Movies: Conan the Barbarian

…written by Thomas Donnelly, Joshua Oppenheimer, and Sean Hood; directed by Marcus Nispel; starring Jason Momoa, Stephen Lang, Rachel Nichols, and Rose McGowan.

Pros:  In the title role, Momoa has some convincing movements, and Lang makes for an excellent arch-villain.  The set designers and artists have created a convincing Hyboria, and the action is full throttle.

Cons: The tired old revenge-cliche forms the spine of the plot, which is an opportunity lost, considering the breadth of Robert E. Howard’s source material.

Review:  The latest offering of Conan the Barbarian starts well enough, with none other than Morgan Freeman providing the voice-over narration – the classic introduction to Conan of Cimmeria as penned by Robert E. Howard in the very first short story so many years ago.  But then, about a paragraph in, the narration breaks from Howard’s prose and drifts into the tale of an ancient magical artifact, the Mask of Acheron, that was eventually sundered in scattered by tribes of men to prevent its evil use.

Standard fare.  And I’m sitting there in the theater thinking, Why?  Why go this route?  Just stay true to the source material!  Other fans of Robert E. Howard likely had similar reactions, and this is pretty much the theme of my review for this movie.  Why take this iconic character down the familiar, well-worn path?  Don’t want to lay blame on the writers (who nonetheless missed some hanging curve-balls with this script), but rather look at the producers, who most certainly squashed anything creative ideas they perceived as outside the realm of the standard Hollywood take on action/fantasy.  This is truly a shame, because the cast seemed capable of more, the set-designs – echoing Frank Frazetta and the old Marvel magazines – are evocative, and the action/stunt/fighting team is first-rate.  Much like the recent Wolverine film, I found myself lamenting a colossal missed opportunity for something more memorable and unique.  Dark Horse Comics got it right with their re-telling of some of those classic Howard stories.  They stayed close to the source material, their writers steeping themselves in the original prose.  The screenwriters and producers of this movie should have followed suit.

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