PG Cooper: Conan the Barbarian Review

Posted: August 29, 2011 by Daniel Simpson (PG Cooper) in PG Cooper's Movie Reviews

Release date: August 19th, 2011

Running Time: 112 Minutes

Written by: Thomas Dean Donnelly, Joshua Oppenheimer, and Sean Hood

Directed by: Marcus Nispel

Starring: Jason Momoa, Rachel Nichols, Stephen Lang, and Rose McGowan

There’s a lot of different Conan fans out there. You’ve got people who love the original Schwarzenegger film (and maybe even it’s sequel), and you’ve got people who love the original Robert E. Howard novels. And then you have people like me, who don’t really care about Conan one way or the other. I’ve never read the novels, and while I like the first Conan film for what it is, I certainly don’t love it. So going into this new Conan, I really didn’t have any preconceived expectations. I was just hoping to get a good movie. Though not surprisingly, these hopes were not realized.

The film opens with a montage about evil races and old magic or something to that effect. This part of the film is kind of vague and doesn’t tie into the rest of the story that much. The next thing we see is the birth of Conan, were his father (Ron Perlman) cuts him right out of his mom’s stomach during a battle. Born in blood, Conan would grow to become the ultimate warrior. Even as a kid he shows promise by brutally murdering bandits who come to raid his village. But his village is attacked one day by Khalar Zym (Stephen Lang), a warlord trying to unlock an ancient power. Khalar and his forces slaughter everyone in the village, but Conan survives, and years later is on a path of revenge.

The biggest problem with Conan is it’s the exact same story as the first film. The details are different, but the core remains. Conan’s people are killed when he’s a boy, and he becomes a barbaric warrior who seeks revenge on the men responsible. Also like the original, the villain has a strong tie to magic. A lot of the details are in it, but the film’s are identical in basic structure, tone, atmosphere, and themes. Plus, the original film handles the story better, partly because it was first, and partly because the execution was stronger.

I will say I liked Jason Momoa in the title role. It’s a great performance or anything, but he fits the role well and it’s easy to get behind him. It helps that Conan isn’t just seeking vengeance, he also leads attacks on slavers out of a personal resentment to slavery. The rest of the cast is all at varying levels of mediocre. Rachel Nichols plays a monk who is sought after by the villains because she’s the pure blood they need (a plot detail which isn’t explained very well). Nichols doesn’t make any impact and the way her character is written is horrible. Like I said, she’s a monk, but from the beginning she has no problem instructing Conan to kill. Later on in the film, it shows her killing without a second thought. And then screaming with Conan in victory. Which doesn’t make sense considering she’s a monk. Something tells me a monk, from a society that claims to value life, would have serious reservations about killing. Stephen Lang and Rose McGowan both play over the top villains. Neither are bad, but they don’t leave any impact whatsoever.

The film doesn’t even excel in the action department. The action scenes look like they were well staged, but everything is filmed too close and the editing can be really frustrating. Some of the action scenes are good, but they’re all held back by some huge flaws that are impossible to overlook. The final action scene between Conan and Khalar is especially weak. The only thing about the action that’s consistently great is the gore. A recent trend has been to take successful rated R action films from the past and do newer, PG versions. Examples include Live Free or Die Hard and Terminator Salvation. Conan on the other hand is a hard R. The violence is really brutal with tons of blood flying everywhere. Hell Conan cuts a dude’s nose off at one point. The gore is probably the best thing about the film and goes a long way towards redeeming it.

Apart from the blood, and to a certain extent Jason Momoa, there isn’t anything to recommend about Conan. It tells a story we’ve already seen done better, is riddled with cliches, full of uninteresting characters, and even the action can be hit or miss. I’m sure those who are hardcore Conan fans will see this. Otherwise, just stay away.

Rating: D
And just as a bonus, here’s the Conan movie we all wanted to see:


  1. the legend says:

    bullshit this movie kicked ass

    -the legend

  2. Oh my god.

    MASSIVE PROPS for including that clip. I was all ready to comment on the review – we kind of see eye to eye, yada yada. And then I’m like “Conan the Librarian!” I was cracking up. I dont know how long its been since I’ve seen UHF, but I still knew the exact line “Don’t you know the Dewey Decimal system?” LOL. So funny. SOOO Funny!

    Great flick. Super cult.

    Anyways? What were we talking about? Conan 2011? Oh yeah. Right. Yeah, it wasn’t that good. I gave it a better grade cause I liked certain parts better than you did, but I wouldnt exactly come to its defense.

  3. brikhaus says:

    I haven’t thought about UHF in years. Conan the Librarian was always my favorite part. As far as the new Conan movie goes, I guess it will just get added to the Netflix pile.

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