As someone who seems to be missing the part of the brain that gets any kind of entertainment out of movies featuring sorcerers, ancient lands, and men fighting with swords, I probably shouldn’t be reviewing a movie like “Conan the Barbarian.” Especially because I really couldn’t tell a “good” fantasy epic from a “bad” one, since ultimately they all come off as profoundly stupid to me. (Except for the “Lord of the Rings” movies. That’s the kind of mystical movie magic that was able to work its charms on me.)

I know I’ve seen parts of the 1982 Schwarzenegger version of “Conan,” as it always seemed to be on cable television when I was growing up, but even then I knew that particular brand of movie wasn’t for me, so I can’t really compare the two films. But I can compare the naked chests of the actors playing the titular role, and have to say, Arnold’s is far more impressive than Jason Momoa’s. I bring this up because about half-way through the movie, as I was growing increasingly bored, I figured I could just concentrate on those pecs to keep myself entertained. Didn’t work.

The movie opens with Morgan Freeman, AKA the go-to-voice-of-God, explaining that what we are about to witness is set in a time that never happened, in lands that never existed. Conan is born on the battlefield, and by “born,” I mean his mother is stabbed in the gut with a sword during a fight, (an act we get to witness in vitro, perhaps the movie’s best moment), and is subsequently ripped from her stomach by his father, (Ron Perlman), who then raises him to the heavens with a mighty roar, natch.

A young and barbaric Conan later witnesses the death of his father, and grows up pec-ish, and full of rage, on a quest to kill Khalar (Stephen Lang), the warlord responsible for his father’s death. Khalar, meanwhile, is on a quest of his own, to find a woman of “pure blood,” to help unleash the power of a magic mask made of bones. At Khalar’s side is his gothy daughter, Marique (Rose McGowan), a witch with a receding hairline, finger blades, and wedge boots.

Once Tamara, (Rachel Nichols), the woman of “pure blood” is found (and pure blood just means something about lineage, not virginity, as I was convinced for half the movie), it is up to Conan to protect her, boss her around, and eventually bed her. After all, his self-professed mantra is, “I live; I love; I slay. I am content.”

There is little dialogue in the movie–perhaps the better to sell the film overseas with–but what is there is invariably laughable, although not really funny enough to sustain the movie on a camp level. But if it’s bloody sword fights you’re after, then “Conan” gets the job done there; I never knew blood could spurt in such a variety of ways!

Of course, those blood spurts are presented in 3D, as everything seems to be these days, but the effect isn’t utilized much, and instead it’s one of those movies where the 3D effects are about depth, and not things flying at your face. Which is to say: A waste.

I came away from the movie thinking it was terrible, and not worth seeing by anyone, but again, I am not entirely sure what fans of this genre would be satisfied with! I DO know that the life of the books’ author Robert E. Howard is a fascinating one–he was a weird dude!–and a movie about him, called “The Whole Wide World,” which came out in 1996, and stars Vincent D’Onofrio, is definitely worth seeing. Go rent that, and leave “Conan” to the barbarians.

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the author

Rain Jokinen watches a lot of television and movies and then writes things about them on the Internet. She's a San Francisco native, and yeah, she'll rub that fact in your face any chance she gets.

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  • Tarryk

    Wow, that’s great. A movie review that doesn’t really review the movie, but rather offers a mediocre synopsis interwoven with repetitive self-indulgant critiques on the entire genre. If a whole genre of movies is entirely out of your cultural grasp, it leads to two major questions: 1.) Why review the movie? You went in knowing you hated it, and you clearly and admittedly sat through the whole thing hating it just because it’s an action fantasy, without so much as attempting to appraise it for it’s merits within the genre. 2.) Why review movies at all? If you’re so enclosed in your own ego to forceably dismiss any movie based entirely on it’s setting to such an extent that the only way you can review it is by indirectly dismissing anyone who would like that category of film as barbarians themselves, you are obviously not fit to be a movie critic at all. Perhaps you should just stick to facebook, whining about the world’s choice in cultural identity to your friends and family? I’m sure THEY care.

  • Tarryk

    Wow, that’s great. A movie review that doesn’t really review the movie, but rather offers a mediocre synopsis interwoven with repetitive self-indulgant critiques on the entire genre. If a whole genre of movies is entirely out of your cultural grasp, it leads to two major questions: 1.) Why review the movie? You went in knowing you hated it, and you clearly and admittedly sat through the whole thing hating it just because it’s an action fantasy, without so much as attempting to appraise it for it’s merits within the genre. 2.) Why review movies at all? If you’re so enclosed in your own ego to forceably dismiss any movie based entirely on it’s setting to such an extent that the only way you can review it is by indirectly dismissing anyone who would like that category of film as barbarians themselves, you are obviously not fit to be a movie critic at all. Perhaps you should just stick to facebook, whining about the world’s choice in cultural identity to your friends and family? I’m sure THEY care.

  • Squid

    Your reviews are just as laughable. If movies like this arent your cup of tea, then why review it? You wasted everyones time. Spy kids. Go review the new Spy kids movie.

  • Squid

    Your reviews are just as laughable. If movies like this arent your cup of tea, then why review it? You wasted everyones time. Spy kids. Go review the new Spy kids movie.

  • lemmie81

    If you actually prefer 3D to be used for “things flying at your face” rather than “depth”, you should probably stop reviewing movies entirely. At the very least, limit yourself to reviewing the types of movies produced for very young children that focus more on bright colors, plush puppets, flashing lights and annoying sing-a-longs than they do character development, plot, or cinematography.

    You seem to be a bit out of your depth trying to review a movie that isn’t full of stupid gimmicks.

  • lemmie81

    If you actually prefer 3D to be used for “things flying at your face” rather than “depth”, you should probably stop reviewing movies entirely. At the very least, limit yourself to reviewing the types of movies produced for very young children that focus more on bright colors, plush puppets, flashing lights and annoying sing-a-longs than they do character development, plot, or cinematography.

    You seem to be a bit out of your depth trying to review a movie that isn’t full of stupid gimmicks.

  • Babe Scanlon

    Best review ever. Way more entertaining than the movie.

  • Babe Scanlon

    Best review ever. Way more entertaining than the movie.

  • Gibby

    I just signed up and am posting my first ever internet comment, based on this review. That’s how embarrassingly awful the review is.

    I don’t even care about the movie – it’s probably going to be terrible – or, at a minimum, not as good as the original. Most remakes have that failing (‘Star Trek’ and ‘The Thomas Crowne Affair’ being a couple of exceptions that come to my mind). However, the actual review makes me imagine what would have happened if Lt. Dan (from Forrest Gump) was hired by Car and Driver to review sports cars.

    Basically, such a self aggrandizing disgorgement of tripe and drivel, by someone who takes the time to highlight her patently obvious lack of understanding of cinema (depth, in 3D, is “not utilizing it much”? really?), and ability to review the genre (as if that self awareness somehow excused her inadequacies), should really never had seen the light of day.

    I will say, that the actual prose of the author is fine; even reasonable. It’s a nice change (from the general internet) to see complete sentences, correct spelling, and proper punctuation.

    But, in short, this review simply proves that anyone can call themselves a reviewer and string words into a sentence. That doesn’t mean you should be allowed to. Shame on the editor for allowing it to be published.

  • Gibby

    I just signed up and am posting my first ever internet comment, based on this review. That’s how embarrassingly awful the review is.

    I don’t even care about the movie – it’s probably going to be terrible – or, at a minimum, not as good as the original. Most remakes have that failing (‘Star Trek’ and ‘The Thomas Crowne Affair’ being a couple of exceptions that come to my mind). However, the actual review makes me imagine what would have happened if Lt. Dan (from Forrest Gump) was hired by Car and Driver to review sports cars.

    Basically, such a self aggrandizing disgorgement of tripe and drivel, by someone who takes the time to highlight her patently obvious lack of understanding of cinema (depth, in 3D, is “not utilizing it much”? really?), and ability to review the genre (as if that self awareness somehow excused her inadequacies), should really never had seen the light of day.

    I will say, that the actual prose of the author is fine; even reasonable. It’s a nice change (from the general internet) to see complete sentences, correct spelling, and proper punctuation.

    But, in short, this review simply proves that anyone can call themselves a reviewer and string words into a sentence. That doesn’t mean you should be allowed to. Shame on the editor for allowing it to be published.

  • katyg

    Holy Christ guys, hie thee back to AICN and feed among yourselves, willya? If this were a good movie, and she liked it, y’all’d be falling over yourselves crowing on about how sword-and-sandal movies can cross cultural boundaries, blah blah blah. You need a review from a fellow geek? Here it is: this movie is soulless, boring, and completely unnecessary. Go read a story from the canon or watch the ’82 movie if you need to be reminded of the good things in life.

  • katyg

    Holy Christ guys, hie thee back to AICN and feed among yourselves, willya? If this were a good movie, and she liked it, y’all’d be falling over yourselves crowing on about how sword-and-sandal movies can cross cultural boundaries, blah blah blah. You need a review from a fellow geek? Here it is: this movie is soulless, boring, and completely unnecessary. Go read a story from the canon or watch the ’82 movie if you need to be reminded of the good things in life.