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Originally published Thursday, August 18, 2011 at 10:54 AM

Movie review

'Conan the Barbarian': Remake empty shell of sword-and-sandal journey

Bearing only a vague resemblance to the original movie, which starred Arnold Schwarzenegger and was directed by Hollywood warrior John Milius, the new "Conan the Barbarian" is not quite the catchy, pulp version of a hero's journey found in its predecessor.

Special to The Seattle Times

Movie review1 stars

'Conan the Barbarian' Jason Momoa, Rachel Nichols, Leo Howard, Stephen Lang, Rose McGowan, Ron Perlman

Directed by Marcus Nispel, Written by Thomas Dean Donnelly, Joshua Oppenheimer. 112 minutes. Rated R for bloody violence and nudity. Several theaters.

quotes "Instead of being captured and growing hardened through years of enslavement as Sc... Read more
quotes "Evil invader Zym"?? Really?? Did he name his army the Irken Armada, too? ... Read more
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"I live. I love. I slay. I am content."

Well, good.

Those words are uttered by Conan the Barbarian's very beefy, vengeance-driven, titular combatant (Jason Momoa) just before he slips into a cave to get very content with a fetching companion (Rachel Nichols) in this empty remake of the 1982 sword-and-sandal extravaganza.

Bearing only a vague resemblance to the original movie, which starred Arnold Schwarzenegger and was directed by Hollywood warrior John Milius (whose 1984 Soviet-invasion fantasy "Red Dawn" has also been remade for 2011 release), the new "Conan" is not quite the catchy, pulp version of a hero's journey found in its predecessor.

This time around, an intemperate little Conan (Leo Howard) skulks around his frosty, Barbarian village with a psycho expression, looking for something or someone to kill. He gets the chance when ruthless invader Zym (Stephen Lang, increasingly nastier, and sillier, with every new project he's in) raids the place with a savage army, killing Conan's father (Ron Perlman).

Instead of being captured and growing hardened through years of enslavement as Schwarzenegger was, Conan 2.0 raises himself, slaughtering bad guys at will and turning picaresque adventures into scenes of bloody chaos on his path to find Zym.

The problem here is that there isn't much to latch onto. This Conan barely qualifies as a character, smirking and hacking his way through life, never evolving into someone who can change or whom you want to follow. (It doesn't help that Momoa has no charisma.)

Director Marcus Nispel, who made the far more compelling, cross-genre, Vikings versus Indians adventure "The Pathfinder," is more interested in ratcheting up horror and gore than in narrative development.

The 3-D presentation, by the way, adds absolutely nothing.

If there is anything worth taking away from "Conan," it's a perversely sexy turn by Rose McGowan as Zym's sorcerer daughter, who looks a little like the Borg queen in "Star Trek" and wears Freddy Krueger-like metal claws on her right hand. Certainly she's meant to stir an ambiguous response in a viewer — the only hint of inspired complexity in this film.

Tom Keogh: tomwkeogh@yahoo.com

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