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Under Review: ‘Conan the Barbarian’

— by SHERICE ANTOINETTE —

Today, two remakes from the ’80s will hit theaters nationwide, one being the reboot of the Arnold Schwarzenegger classic “Conan the Barbarian” and the other “Fright Night.”

I was fortunate to view both. However, when I watched “Fright Night” it was a test screening and the visual effects weren’t completely finished. Adam Poynter, who viewed the final cut of the classic horror flick the other evening, will share his thoughts on that film shortly — definitely stay tuned for that. As for “Conan the Barbarian,” I viewed it Wednesday evening and I am surprised to report I had a good time. Granted, I expected the sandal and sword film to be absolutely abysmal – so my expectations were set pretty low. I mean, how could the reboot possibly hold up to the original?

Most of us familiar with the original were miffed when Lionsgate announced a remake was in development. Further more, when it was learned Jason Momoa, a somewhat unknown actor, would be welding Conan’s sword, message boards were aflame with negativity. “He’s not buff enough,” some said. “Conan wasn’t Black” others guffawed. Well, neither is Momoa. He is of Hawaiian, German, Irish and Native American descent and looks closer to what author and creator Robert E. Howard envisioned. Then of course there’s the famous Frank Frazetta painting, which doesn’t look like Arnold Schwarzenegger.

Even still, I was skeptical. The initial trailer didn’t sell me. It was terribly produced and Momoa looked too soft. Yet, I was still interested because of the supporting cast, which included Stephen Lang, Rose McGowan and the amazing Ron Perlman. Fine, I guess I’m there. As I sat in the center of the theater, I eavesdropped on a few conversations. Surprisingly those around me were excited about the film – and with good reason. Thanks to a small little HBO series called “Game of Thrones,” between the time the first “Conan” advertisements debuted online to now, Jason Momoa’s popularity has jettisoned. In “Thrones,” Momoa played the powerful Dothraki warlord Khal Drogo and it is because of his strong performance, some of the naysayers began to think that perhaps Momoa could indeed hold his own. And he certainly does.

Although Momoa’s portrayal of Conan is different than Schwarzenegger’s, he’s far from weak. He’s lethal and just like Arnold back in the day, certainly not bad to look at. Momoa’s fearless characterization of Conan should please many and his physique should make women swoon in their seats. As for the star’s acting. Lets be clear, “Conan the Barbarian” isn’t “The King’s Speech.” Range isn’t a requirement nor is it necessary. The only prerequisite is to kick serious ass and Momoa does so with reckless abandon.

Leo Howard’s terrific conveyance of a young Conan was a fantastic precursor to what we are in for once the Cimmerian warrior becomes an adult. Howard, who some may remember as young Snake Eyes in G.I. Joe, is just as fearless as Momoa. He’s basically a male Chloe Moretz and one to keep tabs on in the future. None other than the awesome “Hellboy” actor Ron Perlman plays Conan’s father, Corin. It’s hard to believe the man is 61-years-old. Perlman could pass for his late forties. Her certainly doesn’t fight like a retiree. Perhaps action films keep him young.

Corin of course has an enemy. A wicked man named Khalar Zym (Stephen Lang) who, with his army of thousands, attacks Cimmeria. At Zym’s side is his equally evil daughter Marique (Ivana Staneva and Rose Mcgowan). The diabolical pair slaughters the village in order to acquire a missing piece to a sacred mask, which happens to be in Corin’s possession. By now, you’ve probably guessed what eventually happens to Conan’s father and what sets Conan on a course for revenge. Skip forward 15 years and we see an adult Conan (Momoa) traveling with Pirates. Eventually, the love interest is introduced and of course she’s beautiful and fair – and also the exact opposite of Conan. It so happens that Tamara, (Rachel Nichols) who lives a simple and non-violent life in a monastery, is wanted by the same duo that wreaked havoc on his Conan’s home.

Eventually, the beauty and the warrior cross paths and align themselves together since they both have a common goal – to stop Zym and his daughter. As to remind us we are definitely watching a “Conan” film, there is a sex scene between Momoa and Nichols and plenty of topless nudity. But not to worry ladies, there’s something in it for you.

Like the first two Conan’s there’s plenty of misogyny to go around, but at least in this installment, its certainly tongue and cheek. In fact, I smirked when Conan tells Tamara to be quiet and ordered her around because of Nichols delivery. She’s no delicate flower. Not by any means, yet she’s not a warrior princess either.

Now onto the action. There’s a lot of it and it’s exhausting. This is not a complaint mind you; it’s what I expected. Blood flies everywhere, heads are cut off and so is a guy’s nose. This “Conan the Barbarian” is without a doubt the most violent of all the films. So don’t take your 8-year-old along. It’s not for them.

Ultimately, this film delivers. Is this version better than the original? I don’t think so, but it’s worth checking out. Momoa is a welcome addition to the franchise and as the credits rolled I was ready for another chapter. Just go in knowing the film is absurd and, like me, you’ll have a good time

“Conan the Barbarian” — directed by Marcus Nispel and starring Jason Momoa, Ron Perlman, Stephen Lang and Rose McGowan — is in theaters today.

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