Movie Review: Conan the Barbarian

By Stephen Rebello

The remake of the 1982 film is epically awful, our critic writes.

Director: Marcus Nispel Rating: R Studio: Nu Image Films

Were the brainiacs responsible for Conan the Barbarian out to make one long teaser trailer for a video game? Maybe so because if the bone-crunching, rip-roaring and satisfyingly cheesy 1982 movie version of Robert E. Howard’s thundering pulp fiction stories had epic pretensions, at least it felt like a real movie.

This one is merely epically awful, a CGI-addled farrago from reboot king Marcus Nispel, the director already culpable of do-overs of Pathfinder, Friday the 13th and The Texas Chainsaw Massacre: The Beginning. Forget the sword3the one’s scraped from the bottom of a funky old sandal. Against the blood and thunder of a numbing musical soundtrack, lots of grunts and a parade of flexing pecs and lovely female breasts, the senselessly plotted movie is set in Howard’s fantastical Hyborian Age which, from the its CGI and production design, must be adjacent to The Lord of the Rings Theme Park.

The flick mostly thrums along on chaotically edited, clumsily shot limb-severing, nose gouging and yelling “Aarrggh!” performed by the perpetually smoldering Jason Mamoa as the title character. He’s fun to watching but his acting chops make Arnold Schwarzenegger’s seem Daniel Day-Lewis-worthy. Thwarting our barbarian hero with campy villainry is Stephen Lang, who may or may not harbor a bit too much affection for his witchy daughter Rose McGowan who, from her costume and makeup, apparently wandered in from a Star Wars convention. Rachel Nichols is confined to the margins as Conan’s “’love interest” but manages to look stunning and permanently stunned all the way through, even when the hero growls sweet nothings like, “Woman!  Come here!” The less said about participation of the wonderful Ron Perlman as the barbarian’s papa, the better. Team Coco? We think not.

About the Author

Playboy Contributing Editor Stephen Rebello has written many Playboy Interview and 20 Questions features. He is the author of such books as the notorious Bad Movies We Love (with Edward Margulies) and Alfred Hitchcock and the Making of Psycho, the latter of which has inspired a dramatic feature film set for production in 2012. His most recent Playboy Interviews include Josh Brolin and Cameron Diaz.


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