(Full review available at the Herald.)

Despite liking a lot of his other movies, I didn’t see the Arnold Schwartzenegger Conan the Barbarian until just three or four years ago. I was shocked, then, to discover it wasn’t just the cheesy pile of oily pectorals, chicks in chainmail, and spilled flagons of mead I’d expected. Instead, it was.. good? Yes. It was good. A good time. Conan was an unstoppable force, a man of simple pleasures who did what he wanted when it felt right to do so. Zen-like, in his way. Except for all the murder. And the sex with Sandahl Bergman. I don’t remember any koans about that stuff, that’s for sure. Meanwhile, James Earl Jones’ Thulsa Doom (a sure contender for the Oscar’s Most Awesome Name category) was creepy, charismatic, and commanding. The support cast was fun, the world wild and wide-open.

The first Conan the Barbarian made Schwartzenegger a star. I’m thinking the remake was meant to do the same for Jason Momoa, he of “Khal Drago from Game of Thrones” status and little else. I’m afraid the big man is going to have to try again with something else.

Because the new Conan the Barbarian is that bland kind of lifeless that’s perhaps most depressing in all the land of Moviedonia. It isn’t especially terrible or ridiculous or over-the-top. Like I said in my proper review, I enjoyed the efforts to capture the Egypt-but-not-Egypt, Europe-but-not-Europe vibe of Robert E. Howard’s original stories, as well as the reintroduction of Conan’s animal cunning. They were remaking Howard’s work as much as Arnold’s.

It’s just that there’s no depth to it. No true worldbuilding. Just a shitload of exposition about a magic mask which, despite a full Lord of the Rings-style prologue by universal voice of authority Morgan Freeman, is never really all that clear. The result is one part Conan, one part LOTR, and about four parts generic costume action dullery like Prince of Persia: Sands of Time.

Conan the Barbarian isn’t the kind of movie you watch to amp yourself up before riding out to meet your enemy. Instead, it’s the kind of movie you watch on a Sunday morning, quietly hungover on the couch, when it’s not important what’s on the TV so long as it’s tuned to something.

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