Sunday, March 18, 2012

3 Short Paragraphs: Conan the Barbarian

2011, Marcus Nispel (Pathfinder) -- download

Up front; I am a Conan fan.  I read all the RE Howard books, plenty of the followup books by later authors, most of the comics, loved the movies and even watched the terrible terrible TV series.  I know the character well but really, I am not that bothered by reinterpretations.  New is new and old is old but when I heard Jason Momoa (Stargate Atlantis) was going to be the new Conan, I was somewhat intrigued.  Rather than a muscle bound meathead like Arnie, he could be a lean tight warrior with the growl down pat.  Then the pre-reviews came out (terrible terrible; unneeded changes from the sources) and the post-reviews came out (TERRIBLE TERRIBLE bad acting, confusing story and just plain too bloody) and I was only ready to see it as a so-bad-it-is-good movie.  Alas, life interfered and I didn't make it to the theatre.

Now, I have to also say that I just watched it for the second time.  Was the first time fuzzy because of a fever (probably) or fuzzy because of a typical sleepy friday night combined with beer (most likely) ? Either way, another viewing was required.  I remember I liked it, was curious as to what people disliked about it so much but not much else, let alone enough to tell a story of my viewing. So, second time through and guess what?  I liked it even more.  I wouldn't go so far as saying it's a GOOD movie but really, was the Arnie one?  Is ANY swords & sandals movie good ?  No, but they can be fun and exciting and thrilling.  I just wish the director was that much better to string together the revenge story with the mythos that was Conan, instead of a string of barely connected battles.  The battles are well fought and pump the heart of this D&D player and while I will own this movie, I will not consider it good by any means.

The story is a reworking of a familiar Conan origin story -- born on a battlefield and raised by his father in a northern barbarian tribe where swords and blood are life.  If you don't know pulp swords & sorcery, would you know what fantastic barbarians are or would you just imagine them as vikings or mongols? So, Conan's youth is interrupted by a raiding band of soldiers seeking the last remaining shard of a magic mask, a mask that give godlike powers to the (invader) K'Lar Zim. But strangely, the Big Bad has more depth -- his wife, a sorcerous bent on her own path of domination, was killed at the hands of leaders who opposed her. K'lar's goal is not only godhood but to resurrect his wife. By his side is his daughter who also has her own path to power, a little creepier in her witch powers and her desire to be her dad's ... main focus in life. Conan is brought back into the story when he learns K'Lar is the man who killed his father and tribe. By not only cutting down each of K'Lar's henchmen (each unique; disappointed we never see the death of the female archer) but also stealing away the Pure Blood (not virgin, just pureblood line from ancient necromancers) he catches K'Lar's attention. It all ends up leading to a final battle inside a ruined city lining a volcano. Not the best place for a city, but as Marmy said, maybe the necromancers were into geothermal energy.  Of course, bad guy killed, witch killed and mask destroyed again. And Conan gets the girl. But I still wonder, why was K'Lar dragging a boat from place to place?