Jason Momoa's boa-constrictor sized arms flail wildly about the screen, and his frowny mouth keeps yelling hyper-masculine vengeancy-type things, but all I can hear is "Me, Conan. You, 15 dollars poorer." As has become customary these days, I had trouble imagining why they bothered to remake this 1982 Schwarzenegger film, and after watching it, I still don't understand it. Was there really an outcry for more barbarian pictures? Only time and box office receipts will tell.
The film seems to implode under the pressure of proving itself. It has all of the elements on paper that seem to make a successful summer blockbuster--hot lead actor and actress exchanging pithy dialog against a vast Bulgarian landscape, bad guys with pointy teeth, and 3D blood spurts that erupt with as much force as a button off Dolly Parton's blouse. As a whole, it just doesn't add up to much. The original film had an epic, "so bad it's good" feel that allowed viewers to swig a beer and cheer Arnold on. This remake takes itself way too seriously, but is so lamely written that I just ended up feeling sorry for it. For crying out loud, not even Ron Perlman forging a sword stirs any kind of lust at all (blood or otherwise).
Usually when a movie includes so many interesting parts, it amounts to a pretty good time. However, the result here never gels. The film begins with Morgan Freeman’s voice-over and quickly shows Conan's mother being fatally wounded on the battlefield. Poor papa Ron Perlman has to cut Conan out of her dying womb. Opening scene, people! We should be in for a treat. But alas, it was not meant to be, for we never hear Morgan's voice again (even though we could use some guidance). Even the clotheslining of a horse and Rose McGowan doing her best "Marilyn Manson meets Freddy Krueger meets Samantha from Bewitched" impersonation can't save the film. The shallow, trite script made it feel like I spent two hours watching a really gory season recap of Deadliest Warrior. No wait, I would have enjoyed that more.
Speaking of McGowan, she definitely has the best role in the film as Marique, the sorcery-loving daughter of the nefarious Zim. First of all, she has a shockingly receding hairline that makes it perfectly understandable why she is so furious. On top of that, she has to be just as evil as all of her father's henchmen, but in a ball gown, which would make anybody cranky. One of her actual lines of dialogue is "I can smell you." I would side with her anytime, especially against the bland heroine Tamara played by Rachel Nichols. Conan tries in spurts to make it fun for audiences, but it's too little to buoy up an entire picture.
If all you need is gore, that’s one thing this film has in spades. It's rated R, apparently due not to the limbs torn asunder, but because of the lukewarm love scene. Another strange move, because the movie will mostly appeal to adolescents that are going to have to sneak into it (here's a tip kids: leave your official Conan Animal Pelt at home--people tend to notice those in a suburban multiplex). This entire summer has been pretty intense for the PG-13 crowd on a violence level, and Conan offers no respite. Unfortunately, aside from plenty of viscera, the best it gives is two hours in air conditioning, and the aforementioned clotheslined horse.