Movie of the Week: Conan the Barbarian (2011)

Realizing this is the 2011 movie with Jason Momoa in the title role, you may have already groaned and rolled your eyes so hard you have fallen out of your chair or nearly passed out.  Or maybe you didn’t, I don’t know.  Maybe you are like me, it’s plausible, and are of the opinion that this is not such a bad movie.  It’s not perfect, but there are worse ways to pass almost two hours of your time.

In the middle of a battlefield, with the war machine flooring it, Cimmerian chieftain Corin (Ron Perlman) obeys his pregnant wife’s dying request:  he slices her open and delivers their baby so she can see their child before she dies.  She names their son Conan and happily gives up the ghost.

Corin raises his son as only a single Cimmerian dad can, and that is in the ways of the barbarian warrior.  They forge swords, they practice fighting, and their bond is cemented.  Young Conan even participates in the right of passage of running a course through the mountains with a bird egg in his mouth.  Whoever returns with the egg unbroken earns the privilege of joining the warriors in battle.  Little Conan is the only winner, and brings the heads of unexpected enemies to boot.

All of Conan’s training, though, does not prepare him for the invasion that decimates their village and forces his father to sacrifice himself to save his son.  The invading forces are commanded by Khalar Zym, a freaky-deaky warlord looking to conquer the world with his freakier-deakier daughter, Marique, and his dead wife.  Khalar is hunting for the last piece of the Mask of Acheron which was dismantled and scattered to the four winds.  Once the mask is put back together, Khalar can raise his departed sorceress wife who will make him an all-powerful, god-like being.

Corin has the last piece of the mask needed (I don’t know why no one destroyed the pieces, they never do in these stories, but The One Ring trope it is).  Khalar’s weirdy daughter, by way of an arcane extrasensory perception, locates the final piece.  Luckily, to activate the power of the mask and raise hell and the dead, the maniac warlord needs the blood of the Pure One.  Even luckier, the hunt for the Pure One takes about twenty years.

Twenty years later, Conan is all grown up, working as a pirate, scoundrel, and thief, but still has the itch of revenge for on him for his father’s death.  When he spots one of Khalar’s former henchmen, our barbarian hero knows the satisfaction of vengeance is close at hand.

As I said, Conan the Barbarian is not perfect, and cannot compete with the ’82 film, not by a wide margin.  But, parts of this movie are not that bad.  Granted, some parts are not that good, either.  Overall, it’s an entertaining time.  It’s a popcorn flick.  What more could we want out of it?  Maybe more coherence, some logic, less hammy acting in various scenes, yet, other than that, what more could we want?

I like this movie. I think it soars in the spirit of Robert E. Howard’s original pulp stories which is more than can be said for some adaptations of classic high-brow literature.