1. What’s it about?
The story begins “afresh” and covers Conan’s earlier years growing up in a Cimmerian village. The turning point is when Conan witnesses his father die and vows to avenge his death by hunting down X, his killer. The rest of the film centers on his adventures on the way to completing this vendetta-quest. Tossed into this chaotic storyline is the search for the Mask of Acheron and the female “pure blood” descendant of sorcerers.
2. Why is it rated R?
The film is rated R for Strong Bloody Violence, some sexuality and nudity. There are a couple of different scenes containing women with bare breasts. Conan and Tamara are shown in a corny love scene (no full-frontal nudity, however). There are several scenes of wanton violence with beheadings, skull crushing, dismembering of various body parts, stabbing, pillaging and burning. The sand monsters conjured by Marique, the sorceress daughter of Khalar Zym (the arch-enemy who killed Conan’s father) and other monsters throughout the film would likely be frightening to younger children.
3. Should I worry about an age limit for the subject matter?
It really depends on making your best parenting judgement, but I certainly wouldn’t take kids younger than 10 to see the film. If kids are easily frightened by scary images of any kind, they should not see this movie. But I saw kids as young as 8 in the theater with their parents, so opinions as to what images children can endure tend to vary among parents.
4. Will my kids like it?
Okay, so you’ve decided to take them. They’ll probably enjoy the film, as there are a lot of great battle scenes and plenty of fighting action between Conan and his various enemies.
5. Will I like it?
The writers are Thomas Dean Donnelly, Joshua Oppenheimer, Sean Hood and Robert E. Howard (character of Conan). This is quite possibly the worst written screenplay that I have had the misfortune to see, misconstituted into film. Despite the mellifluous tones of Morgan Freeman as the narrator in the film, the script is so badly written it’s a flagrant waste of his voice talents. The rest of the dialogue is like a caricature of the dialogue in the worst action movies in history. I do not blame the writing of Robert E. Howard, who was influenced by Bullfinch’s Mythology in 1913. His original poem, “Cimmeria” was the catalyst for creating the world known as the Hyborian Age, the mythological backdrop of the Conan story. But, the magic of the original doesn’t translate to the script, which falls flat, lifeless and weekly clichéd on the screen. Hence, I thrust these example before your eyes, lifeless on my blade!
“What is best in life?” “To crush your enemies, to see them driven before you and to hear the lamentations of the women.” “I live, I love, I slay, I am content”
Really, that’s it? As far as the rest of the acting in this film, it is soulless and as forgettable as the dialogue is bad.
6. Dialogue isn’t needed during pillaging anyway, so what about the cinematography and action parts?
I have to give credit to cinematographer Thomas Kloss for saving the movie from being a complete disaster. His depiction of mountain villain castles, towering cliffs near the sea, forestlands, and desert badlands are like a pleasant poultice on our wounded sensibilities during the terrible dialogue. The film was shot in various beautiful and evocative locations in Bulgaria. Production designer Chris August and the many stunt coordinators did a great job of configuring and executing the battle scenes and one-on-one fighting bouts in the film. As for the 3D, the animated monsters were cool. But a few rocks crashing down and swords swinging at the screen did not rock my inner 3D diagnostic sensor at all.
7. Is there a good time for a bathroom break?
You could try it during the love scene between Conan and Tamara. Or really, at any point during the bone splitting, blood spattering, he-man diatribe, etcetera.
8. Do I need to sit through the credits for a bonus scene at the end?
No. Run while you still can, stay strong, and wield your drinking straw-sword with abandon!
9. How does Jason Momoa fill Arnold’s fur-kini?
I’m a big fan of Stargate: Atlantis, and have enjoyed watching Momoa in the series. He played Ronon Dex, a likeable character who is a bit churlish, and likes few words and a good fight. He also did a very credible job in a role of even fewer words as Khal Drogo in the justly-acclaimed first season of Game of Thrones on HBO. In this film, however, he falls victim to the terrible script, and unfortunately loses all the dramatic charisma that Momoa could bring to bear in a part like Conan. Momoa’s intense demeanor and fine physical shape obviously make the stuff of a good barbarian. He does have a fine screen presence, but he needs a good script to deliver to the audience. It wasn’t there.
10. Do you miss Arnold’s pecs and lack of enunciation?
So we went from Califohnya back to Cimmeria without Arnold. Schwarzenegger’s Conan (in 1982) was bigger, bulkier — with more muscle. I do miss the Governa- I mean Schwarzenegger as Conan. But let’s give Momoa a fighting, pillaging chance at establishing his place in this large role. Please, please, screenwriters: do justice to Robert E. Howard’s great character, and write a good script this time.
Conan the Barbarian is directed by Marcus Nispel, and stars Jason Momoa, Rachel Nichols, Stephen Lang, Rose McGowan, Saïd Taghmaoui, Leo Howard and Ron Perlman. The writers are Thomas Dean Donnelly, Joshua Oppenheimer and Sean Hood. Lionsgate and Millennium Films are the distributors.