29 years ago, Robert E. Howard's creation came to life on the screen with Arnie as the sword-wielding, revenge-seeking barbarian. Now, after a long, interesting journey, the re-imaging of the tale of Conan the Cimmerian finally slashes its way into cinemas.
Fantasy has proven a tough nut to crack where films are concerned. Apart from the phenomena that was Lord Of The Rings, no franchise has ever been able to grow - even the original Conan spawned only one sequel then bowed its head and quietly went away. And, unfortunately, Nispel's version more-than-likely won't be able to buck this trend.
Sword and sorcery is a genre that, for audiences to connect, invest and believe in, has to work harder than others to overcome its fantasy roots and the possible limitations its characters bring with them. They have to overcome such questionable dialogue as "I fight, I love, I slay. I am content." For it to stand a chance, the film would need to have some kind of tongue-in-cheek quality to it or embrace it's uphill struggle and go all-out OTT camp for the fun of it. Sadly, neither path is chosen.
With an over-long intro to the young, head-strong, savage-killing Conan, Nispel takes the plot and pacing and chops it up with Cimmerian steel and jumps from location to location without so much as "pack your bags, we're leaving" to have bland set pieces appear to break up the horse riding. The finale of Conan's life quest for vengeance of his fathers death, will surprise no one who ever watched Indiana Jones And The Temple Of Doom - the molten lava pit, the damsel over it on a tilting platform, the hero trying to save said damsel whilst fighting off the baddies... it's all there except with no tension or drama created by caring or worrying for the individuals up on the screen. Willie Scott may have been an annoying screamer but Indy cared for her, so in turn did you. Not here though.
Physically perfect for the barbarian, Momoa easily fits into Arnie's sandals/shoes but he's never given any intelligible yet alone memorable dialogue to shine or to steal the audiences hearts. Even the normally mesmerising Morgan Freeman's narration at the beginning is lost through an over loud musical score and nonsense ramblings making it hard to follow what little set up there is.
There are moments that shine during it's running time but overall it's let down by its over-seriousness, its hacked-up plot and its awfully useless 3D.
UK release date: 24.08.11