeup shot, hasn't. It wouldn't be a biggie if we didn't flip back to the first shot and the blood's back again. It also wouldn't be a biggie if this wasn't the first scene in the film.
Later on, when Khalar's forces are raiding Conan's ship, they arrive and board in the half-light of dawn. A shot inside the ship to show the attack begin, then we're back on-deck and it's broad daylight. Less than three minutes later, the battle's over and there's a wide-shot of the boat with the sun about an hour into the sky.

After the Credits: No fucking clue. I deserve an award for sitting through the film, I wasn't going to sit through the credits as well.

All in all: A wasted opportunity. Appalling.


Like Paris Hilton, it initially looks great, but brings absolutely nothing to the party.

• ^^^ That's dry, British humour, and most likely sarcasm or facetiousness.

• This is a personal blog. The views and opinions expressed here represent my own thoughts (at the time of writing) and not those of the people, institutions or organisations that I may or may not be related with unless stated explicitly.

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