The combat almost never stops in a movie that really does not have anything else on its Dark Ages mind. As mindless entertainment goes, "Conan the Barbarian" stays so strictly within its fighting formula that its moment-to-moment thrills quickly prove tiresome.
I suppose one could argue that the movie's primal nature is true to its original source in mid-20th-century pulp fiction written by Robert E. Howard. Its more recent source is as a remake of a 1982
The new "Conan" fortunately does not impose the philosophical pomposity that made Stone and Milius so well-suited for each other and ill-suited for audiences. Director
The movie unfortunately does open with ponderous narration by an uncredited
Although the movie obviously does not dwell on psychology, it does feel the need to explain why Conan is bashing so many skulls and slicing off so many arms. Early scenes present us with baby Conan, who practices swordplay by the time he is a toddler. Look beneath the grimy face and matted hair of Conan's dad, Corin, and you'll recognize that the actor playing Corin is
An attack on the camp by a hostile tribe provides little Conan with all the motivation he needs to grow up and avenge the killing of so many of his people. Revenge is such a strong motive that, frankly, it does give the movie a sufficiently ferocious tone to see it through the many battles ahead.
By the time not-so-little Conan is all grown up and played by an intimidating-looking
If the audience is at least mildly interested in seeing Conan get back at his family's enemies, it's because Momoa is actually a solid choice for this sword-and-sandals role. Relatively speaking, he brings more warmth to this role than Schwarzenegger did. Action fans don't need to worry that he'll get all mushy, but they'll appreciate that this Conan exhibits at least a semblance of an emotional life.
Another reason why cheering for Conan is the only sensible choice is that his principal foe, Khalar Zym (
There's nothing terribly inventive about the martial confrontations between Conan and Zym, but they get the job done. Watching this movie is like turning the pages of a pulp novel or a comic book in order to pass the time. Occasionally, an especially gory scene will grab your attention. "Ouch, that must have hurt," you'll think, before immediately forgetting it and turning your attention to the next limb-separating swing of an ax or sword.
Although this is mostly a man's world, two female characters are thrown into the messy mix: Sym's daughter, Marique (
Both of these characters are integral to the revenge-driven story, but it still seems like they're mostly around because, well, a day's bloody fighting goes better when there are a couple of pretty girls around. It's that kind of a movie. Grade: C