Hold onto you noses, because Conan the Barbarian (2011) is the Greatest Movie EVER!
Click on the movie poster or the title above to download our review of the film, featuring Dave and Joel from Fast Karate for the Gentleman.
Review in a Nutshell: Although the film contains good casting and some truly hilarious moments, the new Conan film is missing a certain something that puts our guest hosts ill at ease. Paul still considers it to be the “feel-good family comedy of the year.”
Great to see Dave and Joel back, the original Conan podcast is my favourite episode of GME.
I was so hopeful that this new Conan movie would be good. However, when I saw it, rather than get the 80’s-fantasy-tastic good times of the original Conan, all I got was a big pile of dissapointment. This movie isn’t god-aweful/screaminly bad, it’s just mediocre. While the original has so many memorable lines and scenes, this movie is just forgettable in every way.
Did anyone else get the impression that Conan’s (the character) lines were written by a 15 year old boy? Seems like whenever Conan was speaking he was trying so hard to sound tough and cool. It just came off as cheesey (and not in the good way).
Anyway, I’ll always believe that the Scorpion King is the 2nd best Conan movie ever made. Think about it for a second. We didn’t get Conan the Conquerer. Then the Rock comes and makes a movie where he fights an evil King of a horde of baddies, sleeps with a hottie sorceress that he saves/kidnaps, and becomes the King at the end. All you need do is find/replace whatever the Rock’s name is in that movie with Conan and ta da we have Conan the Conquerer.
And Congrats to Paul for getting his short story collection out there, I’d buy it, but don’t have an Amazon account (why the hell doesn’t Amazon take paypal?)
I found this movie to be a travesty; and a poorly directed travesty at that. Did anyone notice that the director seemed unwilling (or unable) to film anyone below the shoulders? I turned the movie off during what was supposed to be an exciting action scene upon realizing that almost every shot seemed inappropriately close. The director and crew should have backed off about a dozen meters.
If no one believes me skip to the one hour-and-one minute mark. Watch the next five minutes. What is supposed to be a special effects laden action scene becomes a claustrophobic, nausea-inducing mess.
EDIT: Please do not include links to pirated copies of the film. Thank you. –Paul
I enjoyed this film probably more than I should have, but the Dave and Joel principal continues. Every podcast they are on they will talk about either food or babies (but probably both).
Can’t say I cared for this movie. It wasn’t even really a Conan movie, just some generic sword and sorcery flick with the Conan name slapped on it and some location names from Howard’s stories tossed about at random. There was some decent casting choices but nobody was really given anything to do, the fight scenes felt like leftovers from Pirates of the Carribean, the villains and monsters were boring and like Ryan said, the whole thing felt like some dumb kid’s attempt at writing something “badass.” And Conan is just an unlikable dick. Yeah, the version of the original stories and the Milius movie weren’t exactly Mr. Nice Guy either, but at least in the former he’s got this sort of Man With No Name-style roguish charisma going for him and the latter he’s got this sort of lunkheaded likability and innocence to him. This version’s a feral, bullying asshole through and through. Hell, I’d have been rooting against him if it weren’t for the villain’s being so friggin’ lame. And where the hell does the villain’s entire army disappear to halfway through the movie?
The bit where he smacked the horse in the face with the chain was pretty hilarious though.
This was an “eh” movie for me. I didn’t dislike it. I didn’t like it. I felt very little afterward. It was soulless, and even the crazy stuff felt, I don’t know…sort of forced, where as the original film benefits from the true insanity of John Milius and Oliver Stone (or what was left of his script). I also thought the CG sets lent this film a flat feel, where as the original — man, the amount of $$$ they spent on sets made that movie feel lived in. I believed that world; I never believed this one. The Milius Conan was willing to commit to itself 100% and handle everything like it was the most important story in the world. This one has too much of the winking that has infected fantasy since the Hercules/Xena shows.
Well, for once I can say I disagree with a GME podcast, even if I did get a shoutout (I’m honored, btw).
I was surprised/disappointed not to hear much discussion of the historically significant level of sexism in this film. This is a TRIUMPH of misogyny. With I think four total (kinda) exceptions, women in Hyboria are literally pieces of property. Conan literally tells the female lead character “Be quiet! Do as you’re told.” And she develops into one of the kinda exceptions to the owning women rule.
Along with embracing the True Blood trademarked “boobies-and-man-ass-all-the-time” cornerstone philosophy, the brilliance in handling the paleolithic gender attitudes, a point you briefly touched on, was in casting a good-looking guy to play everyone’s favorite Cimmerian. REALLY good looking, if you ask my wife. Or some of her friends. Or my mom. Seriously, these are intelligent women, covering multiple generations and most of the feminism spectrum, yet they consistently defend this objectively terrible film out of appreciation for Momoa.
On the topic of appreciating of the lead, I feel more credit was due his swordsmanship. While the too-close-zooms were (justly) criticized, limiting our views of whatever fight choreography was there to begin with, his mastery of reverse grip/Zatoichi-style dual-wielding swords is unbelievable. Maybe the director wanted it because he thought it looked cool, but it’s incredibly difficult, and Momoa apparently knows the Riddle, as it were.
Not to pour pure vitriol on a podcast and hosts I enjoy and admire, I thought there were some fantastic points made on the show as well.
“We’re told Conan is a thief, but it never shows him take anything.”
Mark Twain’s “bring her on and let her scream” immediately comes to mind. This was a really smart point, and one that made me reexamine how much of my knowledge and experience I projected upon the movie. This film nails the Conan bravado, but misses what makes him that way. We see he’s a womanizer and a killer, but not once do we see him as a mercenary or thief. The audience can understands his revenge motive, but why the heroism with the slaves? This isn’t the Arnold version of the stories, so this Conan hasn’t known shackles. Why would a sword for hire care? The film makes him far too heroic, and misses almost completely on the character’s historical significance as one of fiction’s first true anti-heroes.
I’m ashamed to admit I missed this entire train of thought. I’d filled in the blanks with what I’ve read, and covered up those shortcomings by viewing the film through (blood red)-tinted glasses.
“No Conan character arc.”
No, he really didn’t develop. And yes, that was awesome. I’m not sure why, but I can’t help but appreciate that as a little F-U to “A Separate Peace” and every other lazy English teacher mandate. The female lead did the whole standard arc, of course, but frankly had to, as “vestal virgin” start to finish is too simple for even a revenge epic. +1 to Paul.
It was terrible in this reboot, a mistake all the more glaring because of the incredible accompaniments to the Schwarzenegger Conan films. Both scores were tremendous, .
*Disclaimer: I’m as biased as possible. I own both, I even kept the CDs. My most used Pandora station is Basil Poledouris, not because I’m pretentious, but because stupid Pandora would take neither “Conan the [X]” nor “Anvil of Crom”.
GME podcasts seem to run roughly 24-55 minutes in length. I couldn’t be happier that both Conan the Barbarians clocked in near the top of the spectrum. Thank you all, keep up the good work.
“I was surprised/disappointed not to hear much discussion of the historically significant level of sexism in this film. This is a TRIUMPH of misogyny.”
-I have to agree with this. I enjoyed this movie but I wish that they made more of the women less helpless. Even witchy Rose McGowen had to answer to her father. However, it movie IS taken from a series of stories where testosterone rules and the only really badass lady (Red Sonja) isn’t in it.
“Along with embracing the True Blood trademarked “boobies-and-man-ass-all-the-time” cornerstone philosophy, the brilliance in handling the paleolithic gender attitudes, a point you briefly touched on, was in casting a good-looking guy to play everyone’s favorite Cimmerian. REALLY good looking, if you ask my wife. Or some of her friends. Or my mom. Seriously, these are intelligent women, covering multiple generations and most of the feminism spectrum, yet they consistently defend this objectively terrible film out of appreciation for Momoa.”
– I’m 100% guilty of this and I get called a “femanazi” on almost a weekly basis because of my gender views. What can I say, ladies today are like guys in the 80s when it comes to movie: we’re perverts and don’t care, to a point.
As for everyone saying “oh the Arnold one is better blah blah” – guys, your nostalgia is getting in the way. Many would say the comics are better than any of the movies. And the books even better than the comics or movies. But you know what guys? They all kinda suck, but in the funnest way possible.
Perhaps this is merely a commentary on how poorly women are portrayed in most Hollywood films, but I didn’t think Conan was especially offensive in this regard. I reserve the label “misogynistic” for the truly heinous stuff. This film didn’t really cause a blip on my radar; they even supplied a “tough, independent” female lead…who spent the entire movie getting kidnapped and tied up.
You know what really makes the 80s Conan better for me? The supporting cast. Arnold is better (I think) than people give him credit for, but it’s the supporting cast that really fleshes out that movie. I love Jerry Lopez, Mako, and Sandahl Bergman, and thought there was real chemistry between them. I believed them as a band of friends and rogues. I can’t even remember who Conan’s sidekicks were in the new one, so disposable were they. Similarly, I remember James Earl Jones to this day, and his two hulking thugs, but a day after watching the new one, I couldn’t even remember who the villains were.
And I don’t think my perception of the original is colored by nostalgia. I think it is a legitimately good and thoroughly entertaining film. Many films from that era have not survived re-examination in my middle age, but Conan the Barbarian still plays exceptionally well for me.
As for misogyny — I think this film’s portrayals of women are not as they are out of any malicious intent; I think it was just lazy writing, symptomatic of much of modern action cinema’s desperation to seem so incredibly cool and bad-ass that it instead becomes infused with a slightly pathetic twinge, like a hopelessly dopey kid who thinks he’s a streetwise bad-ass because he wears a Punisher t-shirt.
Really a reply to all, more than just Keith.
I don’t think there is any actual misogyny in this film. One of the failures of print in blog forums is the lack of clarity with tone and intent, and I’m certainly the failing party here.
While I believe this is far more sexist in a superficial way than Hollywood par, this film doesn’t take itself seriously enough to mean anything malicious by it, and neither should the audience. Topless slave girls nearly panting for an anti-hero who grunts demands of obedience is so gloriously Conan-esque that it was part of what made the movie for me.
Off the top of my head, I don’t remember a more superficially sexist film, but I think the juxtaposition of that with an equal dose of eye-candy for the women points to its good nature. This is why the smart women I mentioned in my first comments still liked the film. My wife and a couple of our female friends have a running joke about A Song of Fire and Ice (which you rightly brought up repeatedly); they’re collectively rooting to, someday, find just *one* female character who doesn’t get gang-raped.
While the new Conan certainly doesn’t give women the respect of IQ and ambition that George R.R. Martin grants the fairer sex, he certainly shows more restraint with their demises. It would have been easy for a blatantly R-rated film, chock full of marauding armies, to exploit sexual assault. The director, to his credit, never bites.
Ha! Guys, OF COURSE there is misogyny in this movie. Just because it isn’t ladies getting punched in the face doesn’t mean it isn’t there. Not everything is going to be smacking you in the face blatant. But this is a Conan movie. Honestly, there are very few fantasy stories to be told that are NOT romances that do not have a certain amount of misogyny to them. Does that mean they are bad stories? No. Hell, I LOVE the Conan stuff, and Heavy Metal, and many other movies that have women as either helpless and/or objectified. Do I complain about them? Yeah, when it’s the blatant crap (Red Hood and the Outlaws DC comics I’m looking at you) but for these movies you just have to shake your head and roll with the teen boy fantasy playing out.
I think we differ here, Rachel. The movie is certainly sexist, but again, I like to reserve the word “misogyny” for examples that are deliberately contemptuous of and / or hateful in their portrayal of women. The sexism in this film feels too casual to qualify for a word with that degree of weight.
when i first saw the movie, i was thrilled to see ron perlman as conan’s father and one thing that puzzle me is that conan’s pirate friend said that conan stole the elephant’s heart and slay the wizard yara, when he said that, i listen to the audiobook i have from audible.com and i did recall that conan did not stole the elephant’s heart and slay the sorcerer, conan did a mercy killing on the elephant creature yag-kosha and remove yag-kosha’s heart and pour the blood on the jewel called the heart of the elephant and cause yara to lose his sorcery and shrink inside the jewel to be tormented by yag-kosha and since the tower of the elephant collapsed, the jewel is never been found. and that is what i know so far, even though i am not a robert e howard scholar yet. but tower of the elephant is what scholars say it is one of the most best stories howard wrote. am i right, paul?
Given that the film depicts Hyboria; A paleolithic-esque world where females have little opportunity to be more than property, is the film actually sexist for depicting it thus?
In a sense, would this not be akin to criticizing a holocaust movie as being racist for depicting the terrible treatment of the Jews.
…Now, Howard himself? The original pulp stories are certainly not classics of feminist literature, but as Rachel said, it’s very much a teen boy fantasy.
The setting of Conan isn’t paleolithic. Paleolithic refers to the “old Stone Age”. The Conan stories have technology on par with classical Greece and Rome.
To be honest, my impression of Hyboria is overly influenced by John Milius’s version of Conan, subverts many elements of Howard’s Hyboria and makes it more akin to a pre-historic earth; Despite the presence of bronze smelting and a depiction of Mongolians that is several thousand years off-base.
Some may consider it blasphemous, but the Arnie original is a favorite of mine and my engagement with the pulp stories is limited.