I think a barbarian, by name alone, should not be cuddly and appealing. They should project menace and fear. When someone is called “barbaric”, it isn’t because they are kinda snide and smirky. In the second decade of the new millenium, Conan the Barbarian is hardly uncivilized and surprisingly philanthropic. Quick with a smile, the 2011 Conan likes to party, kiss pretty girls, and have romance novel sex scenes with them.Your mother might call this film “cute”.
Conan the Barbarian 2011 doesn’t start out so cute and cuddly, no sir. The first half hour gives us a heaping of back story and mythology(someone had a mask, they broke it, now Stephen Lang wants to put it back together and Rock That Shit), baby Conan is introduced in utero, dodging a sword put through his mother’s womb. Conan’s father is Ron Perlman, which is the kind of casting that I imagine was done without an audition.
Exec 1: “Who you like for Conan’s dad?”
Exec 2: “Fucking Hellboy, son.”
Ron Perlman raises Conan to understand how to make a sword and Young Conan proves his worth by murdering a bunch of guys and bringing their heads back to camp like it ain’t no thang.
Not soon after, Stephen Lang shows up looking for that damn mask, murders everybody, melts Ron Perlman with molten steel and makes Young Conan watch. Harsh. CONAN SWEARS VENGEANCE!
Well, not really. Conan grows up to be a bro. He hangs out with his friends, they break up slave rings and when the slaves(who are predominately topless women) ask what they should do next, Conan shoots his pal the side eye and we smash cut to a PARTAYYYY!!!! Beers and arm wrestling matches, Conan has the hottest slave girl and his buddy has the 2nd hottest and I’m surprised that Conan has grown up so well adjusted.
The plot does catch up with Conan and before long he is having a violent meet cute with Rachel Nichols where they make jokes about each other’s names and engage in flirtatious banter. They also take part in a stagecoach chase that was done better in Your Highness. These two goofballs end up having a harlequin novel sex scene, complete with body doubles. The next morning Conan sleeps in(such a guy, right ladies?) while Rachel Nichols goes off to be captured and move this gosh darn plot along. Before you know it, Conan is fighting snake creatures and chopping off Rose McGowan’s hand.
The largest failing is a script that desperately hits all the typical notes combined with players directed to not really give a shit. Even Stephen Lang, an expert in scenery chewing, is rather blase in his performance. Aim for the sky, you guys. Conan is a damn barbarian. It’s in the title! You can’t miss it. What’s he doing high fiving people and making jokes? Conan doesn’t understand jokes. If you play a joke on him, he rips off your arm. Conan 2011 wants to sleep in, hang out at the quad and kick the old sack around.
Things I liked in Conan the Barbarian(2011):
- Squib work is off the charts. Blood spurts out of papercuts, yo!
- Conan hits a horse in the face with giant chain, in slow motion.