Lots of violence, little plot in ‘Conan’ remake
Welcome to “Conan the Barbarian,” during which, for a mind-numbing two hours, a perpetually half-naked Jason Momoa roars and ravages across a nondescript, 3-D backdrop, slaying everything that moves and leaving behind a wake of destruction as large as his flaring nostrils.
There is a caveat, though: If you go in expecting nothing but blood and gore, essentially a hero’s quest on violent steroids, you’re in luck: “Conan” doesn’t disappoint. Brutal, bloody beyond description and as near-pointless as can be, “Conan” somehow manages to be an intense adrenaline rush, especially if you’re watching with a Y chromosome.
The film, introduced in voice-over by Morgan Freeman, is a blend between an origin story and a mythological battle between good and evil, with swords, sorcery and blazing masculinity everywhere you look.
In a jaw-droppingly gruesome opening, a young Conan (a savage Leo Howard) single-handedly fells four raiders before his clan has even recognized him as a true warrior. The clan’s leader and Conan’s father, Corin (a heavily bearded Ron Perlman), is soon after slain in front of his son by would-be warlord Khalar Zym (an insidious Stephan Lane). The invaders find what they are searching for, burn the village to the ground and slaughter its people. This, of course, leaves Conan with a major vendetta against Zym. The scene then quickly cuts to a fully grown Conan (donning the same flowing mane he has in “Game of Thrones” as Khal Drogo), packing some serious muscle in honor of the the original Conan, Arnold Schwarzenegger.
The crux of the conflict here is fairly bland: Zym and his witch-child Marique (Rose McGowan) seek the hidden pieces of an ancient mask and the “pure blood” descendant of an ancient bloodline (Rachel Nichols) so he can used their ancient combined powers to revive his wife and conquer the world. Conan and Tamara team up and work to defeat this crazed, ancient-power-hungry warlord. Typical ancient stuff.
Director Marcus Nispel (“The Texas Chainsaw Massacre,” “Friday the 13th”) doesn’t add anything obviously personal to this “Conan.” What is brought, though, is gore and plenty of it. He is able to draw out some decent performances out of Lang and McGowan, even if their characters are completely ridiculous. (It’s debatable whether McGowan’s character is a witch or a dominatrix-in-training, with those fetish boots and press-on metal claws.)
Yes, the plot is nonsensical and the storytelling can only be described as shoddy. Yes, it strips most of the myth, magic and humor that permeated the 1982 John Milius-Schwarzenegger version. But don’t be surprised, after watching “Conan,” if you’re feeling gung-ho and amped to cause some destruction, even if you don’t remember any of the characters’ names.
Two violent stars out of five.