Conan the Barbarian

September 1, 2011

I mostly wanted to see this as an academic exercise, to compare it to the 1980’s version of the movie.  Also, we used the free passes we got when the sound crapped out on us during Green Lantern, so I didn’t actually pay for it.  Naked Jason Momoa might have influenced my decision as well.

My first reaction:  This is another Dungeons and Dragons movie that’s a million times better than the actual Dungeons and Dragons movie.

To those complaining that this is just a bunch of bloody battles strung together by a thin plot:  Dude, it’s called Conan the Barbarian. What were you expecting???  It delivered exactly what it promised, and did so in a mostly inoffensive manner.  The landscapes were actually quite marvelous, and a number of scenes and images reminded me of the old Weird Tales covers where Conan got his start, which makes me think someone on the movie did their homework. Leading actress/McGuffin Tamara was quite awesome and kick ass, at least until the third act when she went into full-on McGuffin mode.  That always ticks me off.  I did miss Valeria.  Also, I kept wondering why the evil sorceress looked just like Evil-lyn from the live-action He-Man movie.

Now, the comparison.  Hard to do, because these are two completely different movies.  The only similarity being that the bunch of horses get gratuitously punched out in the new Conan, which I can’t help but think is a tribute to the old.

2011 Conan is about a man who loses everything and then sets off through a fallen world on a quest for revenge.  This is a very easy, cliche story, and the movie showed it.

1982 Conan is about a man who loses everything and then wanders through a fallen world searching for meaning/purpose, and comes to decide that the only meaning he can find are the companions by his side he can trust through all troubles.  It’s a much more interesting story than the former, especially in the ways it embraces its nihilistic impulses.  There is nothing in this world but the sword, and that’s okay.  Also, Conan’s companions, Subotai and Valeria, are fully realized, interesting characters in their own right.  We believe their friendship, we root for them, and that’s awesome.  This is something else the new Conan is very much missing — none of the secondary characters rise above their stereotypes.

Of course, the definitive Conan adaptation is still the one Robot Chicken did.

8 Responses to “Conan the Barbarian”


  1. Speaking of movies that came out this year, have you seen Rango yet? If not, you should.


  2. Read Michael Stackpole’s adaptation of the earlier screenplay drafts. It is what the film would have been like if handled by a competent director

  3. Adam. Says:

    I’ve got an annoying recurring ankle injury that’s better than the Dungeons & Dragons movie.

    That comparison still leaves plenty of room for a film to suck. Royal.

  4. Vickie B Says:

    Okay, now I am sold. I wanted to see naked Jason Mamoa, too, but got told that the movie wasn’t worth my time by some normally ‘trusted agents’….but you are another voice and ‘trusted agent’ so will go see naked Jason Mamoa..um..Conan the Barbarian my next break. THANKS!

  5. Al Harron Says:

    “To those complaining that this is just a bunch of bloody battles strung together by a thin plot: Dude, it’s called Conan the Barbarian. What were you expecting?”

    That’s kind of like saying to people complaining about Batman & Robin being camp and ridiculous: “Dude, it’s called Batman and Robin. What were you expecting?” Sure, most people might just expect nothing but corny capers from a Batman film, but is it so wrong for Batman fans to want something with the depth of Nolans’ The Dark Knight? Likewise, Howard fans want something that reflects the power of the original stories. After all, bloody battles and thin plots can be found in any old Sword-and-Sorcery story: Conan’s special. There’s a reason why the original stories are still in print, while the 50+ novels from successive authors haven’t been in print since the ’90s.

    “The landscapes were actually quite marvelous, and a number of scenes and images reminded me of the old Weird Tales covers where Conan got his start, which makes me think someone on the movie did their homework.”

    Wherever it was they did their homework, it sure wasn’t the original stories. That said, Sean Hood did his best, but most of his work was left out of the original film because Marcus Nispel is a blithering idiot.

    Besides, wasn’t the 1982 film just as much about revenge?

  6. Cat G. Says:

    After being reminded that the live action Masters of the Universe movie existed, you managed to avoid massive angst directed at you by sliding in some Robot Chicken. Kudos.

    The movie was okay. It wasn’t the worst movie I saw all summer, although I was able to slip out to the bathroom and miss absolutely nothing (there was naked Jason Mamoa, which really wasn’t that exciting for me). Arnold had depth in his Conan; Jason did not. He was just a strangely anti-slavery chaotic good barbarian on a goal to kill a man, with friends we never know why we should care about, and a remarkable luck for finding guys with keys.


  7. I listened to all of REH’s Conan on audio this last spring / early summer. It’s a damn shame that most people think of the movies / comics or event he Le Sprague de Camp / Robert Jordan Conan and not REH’s Conan. His stories are awesome.

    At any rate, I always envisioned Conan as what is now a Light Heavy Weight Mixed Martial Artist physique (say Georges St. Pierre only taller, and not the body building bloated Arnold Conan. Lord knows, if Conan fought like the books, he probably would look like an MMA fighter.

  8. Kenyatta Says:

    I watched the new movie and loved Jason Mamoa and hated everything else…from a battle cesarean to a botched resurection it just stunk up the joint. I could find clips of naked Jason Mamoa online somewhere and it wouldn’t have cost $10.


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