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Conan the Barbarian - Blu-ray Review

{2jtab: Movie Review}

Conan the Barbarian

3 Stars

A fan of the pulp era, wonderfully lurid tales told briskly and cheaply from the Depression into the 1950s, this reviewer, like many, latched onto a certain reoccurring character written by an unassuming fellow, long since gone (and under sad circumstances). The character’s name: Conan.

Of course, my first introduction to this character was when a certain unknown muscle man named Ah-Nuhld wowed us with both his physique and his confident charm. But as time wore on, and I became more familiar with the character, in his various incarnations—from comics to cartoons, etc.—it became painfully obvious that even the megastar Schwarzenegger and countless others hadn’t brought Robert E. Howard’s character to life, as enjoyable as those might have been.

It was with rare interest, upon its announcement a few years ago, that this reviewer heard a new incarnation of Conan the Barbarian was on the way, alleged to be sticking much closer to Howard’s version than any other. Did they make good on their word?

Starting with a bloody birth scene, Conan comes into his world ‘born of battle’. As he grows into an iron-willed young man, passionately trying to win the respect of his father, dark evil comes to his village. The warlord Khalar Zym seeks the last remaining fragment of the Mask of Acheron, a device he believes will make him a God amongst men, and kills Conan’s father to get it. The story then skips to Conan as a wandering discontent of a man, directionless until he crossed paths with Zym’s men—and then he sets forth to seek vengeance.

From inception, this is an ill-conceived plot that undermines the lead character. Conan is represented as a dispassionate hedonist who, by dumb luck, comes across a lead that sets him down the oh so boring and clichéd road of revenge. It treats the character as a plot device, instead of allowing us to get to know him, and in effect, because all we are exposed to are paint by numbers mythology moments, renders him almost unlikable. Other characters fair worse, again for the central agenda of simply serving a direly unoriginal plot. For a film that wants to honour Howard, it lacks any of the passion and attention to detail of his Conan.

The good: Jason Momoa is a good choice for the character, and if he’d been given a good story, this reviewer has no doubt his charisma could have easily won the day: from his physique to his gravelly voice, he is a wonderful flesh and bone Conan. In fact, the film is filled with great players, from Rose McGowan to the always great Ron Perlman; they even sprang for Morgan Freeman to do the narration. The beautiful Rachel Nichols, an actor this reviewer has always had a soft spot for, is wasted in this film in a thankless role.

In a world where PG-13 rules, Conan bravely and enjoyably pulls no punches, and, in this, the film—for once—successfully accomplishes the unrelenting nature of Howard’s work: it is violent, brutal, sexual, and makes no bones about it.

Director Marcus Nispel has become the go to guy of remakes. It’s annoying. He is a visual master: all his movies are F’ing beautiful! Why, oh why, is it that someone can’t give him a decent story to compliment his gifted eye?

This is another film that has been targeted by critics about post production 3D conversion, and by all accounts for good reason. It is lacklustre at best, and deservedly being accused of a simple cash grab by the studio. A film like this is a perfect platform for 3D, and could have been immersive and visceral, but like most of its components, it falls dismally short of its potential.

Robert E. Howard left us in the 1930s, sadly by his own hand; he never saw any of the incarnations his beloved character would make. Conan is a remarkable character, and there is good reason so many have tried to bring him to life, but unfortunately 2011’s attempt will go down as a valiant but unsuccessful attempt to capture Howard’s magic—perhaps without him, it’ll never be.

{2jtab: Film Details}

Conan the Barbarian UK International TrailerMPAA Rating: R for strong bloody violence, some sexuality and nudity.
Director: Marcus Nispel
Writer: Thomas Dean Donnelly & Joshua Oppenheimer and Sean Hood
Cast: Jason Momoa; Stephen Lang; Rachel Nichols; Ron Perlman; Rose McGowan
Genre: Action | Acdenture | Fantasy
Memorable Movie Quote:
"I see a journey. A man crossing the sands."
Tagline:
Conan the Barbarian.
Distributor:
Lionsgate
Official Site:
www.conanthebarbarianin3d.com
Release Date: August 19, 2011
Blu-ray Release Date:
November 22, 2011

Plot Synopsis: An action packed tale of Conan the Cimmerian and his adventures across the continent of Hyboria on a quest to avenge the murder of his father and the slaughter of his village.

{2jtab: Blu-ray/DVD Details}

Conan the Barbarian - Blu-ray Review

Component Grades
Movie
 
Blu-ray Disc
3 Stars
 
3 Stars
     
Blu-ray Experience
3 Stars

Blu-ray

Blu-ray Details:

Available on Blu-ray - November 22, 2011
Screen Formats: 2.40:1
Subtitles
: English, English SDH, Spanish
Audio: English: DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1
Discs: 50GB Blu-ray Disc; Two-disc set (1 BD, 1 DVD); DVD copy
Playback: Locked to region A.

All Nispel movies look a sumptuous treat on blu ray, and this AVC encode is no exception. It’s a flawless picture. The lossless DTS-HD 7.1 sound is just as flawless and probably one of the main reasons the film works at all. Special features, which should be noted only come on the 3D/2D Blu Ray combo set in the US, are passable but hardly extensive: on highlight is an 11 minute tribute to Robert E. Howard. Unfortunately, like many Lionsgate releases, the region A version is region locked.

Supplements:

Commentary:

  • With director Marcus Nispel.
  • With Actors Jason Momoa and Rose McGowan

Special Features:

  • The Conan Legacy (HD; 18:01)
  • Robert E. Howard: The Man Who Would Be Conan (HD; 11:24)
  • Battle Royal: Engineering the Action (HD; 9:55)
  • Staging the Fights (HD; 5:47)
  • Theatrical Trailer (HD; 2:16)

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