When German-born music director Marcus Nispel first stamped his feature directorial debut in 2003's horror remake of THE TEXAS CHAINSAW MASSACRE, his career looked very promising. But then came his subsequent movies, including 2007's PATHFINDER and 2009's FRIDAY THE 13TH, all of which suffered from weak and terribly uninspired direction. Now, with his latest feature, CONAN THE BARBARIAN, he continues to disappoint further. While the reboot of the Arnold Schwarzenegger-starred 1982 original does retain most of its similarities, it's sad to say that Marcus Nispel's version is disappointingly charmless and awfully pedestrian.
The movie opens with a long prologue, partially narrated by Morgan Freeman where we learn that during the Hyborean Age, a group of sorcerers from Acheron created a mask from the skulls of dead kings and sacrificed their pure blood daughters to the dark gods in order to give the mask the power to conquer the entire world. Here begins the story of Conan as a young boy (Leo Howard), who is born on the battlefield to his dying mother and raised to be a fearless warrior by his father, Corin (Ron Perlman), the leader of the Cimmerian tribe. One day, their village is attacked by a group of ruthless bandits lead by Khalar Zym (Stephen Lang), who is actually looking to find the missing piece of the Mask of Acheron in order to revive his dead wife and conquer Hyborea. All the Cimmerian tribe end up brutally slaughtered, and Corin is subsequently tortured and killed, leaving Conan the only survivor. Sworn for vengeance, he is left nothing except a mighty sword his father made for him.
Twenty years later, the adult Conan (now played by Jason Momoa) sets out to kill Khalar Zym to avenge his father's death. In the meantime, Zym and his sorceress daughter Marique (Rose McGowan) lead an army to invade an ancient temple for retrieving the pure blood of a young female monk named Tamara (Rachel Nichols), in order to fulfill the mask's prophecy.
In 1982's CONAN THE BARBARIAN, the beloved cult classic was terribly dated if viewed by today's standard but then again, for all its cheesy factors, that movie remained marginally entertaining than this muddled mess. Thomas Dean Donnelly, Joshua Oppenheimer and Sean Hood's screenplay is paper-thin, with little characters development and uninteresting premise about the Mask of Acheron. For a movie that supposes to contain swords, sorcery, and such, there's nothing particularly fantastical about it. Instead, everything here feels monotonous with the same old uninspired action set pieces. There's one exception though: the exhilarating middle part where Conan faces a small army of sand creatures is particularly well-staged. It's strange that the rest of the action scenes are badly edited with lots of jittery cam.
The cast, in the meantime, is flat-out disappointing. While Jason Momoa has the idealistic look of a chiseled physique and permanent scowl, his Conan character lacks the certain charm Schwarzenegger had previously immortalized his role back in the old day. Here, he doesn't talk much and his facial expression is as awfully static as he gets. Supporting cast fares even worse, with lackluster villainous turn by Stephen Lang who's hardly intimidating at all while Rose McGowan hams it up entirely in a laughably bad performance as Marique. Of all, only Rachel Nichols injects some life to her Tamara role.
Technical credits are also lackluster, especially Thomas Kloss's muddy and badly-lit cinematography which are most of the times unpleasant to watch for. Tyler Bates's music score is instantly forgettable and anyone expecting the similar vibe Basil Poledouris composed the 1982 original version, will be sorely disappointed.
One of the most disappointing summer movies of the year, CONAN THE BARBARIAN is a huge waste of opportunity. With a $90 million budget blessed for this supposedly ambitious production to milk a franchise, is that all they got? Seriously, this reboot needs some real tuning.