Conan the Barbarian
Marcus Nispel clearly wanted to stretch himself. Not for him the legacy of slick but trashy horror remakes no one was begging for (The Texas Chainsaw Massacre, Friday the 13th). He had more strings to his bow than a succession of hapless teenager kills. He could kill in other genres too! He could remake other genres too! And so came Conan the Barbarian.
To be fair to him, there was a vocal calling for the return of Conan (unlike those other remakes). A return didn’t have to feature Arnie who, after all, was only in one decent Conan movie. Thanks to Jason Momoa’s George Lazenby-esque turn there’s been a slight resurgence of buzz about for Arnie doing a Never Say Never Again (rather than Diamonds are Forever) and proving he’s still got it as an old Cimmerian (why he wants to play an animated horse, I have no idea). King Conan was originally mooted during the late ‘90s, when the Austrian Oak was still just about viable. 15 years later, I remain to be convinced; unlike the supremely steroidal Stallone, Arnie just looks old now and barely capable of walking in a straight line convincingly.
I hasten to add that I’m not a Conan aficionado, nor even a particularly big fan of the original beyond John Milius’ impressive myth making and Basil Pouledouris’ awesome score. It stood out in just the way a sword and sorcery spectacle should, but almost never succeed in so doing; Milius has epic sensibility fused into his very nostrils. Nispel signed on for what looks a fairly low budget (it’s abundantly unclear where the reported $90m went; on all those flat CGI backdrops?), with moderately recognisable to virtually unknown actors and a moderately underpowered to utterly indefensible script. The whole enterprise smacked of mediocrity from the get-go. Nispel directs only competently, the actors hit their marks, the effects are reasonable; so, following the early exit of Ron Perlam as Conan’s pops, it never feels more than pallid, generic and rather tiresome.
Stephen Lang’s okay, Rose McGowan’s weird and witchy, Momoa displays his massive man tits (and resembles a roadie for Whitesnake). But after the young Conan introductory passage (origins story, right?), there isn’t a moment or performance that doesn’t feel formulaic. Apparently Brett Ratner was in the running to direct, which would likely have been even worse; The Scorpion King, but without the jokes. Ratner’s getting his chance to wear some sweaty man-sandals with The Rock, however; he’s been shooting a more-than-likely underwhelming take on Hercules with the star.
This is all far too pedestrian to be any fun, ploughing through standard sidekicks and love interests, a smattering of tits, a CGI snake and some sandman parkour. If I could recall anything much about it, I’d probably be able to launch a more scathing critique, but it leaves virtually no impression.