Conan The Barbarian review

New model Arnie

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“I live, I love, I slay – I am content!” states the barbarous Conan halfway through Marcus Nispel’s sword-and-sorcery actioner.

Those familiar with the 1982 version are unlikely to feel likewise after this tiresome reboot, a dull and desultory affair that’ll leave you feeling as cheated as Arnold Schwarzenegger’s missus.

Having previously devalued the Texas Chainsaw Massacre and Friday The 13th series, Nispel hardly has the best rep when it comes to resuscitating moribund franchises.

Quelle surprise, then, that he makes a hash of this one, the German director missing not only the camp grandeur of John Milius’ original but also the vigour of 300, a film he clearly set out to emulate.

There’s no shortage of blood here, the levels of arterial splatter being established early by a forest scrap that ends with the young Conan (Leo Howard) dropping four severed heads at the feet of proud pop Ron Perlman.

Long before the lad has grown up to be Baywatch beefcake Jason Momoa, though, the carnage has become monotonously predictable.

There’s only so many ways to run a man through while charging at him on horseback.

Things liven up a little with the introduction of bad guy Khalar Zym (Avatar’s Stephen Lang) and his daughter Marique (Rose McGowan), a witch with Krueger-like blades on her pinkies and Elizabeth I’s hairline.

Even by genre standards, alas, their crazy quest – to bring Mrs Zym back from Hades with the aid of an old mask and ‘Pureblood’ Rachel Nichols – is a torturous one that, coupled with Conan’s plan to avenge Perlman’s murder, makes for a plot more swollen than its leading man’s pectorals.

Momoa is no Arnie. He’s no Rock either. In fact he’s nothing much at all: an anonymous, characterless hunk who’s outclassed even by the computer-generated sand mummies he’s called upon to vanquish.

Conan, we’re informed, has “the heart of a lion” and “the loyalty of a bloodhound”. They forgot “personality of a tree”.

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Freelance Writer

Neil Smith is a freelance film critic who has written for several publications, including Total Film. His bylines can be found at the BBC, Film 4 Independent, Uncut Magazine, SFX Magazine, Heat Magazine, Popcorn, and more.