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Conan The Barbarian (2011)

1/12/2011. Contributed by Rod MacDonald

Buy Conan The Barbarian (2011) in the USA - or Buy Conan The Barbarian (2011) in the UK

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region 2 DVD: pub: Lions Gate Home Entertainment B00505QA5Y. 113 minute film. Price: GBP 9.99 (UK). stars: Jason Momoa, Rachel Nichols, Stephen Lang and Ron Perlman.

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The character Conan the Barbarian has been around since Robert E Howard created him in 1932. He has appeared in lots of different publications ever since but probably most people will associate Conan with the 1982 movie starring Arnold Schwarzenegger. There was also a follow-up movie in 1984 entitled ‘Conan The Destroyer’.

When the 2011 movie was released, most people immediately made the connection to the earlier Schwarzenegger movie on the assumption that it would be a re-make with computer graphics thrown in. In fact, knowing I was going to do the review, I had another look at the 1982 version but I needn't have bothered because they are actually quite different.

The recent movie was made in March with a budget of $70 million. When it went to the cinemas, the response was very disappointing and it made only $20 million. With such a huge loss, it has been quickly released on DVD perhaps in an attempt to try to capture the Christmas market. Not only was it badly received at the box office, generally critics gave it a thumbs down. So, what should we make of this DVD?

The biggest mistake was to call it ‘Conan The Barbarian’ because this made an immediate connection to the Schwarzenegger movie. If they had chosen a slightly different name it may have achieved greater success. If taken on its own worth without any associations hindering its critical acclaim, it actually turns out to be quite a reasonable movie.

It was made in Bulgaria, I imagine for financial reasons, but the scenery and location are displayed to great effect. This country is more akin to the original concept of Conan the Cimmerian, in the land forgotten by time situated somewhere beyond central Europe. This was a dark age with little respect for human dignity, a dog eat dog existence with only the strong surviving.

The movie's duration is 113 minutes, a good enough time for something packed with action. That's what you get, lots of action and plenty of swordfights with spilling blood and guts. Not only do heads, legs and arms get hacked off, one unfortunate chap has his nose sliced off, much to his dismay.

The actors are not big splash names. Conan is played by Jason Momoa, Tamara his female companion, by Rachel Nichols while the bad guy Zym, by Stephen Lang, probably recognised by most people as the tough colonel in ‘Avatar’. No doubt everyone will recognise Ron Perlman who has appeared in numerous movies for the last 30 years. He is Corin, Conan's father.

As already mentioned, it's nothing like the Schwarzenegger movie. Born on the battlefield, Conan grows up to be a skilled warrior but the crunch time comes when Zym, looking for the final part of a face mask which will make him into a god, decides to ransack Conan's village and kill his father. Years later, when Conan has turned into a man, he sets out to get his revenge.

On the way, he meets up with the lovely Tamara. Zym wants to use her blood via sacrifice for the final stage of his godly transformation but Conan, now romantically linked to Tamara, decides this is not a good idea and tries to save her. There are lots of interesting battles on the way, in particular a fight with sand creatures stirred up by Zym's witch daughter, not witch doctor!

While there are plenty of things going on to keep your interest, criticism can be made in that the movie seems to lack in-depth feeling. It doesn't seem to have a soul. Also, throughout the action you are never left to wonder whether or not Conan will be victorious. It all seems a bit one-sided and you begin to feel sorry for the bad guys, ugly as they are. While this may not be up to the standard of the Schwarzenegger movie, it's good enough in many respects and a lot of the criticism that has been made against it is not entirely deserved. Judged on its own without preconceived opinions, I think it passes the test. Okay, it's not an epic but it is a good action tale to watch over the festive period. No doubt this will appear in supermarkets. Put it in the basket along with the brussels sprouts and Christmas mince pies.

Rod MacDonald

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