So, the question everyone wants answered about the Conan the Barbarian reboot is: Can the new guy Jason Momoa carry Arnold Schwarzenegger's loincloth?
For the most part the answer is yes. Momoa also seems to have earned his SAG card with a Gold's Gym membership, cultivating 12-pack abs to go with the Sunshine Skyway eyebrows doing most his acting. He swings a mean battle ax but could use Ah-nuld's accent to cover up readings of some pretty lame lines. "I live, I love, I slay, I'm content," would sound much better with an Austrian touch.
Conan the Barbarian lives down to its predecessor, adding state-of-the-art carnage to a plot that any sword-and-sorcery flick might crib. People die messy and often in Marcus Nispel's movie, with much of its budget going for 50-gallon drums of fake blood. All the right people wind up dying but it's a grisly slog.
We get death by many causes: molten iron, sledgehammer, arrow blizzards, even fingernails borrowed from Freddy Krueger. Various impalings and decapitations are givens. My favorite is the guy killed by catapult — with him sitting in for the boulder. Better than those sand zombies with boomerangs, who just disintegrate on contact.
But first we learn what made Conan a barbarian, when he was born on a battlefield resembling a renaissance festival gone wild. Dad (Ron Perlman) took enough time off from slaughtering enemies to give Mom an impromptu caesarean before she died, doing the Lion King thing with his infant son. Next thing you know, he's a teenager dragging home the severed heads of invaders to prove his mettle. They grow up so fast.
But not before Dad is murdered by the evil Khalar Zym (Stephen Lang, wild-eyed and over the top). Zym lets the boy live, a mistake he'll regret. Conan spends a few years touring the world as they know it, thieving and slaying his way to manhood. We catch up with him on his return to Cimmeria, seeking revenge upon Zym and his witch daughter Marique (Rose McGowan).
Zym has possession of the missing piece of a bone mask that can make him a god. All he needs to activate it is pure blood from Tamara (Rachel Nichols). She's part of an all-women's crew of monks living peacefully until Zym invades their monastery. Conan helps her escape and waits for Zym to come looking for her, beating up a few folks and freeing wagonloads of topless female slaves to pass the time.
Conan the Barbarian has its small, insipid pleasures, if you're in the mood. Conan cuts off a guy's nose to spite his face, and later jabs a finger into the new orifice. At one point his chauvinist treatment of women actually quotes the Jimmy Castor Group's novelty song Troglodyte. Conan impures Tamara's blood a bit with soft core precision, and there's a Kraken wannabe with only its tentacles showing.
The movie also reminds me of a question such movies have never answered: Why do people hanging on for dear life over a bottomless pit only hang on with one hand?
Steve Persall can be reached at [email protected] or (727) 893-8365.