Let's leave nostalgia at the door and face a painful truth for just one moment. The original Conan The Barbarian starring the great Arnold Schwarzenegger was a pile of muck. However to lads of a certain age, it was our pile of muck. The inevitable remake of the saga has been on the cards for probably as long as when the original films first materialise. There's been a variety of different proposals, hell even WWE wrestler Triple H was set to take up the mantel at one point with Arnold in a cameo role. Thankfully that never came to light, but what we got instead probably wasn't much better.
The Conan the Barbarian of the 2011 stars, Jason Momoa in the title role. Off the back of a successful and creditable stint in the excellent HBO fantasy series, Game of Thrones he's probably in danger of being typecast for life as some muscle bound warrior with a big heart deep down. Though largely similar backgrounds and characterisations, the fundamental differences in Momoa's tall, silent, terrifying performance in Game of Thrones and his lacklustre, eye rolling attempt at Conan probably came down to the haphazard pacing, ham fisted dialogue and generally piss poor script he had to work with.
His supporting cast fared slightly better, even if all they did was just fulfil the typical archetypes associated with these conventional, fantastical, bloodied quests for revenge. Stephen Lang was sort of menacing as an evil warlord, then sort of not as you wondered how Conan - a husky, well built, ruthless sort - would have much trouble bringing down some hysterical fool on the right side of 60. Especially as the star had already raked up an impressive body count into the hundreds by the time the final showdown commences.
Rachel Nicholas, easy on the eyes she may have been, didn't do an awful lot besides being a walking, talking, plot device whose blood is what Lang's evil warlord seeks to unleash hell upon his enemies. Rose McGowan could've been quite interesting as the primary villain - a disturbing witch - but played second fiddle to Lang's eccentric rantings. Shame because she has the moments closest to resembling genuine creepiness and mild horror.
Visually director, Marcus Nispel gets it about right, even if the story came across less like Conan the Barbarian and more like The Erotic, Bloody, Adventures of Sinbad. Even though I decided to forfeit the 3D presentation this outing, the special effects were decent and the violence is what you expect from this, but even next to the campy exploits of Arnold's Conan it just all lacks a bit of fun, a few memorable one liners and unfortunately a character to really root for.
Wrong villain, wrong director, wrong script, wrong remake. Right star though, just a shame the former problems outweighed Jason Momoa's valiant effort, which unfortunately pales in comparison to his very similar turn in Game of Thrones. In reality it's not much better than the original but the original has Arnold Schwarzenegger in all his menacing, muscular glory and unfortunately for the Conan of the 21st Century, that ultimately wins this argument.
Conan The Barbarian is in cinemas everywhere now.