Thursday, November 10, 2011

Conan The Barbarian (2011)

On a quest to enjoy the new Conan, follow these simple commands.

1. Don't pay full price.
2. Disable your inner Ebert.
3. Embrace gore and glorious tits.

After hearing nothing good about this movie, and seeing its 19% approval rating on Rotten Tomatoes, I decided it would be a foolish waste of 90 minutes and three dollars. Well, that's what movies are for, right? When you're foolish.

If you can get through the first ten minutes, you're on the road to payoff. The main hurdles are Ron Perlman looking like Harry (and the Hendersons) of the Hill People, and a young Conan reminiscent of Ernie Reyes Jr, in martial precociousness if not in looks. It's actually not bad, mostly. Conan gets his lessons in patient pugilism and ice-capades. The bad guys are ridiculously, inhumanly bad and monstrous, which seems to justify their many spurting demises. Sometimes Ron Perlman seems much too wise for someone so visually smelly, but then, they do live in a wintry land that perhaps suppresses overwhelming body odor.

Other dumb things include:
Two or three big moments of REACH TO THE HEAVENS AND CRY VENGEANCE, Rose McGowan's witchy, bulbous forehead, and that old-but-tough guy from Avatar and Terra Nova. I mean, is he the ONLY old-but-tough guy available? I guess he'll do.

On the plus side:
A tribute to blacksmithing, a very pretty main girl, oddly helpful pirates, Conan volunteering for prison, winning the loyalty of a little guy, toe-curling torture revenge, cool backdrops, intimidating kung-fu gravel zombies.

Things to ponder:
The bad guy has a gross mask. First it is made of metal, with a flimsy broken piece that makes you think, "even if he glues it back, it will break again during any rigorous activity." Then he gets the piece back, which makes the whole thing turn fleshy and grip his face. Kind of sick, like a facehugger in Aliens.

The big penultimate fight with the flailing Cthulu octopus is visual spaghetti. I lost my bearings, and so did the film editor. Chaos slathered in CGI tentacles.

Considering the source material, a showcasing of worship-worthy tits is more obligatory than gratuitous, so don't beat yourself up about it. Actually, I don't know the source material, aside from the Frank Frazetta covers, always dripping with heroic flesh.

Jason Momoa (this Conan), who also plays Khal Drogo in A Game of Thrones, apparently has certain requirements for his services, much like Van Halen's legendary color-sorted M&Ms.
1- Executions by molten metal.
2- Pale, virginal leading ladies.
3- Glimpses of slave girls with the most spectacular racks in the realm. Breasts that break wills and wear down rewind buttons.

Despite their commonalities, these projects are not equal. If you consume only one fantasy epic this year, let it be Game of Thrones.

Overall, there's fun to be had here. Go in with low expectations and you might be pleased. Jason Momoa makes a more wily and rootin-tootin Conan than Arnold did, though both have their charms. The old version was more bleak, with greater attention to metaphysics. This one has more enjoyable scenery, jauntier travels in a richer world-scape, and of course, bloodier tits.