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From the late ’60s through early ’80s, a muscle-bound hunk who could barely speak English made a string of campy, mythical hero flicks laced with awful dialogue, ladies in skimpy outfits, brutes swinging swords and – for the time – flashy special effects.
But as cheesy as those Arnold Shwarzenegger films – like “Hercules in New York,” “Red Sonja” and the original “Conan the Barbarian” – were, this year’s remake of “Conan” is a film so bad, even the “Guvnah” would be ashamed of it.
The modern “Conan the Barbarian,” it would seem, followed the original’s formula, only more so. Even worse dialogue, ladies in no clothes whatsoever, sword swinging that splatters bodies like Gallagher with watermelons and, hey, why not, 3-D special effects – these will make the movie better, right?
(Trivia time: Gallagher actually ran in the same California gubernatorial race that placed Schwarzenegger in office. The body builder finished first; the comedian 16th.)
But just as “progressives” argue we should do even more federal stimulus spending, doing more of a woefully ineffective measure won’t make it more effective.
All the “more” dumped on this film, like lipstick on a pig, can’t cover for the unimaginative script, cliché direction, wooden acting, overacting and otherwise catastrophe that is “Conan.”
Granted, some of the special effects were nice visual touches. The costuming, set and scenery were very pretty. There is a scene early in the film, a gem in the mudslide, where a son shows tremendous, heart-breaking devotion to his father. It really is a choke-you-up moment as the boy endures excruciating pain in the desperate effort to save his father’s life.
But even if we take a moment to praise “the pig,” I also question the shade of lipstick: “Conan the Barbarian” is covered in the bloody gore of abundant, disgustingly brutal violence and insults audiences with its leering display of bouncing, naked women and gratuitous sex (to say nothing of its frequently mysoginist dialogue).
Seriously? I thought Hollywood was starting to get the message that this garbage doesn’t sell. In fact, Friday night’s box office proves it yet again, as “Conan” finished a dismal fourth, behind movies in their second and third week in theaters, a pathetic showing for a first-run film.
The storyline of “Conan” traces a young Barbarian boy, a mythical hero born when a sword in battle rips open his mother’s womb, who saw his whole village slain by an occultic warrior named Khalar Zym and his minions.
The little Barbarian grows up, a battle axe of a human being, set on one goal: to kill the man who killed his family.
Along the way, he meets and (spoiler alert) beds a “purebred” princess, whom the evil Zym seeks to sacrifice in order to raise his witch queen from the dead.
Morgan Freeman, the voice of gravitas when James Earl Jones isn’t available, somehow got cast as the narrator in this film, an unintentionally laughable role, as he delivers a claptrap of fantasy-novel themes and names the audience with neither remember nor care about through the film. Freeman would be well-served to pretend he’s like Schwarzenegger and not actually in the movie.
So what’s the worldview in a film like this?
The storyline preaches simply that revenge is noble, a clearly antibiblical sentiment as Romans 12:19-21 points out: “Dearly beloved, avenge not yourselves, but rather give place unto wrath: For it is written, ‘Vengeance is mine; I will repay,’ saith the Lord. Therefore if thine enemy hunger, feed him; if he thirst, give him drink: For in so doing thou shalt heap coals of fire on his head. Be not overcome of evil, but overcome evil with good.”
But a more thoughtful examination of the “Conan” would conclude that the filmmakers’ only intended message was, “If we make a movie with lots of violence and sex and special effects – to heck with story, artistic quality or even a purpose behind it – we can make millions!”
It’s a cynical attitude that betrays a godless lack of wisdom and undermines decades of progress in Hollywood, not only in bringing more godly themes to the cinema but also in creating an art form with the power to persuade, amaze, inspire and entertain. Movie studios have a moral responsibility to refuse projects like this – and audiences have a moral responsibility to refuse to see them.
- “Conan the Barbarian” contains only a single obsenity and no profanities.
- What it lacks in cussin’, however, it makes up for in fightin’. The film is a nonstop gore-fest, with gruesome stabbings, bashings, decapitations, slicings and all sorts of human-flesh-in-a-blender photography in the midst of nonstop primeval violence. Considering the director is Marcus Nispel, who also boasts on his resume the remakes of “Friday the 13th” and “Texas Chainsaw Massacre,” … well, that about sums it up.
- The film is also heavily smeared with sex and nudity. Frankly, it’s practically pornographic. Granted, the film has only one, explicit sex scene with its resulting naked writhings, but it also slips on screen the lead actor’s bare behind a pathetically juvenile amount of “boob shots,” as topless women appear throughout.
- The film has many references to black magic, necromancy and the occult arts, though the mythical world of “Conan” bears no direct resemblance to earth’s history of religion and the occult. There’s a pair of human sacrifices, however, some drinking of blood and some indistinguishable chanting by the evil monks, so many of the same concepts do carry over.