Wednesday, 30 November 2011

Conan the Barbarian (2011) DVD Review

DVD review of the 2011 film Conan the Barbarian starring Jasom Momoa
Image Courtesy of Alliance Films
Legal Line Program Content and Package Artwork: © 2011 Conan Productions, Inc. All Rights Reserved. Package Design and Summary: © MMXI Lions Gate Films Inc. All Rights Reserved. Distributed exclusively in Canada by Alliance Films. All Rights Reserved.

Dir: Marcus Nispel (Friday the 13th (2009), Pathfinder)
Cast: Jason Momoa, Rachel Nichols, Stephen Lang, Rose McGowan, Saïd Taghmaoui, Ron Perlman, Nonso Anozie, Leo Howard, Ivana Staneva
USA, 2011

Reason to see: Action epics are a yes for me

Ready to go into the brave the battlefield that births a warrior like no other? Then step into the world of Conan the Barbarian (2011)! I admit I was highly skeptical of a redux/reboot/rehash/renew of Conan, because Conan the Barbarian from the 80's starring Arnold Schwarzenegger is so iconic, much-loved by fans and I was surprized when I revisited it last year, it's actually overall a very good film. But I'm always up for an action flick, especially a sword & sorcery one with lots of fighting and awesome styling and therefore braved this new world with Jason Mamoa as Conan. They go with a very similar tone of character but a different enough origin story to make it interesting. I absolutely adored the set up story for the film and was hugely impressed by Leo Howard a Young Conan, keep an eye on this guy because he is a force to be reckoned with.

The film has interesting mythic elements that add to the sorcery storyline, mostly encapsulated by the fantastic Rose McGowan as Marique (who again had a great young counterpart with Ivana Staneva). I loved the character of Marique, and the styling of her character. Jason Mamoa was pretty intense as Conan and a great fighter, he didn't make me love the character though, who isn't a hero so much but more of a rambunctious vengeful perma-thorn-in-the side feel with an occasional Robin Hood moment, with expected paybacks from some of the more pretty people he saves. I do like that the film managed to balance the harshness with some fun moments, but the heart of it is the truly visualized and stylized world with epic battles throughout.

This year we've had quite a wave of action films with an pretty extreme level of violence, from the over-the-top antics of Hobo with a Shotgun to the sword & sandals epic of Immortals and makes Conan the Barbarian sit with them in good company. I feel like I shouldn't be surprized at the violence level in Conan the Barbarian (2011) looking at director Marcus Nispel past works of Friday the 13th (2009 and Pathfinder (which along with the original Conan was a part of my 2010 Sword & Sandal Marathon!), and although I didn't mind it here myself, it does make it impossible to widely recommend the film. There is lots of blood, torture, maiming and more which doesn't feel out of place in it of itself but there is a certain revelling in the enjoyment of the violence that put me off a little. It does add a bit of fun that balances the seriousness but overall the tone is pretty freaking dark. I'm sure there are fans of the character for which that is exactly what they are looking for and they don't have to look hard because it's in the film from the bitter beginning to the very end. Seeing it on DVD you could feel the moments that were in 3D which was a mild distratction, but not so much that it detracted from the overall enjoyment of the film.

I'm a little conflicted on the female characters though, as they were 2 great female characters but there was also a big dose gratuitous nudity. Not my thing, and I'm sure it balances out. I can't say I'm surprized, but I am a little disappointed even though it's completely true to the Conan world. Overall, I feel a bit conflicted about the film as I thought I wouldn't enjoy it but in fact I did. Is it possible to be disappointed *because* you enjoyed something, as opposed to not? I don't understand it, but I do know it's the truth. If you are looking for bloody mayhem, beautiful battles on real locations and a bucketload of sword work and some sorcery all styled beautifully in authentic costumes with a charismatic cast, then Conan the Barbarian is definitely for you. I had no idea that would mean it would also be for me!

DVD Extras:
  • Audio Commentary with director Marcus Nispel on working with the actors Leo Howard (Young Conan), Ron Perlman, Stephen Lang, Jason Momoa, Rachel Nichols, including how they got involved and their characters, filming in Bulgaria, on the importance of specific scenes & moments, the master/disciple relationship, movies that influenced him as a director, working on a remake and the challenges & choices made in terms what to include, the character of Conan and the choices made for his physical representation, different permutations of different scenes along the way, the realness of working the chase scenes with the horses and how many of the actors did their own stunts (including Rachel Nichols), the use of magic in the film and sword & sorcery in the film and the mythos, and interesting discussion about Pathfinder and what did and didn't work with that film and also how the character in that film is similar to Conan, working, filming & the process of 3D, the different expectations on tone & style and his vision of the story, character and bringing it all together as well as even talking about the impact of Twitter in relation to the film (wow!)
  • Audio Commentary with actors Jason Momoa & Rose McGowan discussing seeing the film for the first time at the premiere,the 3D, working with the other actors (or being in the same film with) including Ron Perlman, Leo Howard, Stephan Lang, Ivana Staneva, their favourite fight scenes, props & love for the crew including costume designer & make-up artists, creating their characters, working with the horses, challenges and favourite fight sequences and moments, the epic level of the battle scenes, going to Comic-Con, chatting about the order in which they shot, which shots are their stunt doubles, noting the numerous real locations, how fun and brutal things were and how cool it all looks, a previous/alternate ending, and of course a lot about the character of Conan (including pronunciation). They are very entertaining & enjoyable to listen to but it's odd as sometimes differences in noting who did what in terms of stunt, ideas, etc from the directors commentary and also shows the juxtaposition of how there are huge portions of the film that they aren't actually in but they still make it entertaining and they have enlightening commentary and shout outs throughout.
  • The Conan Legacy (18 minutes) film footage, behind the scenes, interviews with writer Sean Hood, writers Joshua Oppenheimer & Thomas Dean Donnelly, Paul Sammon (author of Conan the Phenomenon) Roy Thomas (former writer & editor-in-chief of Marvel Comics), producers Boaz Davidson & Fredrik Malmberg, executive producer Avi Lerner, actor Jason Mamoa (plus audition footage and test footage) & Rachel Nichols, director Marcus Nispel, Craig Morrison (game director and producer of Age of Conan), on their introduction into the Conan world, pulp novels, the character of Conan as originally created by Robert E. Howard and the world and age he created including the re-launching and resurgence of the character including through comics, the initial idea for the film and vision of the film and the many faces and roles of Conan, casting Conan in this film version the choice of going with low fantasy and a hard-R, the 1982 Conan the Barbarian with Arnold Schwarzenegger and other Conan properties throughout the years; plus stills of Robert E. Howard and the pulp novels, concept art & drawings of Conan & the world, comics and visuals from presentation by director Marcus Nispel which are gorgeous.
  • Robert E. Howard - The Man Who Would Be Conan (11 minutes) photos of Robert E. Howard plus interviews including with with Paul Sammon (author of Conan the Phenomenon), Rob Roehm (editor, The Collected Letters of Robert E. Howard), Roy Thomas (former writer & editor-in-chief of Marvel Comics), writer Sean Hood discussing the biography and history of of Robert E. Howard from family history, personal life, being a writer, influences & interests, pulp magazines and specifically Weird Tales and the way to incorporate supernatural elements into his adventure stories and touches on character like Soloman Kane, the origins and genesis of the Conan character and the world he created, the attraction of the Conan character,
  • Battle Royale - Engineering the Action (10 minutes) behind the scenes footage, training, visual storyboards, film clips and interviews with director Marcus Nispel, stunt coordinator Noon Orsatti, production designer Chris August, executive producer Avi Lerner, second unit director David Leitch, writer Sean Hood, producers Boaz Davidson & Fredrik Malmberg, actors Jason Mamoa, Stephen Lang, Rachel Nichols & Rose McGowan on the real-feel and grittiness of the action, the sword style, the concept behind some of the creatures/fighters in the film, the use of real locations for so many of the settings, creation & execution of horse chase scene including the challenges of and the fact that most of the riding & stunts were done by the actors, the challenge of and the style and strength of Jason Mamoa.
  • Staging the Fights (5 minutes) 5 pre-visualizations created by the stunt team to choreograph the complicated fight scenes here shown, often side by side with the final film sequences and it's pretty freaking amazing to see it go from concept to the slick, final product.
  • Theatrical Trailer

Conan the Barbarian (2011) is available on DVD as of November 22, 2011. Check it out over at &

Shannon's Overall View:
I enjoyed it more than I expected
I'll watch it again
I'd recommend it for fans of gore-heavy action flicks & revenge films

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© Shannon Ridler, 2011

Jason Momoa stars as Conan in CONAN THE BARBARIAN. Photo credit Simon Varsano

Tamara (Rachel Nichols) and Conan (Jason Momoa) in CONAN THE BARBARIAN. Photo credit Simon Varsano

Young Conan (Leo Howard, left) and Corin (Ron Perlman, right) in CONAN THE BARBARIAN. Photo credit Simon Varsano


The Film Connoisseur said...

Wow, our reviews are very different for this film. I was dissapointed beyond belief with this one, they almost got it right...but fell a bit short in my book. Sadly judging by this films dismal box office returns, I doubt we'll see another Conan film in a while. Interesting reading another point of view!

Shannon the Movie Moxie said...

I'm glad you enjoyed the different perspective Connoisseur! It's odd because, I thought I would have had a stronger reaction to either love it or hate it, but I didn't... And after watching it three times (with the commentaries) I did really come to enjoy certain things. Rose McGowan was the big highlight for me :)

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