Attention, writers and fan-boys alike... Robert E. Howard, native Texan, prolific author, creator of many classic characters and father of the Sword and Sorcery genre died when he was only 30 years old.
Yes, folks, his first professional, paid writing gig came at the age of 18. At the age of 22 Howard created the famous Solomon Kane, at 23 he created both Steve Costigan and Kull the Conqueror... and at the age of 26 he created his best known character Conan The Cimmerian!
Yeah, man... all that by 26... and he still had four years left in him. I would venture to say that there isn't a person you know who hasn't at least HEARD of Conan. Most everyone, throughout school read a bit about Conan the Barbarian, or heard something valuable at least. And if "heard of" isn't enough... he happens to be President Barack Obama's favorite character! Whether in highschool days, at college or an online university, you knew the name and maybe even the great story behind him. This screen adaptation takes your Conan knowledge you gained from online universities and emphasizes it ten fold. Yeah... he was only 26, man! So, um... how did you spend your summer vacation, kids? Get any writing done? Working on that... Novel, there... kids?
Yeah, folks, from the original books to the Comics from Marvel to the two high profile movies Conan the Barbarian and Conan the Destroyer and no less than three individual television series, everyone knows Conan... And for those of you that don't, the nice folks over at Lionsgate and Millennium Films sure are aiming to fix that for ya there, Partner, with the new and earnest big budgeted feature film called (drumroll) Conan the Barbarian!
The good news is that they took the casting seriously. I mean, who else could the Atlantean descended Barbarian named Conan be played by? I'll give you a hint... he played a Barbarian on Game of Thrones and lived on Atlantis before that on Stargate: Atlantis, man! Yep, yep, yep, yep, Jason Momoa is perfectly cast in the role!
As you'll see, the cast is all-around well chosen, which makes me think they must have ran out of money before selecting a director... hence the otherwise inexplicable credit for Marcus Nispel!
But anyway, dammit... the new script by Sean Hood, Joshua Oppenheimer and Thomas Dean Donnelly goes a little farther back than Conan's boyhood like we saw in the 1982 Governator flick... considering we actually see Conan in the Womb!
It's true! Of course that's only after a vapid introduction that sets the stage and zooms us forward through the Hyborian Age in temporal leaps and bounds so thick we need the skilled (yet quickly dismissed) narration of Morgan Freeman to make sense of it. To be fair, one of the first things we see is the first of very, very many topless women. Hey, it starts out well!
The plot thickens with...
Wait, hang on... I'm not done... THERE ARE SO MANY HOT TOPLESS WOMEN IN THIS MOVIE! It's great, man! There are no less than Eight characters listed as "Topless Wench" in the credits... and they only make up SOME of the naked women in this film. Huzzah!!!
The plot thickens with...
Whew... Good Grief! Wow!
The plot thickens with the arrival of the evil Khalar Zym (Stephen Lang... with hair) and his witchy daughter Marique (Ivana Staneva) into the Cimmerian village of Young Conan (Leo "No Relation" Howard) and his big dad Corin, played by the only actor tough enough to father Conan himself, Ron Perlman!
This sets off a decades long search during which Conan starts looking more like Jason Momoa, Marique starts looking a lot more like a scary-ass Rose McGowan and Khalar starts looking a lot like your Aunt Petunia (but with maybe a little less facial hair).
While Conan crosses the edges of the world freeing slaves, kicking asses, coveting beautiful topless women and hanging out with the likes of Nonso Anozie and Saïd Taghmaoui, Marique and her Pig of a Paw are on a mission to RULE THE WORLD, resurrect the dead and act like total jerks every third chance they get.
And the key to the whole game, as we're lucky enough to discover, is yet another beauty named Tamara (and played by the occasionally topless Rachel Nichols, whom I still like to think of as that hot green chick from Star Trek)!
The truth is that Conan The Barbarian is, in many ways, remarkably accurate to Robert E. Howard's evolving vision and carries with it the cruel violence and gore that marked the Cimmerian tales from the beginning! It's also a hell of a lot of fun to watch in most places with Momoa doing a very good job of being believable as the tough guy barbaric hero and as the leading man (even though, well, Conan isn't exactly all that liberated in many ways). The film tells an entire saga that is interesting, yet doesn't really know when to quit. At the same time, while Conan the Barbarian manages to be a prime example of the best of Sword and Sorcery for this post Matrix-age, the best of that genre is still marked and marred by the always bombastic and occasionally over-heavy dialogue that results in something most akin to Hyborian Cheese! Even when we reach a truly triumphant, well-effected and thrilling climax (the film can't decide on just one) it's hard not to notice that Nispel and company have also mined most every film of its like for just about every cliché in the Hollywood book!
In truth, however, Marcus Nispel could not possibly have made a better film. That's less due to the fact that the film is all that good than it is to the fact that Marcus Nispel has really made nothing but bad movies in his snoozer of a career. Why he was chosen for this high-profile reboot is beyond me, but, hell! That said, while Conan the Barbarian is far from a perfect film, it is pretty entertaining and a better time passer than an ass-load of would-be blockbusters out there. With better developed characters, a less predictable plot and a few more sculpted, perky, naked female breasts (as opposed to the multitude of "Boobs" in the cast), this one might have been more of an exciting triumph, earning a rating higher than Three Stars out of Five! Then again, it could be a hell of a lot worse! You doubt it? Rewind back to 1984 and check out Conan's fight with a one-eyed, one-horned crawling, purple princess eater. Now that's cheese! Yeah, it beats the corn of the 1980s films and serves, if nothing else, as a great vehicle for Jason Momoa and one hell of an advertisement for the old Robert E. Howard stories... all of which were written before the man turned 30 years old. Holy Shish Kebab, that's impressive. Now, if you'll excuse me, I've got to get my 37 year old ass back to the novel I've been working on for six years.
See you in the next reel, man! Let's hope I finish it soon!