Hey look! Orange and Blue!
Let’s get one thing out of the way before we start this review:
I liked the Arnold Schwarzenegger Conan.
I liked it A lOT.
Truth be told, I haven’t read any of the original Robert E. Howard Conan stories, nor any of the Dark Horse comics.
To that end, everything I know (and love) of Conan has been culled from the Arnold movies, and the Conan the Adventurer cartoon series.
Fuckin’ loved that show…
*ANYWAY* while the examples of Conan that I’ve experienced may not be the most traditional, they’re all I have; and frankly, I don’t mind that.
Which brings us to the 2011 film version of Conan, the oddly titled reboot/retread; Conan the Barbarian, henceforth referred to as Conan the Hawaiian.
To be perfectly frank, Conan the Hawaiian honestly felt like a double-length episode of Hercules: The Legendary Journeys, both in terms of plotting and tone.
Sadly, no Kevin Sorbo cameos...
Aside from the names of the locations, the origin story prologue, and maybe some of the characters; much of Conan the Hawaiian’s plot could easily have been transposed onto another generic sword and sandals flick with virtually the same degree of success.
Indeed, had the Conan name not been attached to this movie; for all intents and purposes, I likely would not have bothered to go see it.
Such is the power of licensing and iconography.
Despite all this, I came into the film with fairly realistic expectations.
I would never expect a movie called Conan the Hawaiian to have brilliant writing, nor any degree of complex storytelling in it’s plotting.
For the most part, I just had my fingers crossed for a hefty dose of tasty sword related violence, and a decent performance from the lead actor, Jason Momoa.
Way to go bra'! Represent!
Conan the Hawaiian delivered (with varying degrees of success) on both of my expectations for it, so why then is my opinion of the film so negative?
I think it has something to do with the inescapable elements of cheapness that are evident when watching the film.
For instance, do you want to know how you can tell a movie is cheap, even when it’s props and CGI backdrops are of decent quality?
When the film takes place in about a dozen locations, all of which are represented from afar by a CGI matte painting, and in the interior by a dining room sized sound stage.
Few things are more irksome in a fantasy film than being teased by the promise of cool cities n’shit, only to have the interior of said cities be represented by a SINGLE FUCKING ROOM.
Also known as Star Wars disease, wherein we frequently are shown the splendor of a cityscape, only to see maybe 3 locations within it.
Despite this minor quibble, one thing that I have to commend Conan the Hawaiian for; is the fact that it represents one of the rare cases when a shitty movie both acknowledges and revels in it’s shittiness.
As mentioned earlier, Conan the Hawaiian’s plot is pretty lame, not even as complex or engaging as The Scorpion King, (which is a better movie, in case you’re wondering) however one of it’s greatest strengths is the fact that it never attempts to be.
To my surprise, Conan the Hawaiian’s running time is largely dominated by action sequences, leaving little room for cheesy plot or equally cheesy dialogue from what I’d assume was it’s 5 page script.
The action/fighting is executed with some degree of competence, and it’s indeed quite bloody; however in my opinion the goryness of the violence could’ve been dialed up just a notch or 2 for effect.
Watching anonymous bad guys get cut down left and right every 5 minutes is fun and all, but it’s a lot more fun when said instances of cutting are unique and memorable.
I’m just saying, I personally would’ve appreciated a disemboweling or de-limbing here and there to spice things up.
In my book, EVERY movie needs a Mola Ram heart rip!
On that same note though, another gripe I had about the film was the fact that, early on we are teased by the villain possessing an honor guard of sorts, an elite cadre of unique villains who all participated in fucking over Hawaiian Conan at the beginning of the film.
By showing us these characters, and how they figure into Hawaiian Conan’s revenge plot, the movie makes a promise that we’ll see all of these characters meet their fate ala Shurayukihime, Kill Bill, and Conan the Barbarian.
While this does in fact happen, very little care is placed in how each of these characters are dealt with.
In fact, I only remember 2 of the characters receiving names, one of which bears a rather alarming resemblance to one of the other nameless honor guardsmen.
Pictured: A GOOD example of eliminating an interesting character OUT OF FUCKING NOWHERE.
It’s a minor gripe, but it pains me to see a film like this, that has so little going for it in terms of plot; sweep away it’s own breadcrumbs though clumsily eliminating potentially interesting characters with little to no fanfare.
Gripes aside, the one element of the action that I can’t knock at all, was Jason Momoa’s swordplay.
Watching a man of Momoa’s size handle a sword with such grace is truly a sight to behold.
Indeed, he and Stephen Lang’s pair of duels in the film are very much the highlight of the film.
While I’m on the subject of Momoa, it pains me to say that his acting performance was kind of “meh,” though on the plus side; it’s hard to deny that his physical presence is the sort that can largely make up for that.
I think the problem with Momoa’s acting in the role of Conan, is the fact that the temperment of the character, at least in this film; doesn’t seem to fit him.
It’s kind of like Christian Bale’s turn as Batman in the Christopher Nolan films.
Bale does great as Bruce Wayne, and indeed looks the part of Batman, however something about the Batman voice and attitude just doesn’t work.
Momoa has these problems as Conan.
Everything seems to fit pretty well in his quieter and more contemplative moments, though whenever he’s supposed to put on his mean face and get all savage, his voice sounds forced and just doesn’t work for me.
On a side note, Leo Howard, the kid that played the young Conan; was probably the strongest performance in the whole movie.
Seriously man, that kid was a BEAST.
Moving on, despite having some decent actors involved, most of the performances in Conan the Hawaiian feel largely phoned-in.
Stephen Lang’s role as the villain is a little bit more complex than you’d expect given his motivations, however the paltry script affords him very little opportunities to flex his acting muscles or chew scenery.
For fuck’s sake, I can recall an instance when Lang is in battle in Conan and declares:
“I don’t like YOU!”
You’re the fuckin’ “last boss” of the movie, and that’s your big menacing one-liner?
Anyway, Rose McGowan’s turn as Lang’s creepy-ass daughter had some thought put into it, though it came across as being hammy in the bad way.
The bad way as in Sci-Fi Channel, “bad way.”
She does what she can to play to the morbid nature of her character, as well as her bizarre wardrobe, however at the end of the day she comes across as a shlocky villain in the tradition of The Baroness or Evil-Lyn.
That's right, I made a He-Man reference in a Conan review.
Oh yeah, Ron Perlman was in this movie too.
… That’s about all I have to say about that.
Anyway, Conan the Hawaiian wasn’t a horrible movie, especially if you’re purely in the mood for blood and boobs; however it’s largely uninspired and more than a little cheap.
I will say this though:
In terms of pure entertainment value, it’s better than Cowboys & Aliens.
Filed under: Comics, Movies, Uncategorized, 2011, Batman, Christian Bale, Christopher Nolan, Comics, Conan, Dark Horse, Evil-Lyn, films, GI Joe, He-Man, Hercules, Indiana Jones, Jason Momoa, Leo Howard, Movies, Robert E Howard, Rose McGowan, Scorpion King, Star Wars, Stephen Lang, Syfy, the Adventurer, The Barbarian, The Baroness, the Legendary Journeys