Conan the Barbarian

Last Updated: August 19, 2011By Tags:

Should you give a big, 3-D action movie a fair shot when you get the clear feeling that you’re getting moviegoer forage?

American movie studios have retrofitted thousands of movie theaters across the country to make them fit for 3-D movies viewing. And in times like this, with a crop year that hasn’t been this mediocre in a long time, it’s clear that justifying the costs of these conversions come before any attempt at making good movies.

And sometimes, you can tell all this just from watching a trailer.

When I recently watched Conan the Barbarian (which comes out today in full 3-D effect) during the previews, starring Rose McGowen, Ron Perlman, and a dark-haired, Iranian-looking Conan (played by Jason Momoa; I think a blonde dude would’ve been better), I thought maybe they should’ve renamed him Akbar the Barbarian. In fact, Momoa is from… surprise! Honolulu.

Anyway, here’s what I have to say: the trailer sucked. Or rather, the trailer alluded to the fact that the movie is probably not up to the expectations one may have derived from its 1982 predecessor (how’s that for a euphemism?).

Is it fair to be talking negatively about a movie that I haven’t seen? Probably. But these days, one ought to be able to speak openly about the kind of movies that are pushed through the pipeline by American studios. I mean, look at 2011 thus far: one sequel after another half-hearted sequel. If it weren’t for foreign fare this year, I would’ve thrown myself in the Seine (since I’ve just spent a lot of time in Paris).

Can Conan the Barbarian, a comic book character invented in the Thirties, be cool on-screen? Absolutely. Arnold Schwarznegger (whom the French call “Arnie”) camped Conan the Barbarian in the 1982 version directed by John Millius. The film earned some pretty good reviews apparently (Roger Ebert enjoyed it; let’s watch the trailer). Admire the realistic (within a movie context) portrayal of the battle of good versus evil. I like how the announcer pronounces it “koh-nan.” It sounds cool. Anyway, the stuff looks real and epic-like—even though it’s also very much dated—without CGI, motion-capture or blue screen (not even rotoscoping!). Rest in peace, Dino de Laurentiis, your legacy lives on.

What bothered me with the new Conan’s trailer is that it purports to sell a movie which looks like a fantasy lost between cartoon and animation. You can almost see the blue screen in some of the sequences, the distinction between real and added-reality becoming too apparent at times. That, plus the fact that according to other critics this Conan is short on storytelling and heavy on action makes this a rather puny action-hero epic to sink your teeth in.

But don’t take my word for it. Give Conan a chance. If we’re lucky enough, there will be a sequel in 2012.

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