With the glut of remakes and reboots constantly hitting cinemas I am sure the idea to reboot Conan the Barbarian was seen as a brilliant one. After all how hard could it be to take a hulking behemoth with moderate acting chops and put him in a revenge film with copious amounts of violence? The answer is evidently quite difficult.
Conan the Barbarian seemingly has all the pieces in place to puzzle together something enjoyable to watch. It has a director, Marcus Nispel, with a history of successfully rebooting franchises. It has a lead actor, Jason Momoa, that arguably looks more the part of the titular character than Arnold Schwarzenegger ever did. And it has a large handful of action set pieces filled with blood and gore. What Conan the Barbarian does not have though is anything resembling excitement.
An action film can survive a multitude of inadequacies that would doom any other type of film. Poor acting, plot hole filled narratives, and even moronic dialog can be forgiven if the action is stellar. High quality, well-paced action is the key to everything in the genre. One would think that a veteran horror director would be able to manufacture some degree of tension but Nispel fails to make it seem as if Conan is ever in any danger. Without tension the action scenes are a bore and unfortunately the film bet everything on its action pulling it forward.
Without engaging action as a distraction it is easier to see how many fundamental issues Conan the Barbarian actually suffers from. Jason Momoa may look the part but he lacks the mediocre acting chops that even Arnold had at the birth of his career. Conan is not a deeply complex character but Momoa can no even seem to grasp that aspect as he delivers a performance that is all over the place. Of course not all the blame should be pushed on Momoa as the script is equally as awful. Filled with glaring plot holes and some of the worst dialog in a film this summer, the Conan the Barbarian script makes Green Lantern look like Oscar material.
It would be easy to write off everything in the film as being fetid but it would be grossly unfair to both Stephen Lang and Rose McGowan. The two play the primary villains in the film, Khalar Zym and his daughter, Marique, and both do it exceptionally well. McGowan in particular stands out as she hams it up as Zym’s crazy daughter. Two bright spots though are not enough to save the film from itself and Conan fails to rise above being a below standard action film.
2 out of 5.