Friday, 13 January 2012

"Conan The Barbarian". A Review Of The 2011 Remake Now On BLU RAY.

"…Behold…And Despair!"

You can't really accuse Marcus Nispel’s swords and sorcery fantasy of being namby-pamby – there’s cracked skulls and slashed limbs a plenty – and enough ketchup to worry Burger King. We’re not exactly talking Conan The "Librarian" here. And yet somehow – and despite Herculean effort (if you’ll forgive the terrible pun) - it just doesn’t click.

It should though. All the right ingredients for an update of this comic-book hero are there - bad guys with bad teeth – a minion with a severed nose and a tasty set of thumb-screws – an evil witch sporting razors for nail extensions – exotic wenches sporting very little else… And all the while a longhaired body-builder does his best to act while wielding a sword of destiny, riding a horse through haunted forests, causing landslides in slave mines, sneaking through secret passages into a turreted castle of ultimate doom (you know the sort) – and even finding time to shag a monastic nubile in a mud hut with very fetching candlelight. Not to mention all manner of burly warriors with more facial battle scars than members of the Scunthorpe Debate Society after a particularly rough game of Cribbage.

To be fair to the lead actor on which pretty much everything rests - it’s hard to follow in the triceps of Arnold Schwarzenegger. But Jason Momoa as Conan The Barbarian is likeable and a very credible presence on screen (he clearly bought a Bullworker in the few months as well). Stephan Lang (of "Avatar" fame) is the main villain - a power-obsessed overlord trying to get an ancient mask back that will make him a God (I felt the same way last week when I was queuing in Tescos). He thoroughly enjoys a psychotic frown as he pokes your eyes out and regularly rabbits on about "…rivers of blood..." and other such delightful bedside chatter (dialogue above). There are loads of battle sequences to keep the action ante up and the BLU RAY picture quality is immaculate throughout (it comes as a 'Double Play' set and there's a '3D' version too). There's even a believable 'attraction' between Jason Momoa and the gorgeous Rachel Nichols as Tamara the 'pure blood'. There’s also the ever-watchable Ron Perlman as Corin (Conan’s father) and Nonso Anozie plays Conan’s loyal sidekick Artus – a man with Byzantine dreadlocks and personal hygiene issues.

And yet this new remake grows tiresome very quickly – rather like "The Prince Of Persia" did. I think the main culprit is the incredibly derivative storyline - we've seen and heard all of this epic warrior and his journey nonsense before - and way too many times too. A boy witnesses his father and entire village be slaughtered – grows up to be a fierce warrior – systematically avenges all involved – meets fab-looking dolly bird en-route – saves the world from the forces of darkness – returns to a nicer mud hut at the end – has a shower (wash the blood and entrails off) – and settles in with a nice cup of cocoa and the Downton Abbey Christmas special. It sounds like great fun – it sounds rip-roaring – and at times it is. But it also feels a little empty-headed somehow. It's hard to get excited about this - and I’d admit to fast forwarding on more than one occasion. I also doubt I’d want to watch it again – so it’s a rental rather than a purchase.

Still – if you’re up for a bit of a He-Man actioner – you could do worse - you could try Poker night at the Scunthorpe Debate Society…

No comments: