Saturday, August 20, 2011

The Critic's Dungeon - "Conan the Barbarian"

What is best in life?
To destroy your enemies, to see them driven before you, and to hear the lamentation of their women.
That is good, that is good.

Those are iconic words from the 1982 sword-and-sorcery flick Conan the Barbarian, starring the well-oiled Arnold Schwarzenegger and the properly crazy James Earl Jones as Thulsa Doom.

You won't hear these words spoken on the 2011 remake, starring Jason Momoa in the lead role. There are also a shortage of bizarre foreign accents (apart from a weirdly tattooed guy who ends up on the business end of a trebuchet).

Now, Dustin Rowles over at has recommended that you need to see this movie only after drinking heavily. I disagree with the properly scathing Mr. Rowles; scenes like this can be viewed sober (clip is NSFW for truly Peckinpahesque amounts of blood and violence):

With a caveat, of course. That caveat is the advice once found in the introduction to Mystery Science Theater 3000: "Repeat to yourself it's just a show, I should really just relax."

This film is rated R for extreme violence, so I went in at a noon matinee prepared to peel back my mammalian forebrain and let the craziness soak into my reptilian hindbrain. I was aghast, of course, at the $15.80 that it cost me to get in (along with a small soft drink and a paltry box of Sno-Caps). But that being said, I settled into a comfy seat to soak it up.

The scenery was great, although the actors kept getting in front of it. The CGI effects were fun (I didn't see it in 3D; my imagination is sufficient). There was enough tits and ass to satisfy the fanboys and fangirls, including a non-gratuitous shot of Momoa's well-muscled ass. There was sex - just a little, like a dab of picante sauce added to a feast of bloody rare meat.

And there was a lot of blood, I have to tell you. Ron Perlman, looking all craggy and shaggy, plays Conan's father until he dies in a rather original way. The chief baddie's a mensch named either Khalar Zym or Old Hardass. His daughter Marique is creepy as a child, and even creepier as a twenty-something, with a weird incestuous vibe going on. Midway through the movie I found myself wishing for a crossbow so I could take her out myself.

I found one glaring continuity error (just one? you ask), and it has to do with the weird-ass Mask of Ultimate Evil that Zym's searching for. See, the original was broken up and squirreled away in bits to keep assholes like Zym from putting it back together. Why didn't they try to destroy it? It seems like that would be easy, based on the last fight scene.

The Critic's Dungeon echoed with the screams of the tortured, the clank of chains greased with human fat, and my own manic laughter as I thoroughly enjoyed this little nugget.

Verdict? The Critic's Dungeon gives the Conan the Barbarian remake three whips out of five. It's not To Kill A Mockingbird, but then it's not The Sword and the Sorcerer either.


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