When I saw this movie today, the entire 200+ seat theatre was empty. At first I thought it was because of the 18A rating which would limit the audience, but just when the room began to darken and the trailers started to roll, a dad and his ten year old son came in. If the father thinks his son is mature enough to grasp all the complex situations in the film, all the power to him.
Now, the lack of an audience is not necessarily an indication about the quality of the film. The last film that was empty on the first opening week that I saw was Terry Gilliam’s The Imaginarium of Doctor Parnassus. It was a pretty good, but complex film.
I’m not a fan of the original Conan film. The only thing going for it was Arnold Swarzennegar’s portrayal of Conan. He was played as a dumb, simple, and generally good hearted guy. Arnold also seems to struggle to read his lines, but it was clear that he was trying his hardest. His bad acting actually contributed positively to the movie. If someone like Arnold, with little to no talent, can be a movie star, then maybe I can achieve my goals too.
Conan 2011, starring Jason Momoa, is definitely a technically competent film which supposedly follows the original book/novella mythology closer. There’s no glaring flaws technically. The action scenes were actiony. The musical score was engaging. The computer graphics / set design / costumes were all good. Alas, there are some problems with the pacing and story... which isn’t necessarily caused by the writers/script supervisors. A lot of changes can happen from script to the screen which can come from a myriad of sources. There were supposedly a lot of rewrites during the filming process, and the film shows that.
The first third of the film is actually completely fine. It tells the story of Conan’s upbringing, and the events causing him to seek out the main baddie, Zym. Ron Perlman performed an adequate role as Conan’s dad.
The second part is about Conan as an adult. He’s been looking for Zym for the last twenty years unsuccessfully, until he happens to find one of Zym’s lieutenants at a bar. Hilarity ensues and bowels explode. Conan kills a bunch of guys for an hour or so. Oh, he accidentally rescues a white monk-lady who has pure blood. She’s also the only person that Zym needs to complete an evil ritual. Conan goes to a variety of different locations during the hour. I think the film could have use some “Indiana Jones”-style map transitions, or “Lawrence of Arabia”-style wide shots to really demonstrate the distances that Conan is covering. Conan’s journey doesn’t feel mythic. He just bounces from location to location changing sidekicks briefly. It would feel different to really show the passage of time.
In the final act, Zym acquires the monk-girl and is finally able to complete the mask which will give him ultimate power…the power to shout really loudly and to collapse his skull-shaped cave. Yeah, it was a bit anti-climactic considering Zym has been saying that it’ll make him a new god. Incredibly underwhelming. Oh, he dies like a punk in the end because he spends time gloating instead of killing Conan.
Conan’s entire life so far has been about getting revenge against Zym for murdering his whole tribe. When he finally kills Zym, the story just ends. He has about three lines of dialogue, none of which reflects what just happened. It’s like killing Zym was not a big deal at all. There’s no indication that he’s changed at all through the story. There’s no real character arc. There’s no growth. Arnold’s Conan goes through a gamut of change through the 1982 movie. He grows as a character and finds love. 2011 Conan remains the same.
Conan 2011’s weak final act really hurts the film. Is it really too much to ask for the villain to have laser eyes? It needed to be over-the-top to make the final battle compelling. He needed to complete a task that was truly heroic.
There’s some parts of the film I would like to rewatch. I would never go out of my way to watch it.