Conan the Barbarian: A Fun Action Flick…Better Suited For Your Xbox

22 08 2011

A remake of Arnold Schwarzenegger’s 1982 cult classic, Conan the Barbarian stars Jason Momoa, Rachel Nichols, Stephan Lang, Ron Perlman and Rose McGowan. Here’s the breakdown:

As a young boy, Conan (Momoa) witnesses the massacre of his village and family, including his father (Perlman), by the ruthless warlord Khalar Zym. Zym and his witch daughter Marique (McGowan) are after pieces of a mystical mask that, once assembled, will turn Zym into a god. Conan grows up to be a warrior and a thief, all the while seeking his father’s murderer. When the grown Conan stumbles across Zym, still on his god-quest, an epic struggle ensues, and the fate of the world and the fate of an innocent girl (Nichols) who’s ancestral blood is the key to Zym’s plans hangs in the balance.

The Monkey: Conan the Barbarian was, most noticeably, visually stunning. From idyllic Cimmerian villages to sprawling temple cities, this movie definitely delivered audiences an epic feel.

It was also nice to sit through a hard-R action adventure, where nudity and violence weren’t shied away from. It’s a story that lends itself to such excess and never did it feel over-the-top or unnecessary (although a certiain scene involving a finger and a nose had me squirming).

The fight scenes were extremely well choreographed and surprisingly original. A standout scene involving bewitched sand warriors was by far the best action piece in the movie and was incredibly entertaining, original and looked amazing in 3D. And Stephan Lang’s Zym and his double-bladed sword action was some of the best and most exciting sword work since Star Wars.

Jason Momoa and Stephen Lang played their respective roles well, playing off each other and bringing a believable amount of chemistry to the screen. While I wasn’t entirely convinced that Momoa could take on the Conan mantle (based on the movie’s marketing), he surprised and fit the role with the right amount of humor, brawn and bravado. Perlman was, as ever, enjoyable as Conan’s stalwart father, Corin.

The Weasel: The rest of the cast was a bit weak. Rachel Nichols’ whining Tamara was an unlikable love interest and would-be heroine. And Rose McGowan’s villainous Marique was almost comical; how that woman and her immovable Botox addled mug get any acting gigs at all amazes me.

The plot played out much like a video game. I half-expected to see “level-ups” and “loading” bars between scenes. This led to the movie’s biggest problem; a lack of urgency and danger. Zym had been searching for the mask for decades and yet he was just now letting the pieces fall into place? Just as Conan happens to be of ripe ass-kicking age? The movie really could have used a “race against time” feel to it. In addition, the video game quality caused each fight scene to become repetitive; yes we know Conan can kill, yes we know he’ll win – there was never any real sense of danger, and each time Conan was pitted against enemies, it just made the next encounter that much more unnecessary.

Momoa has supposedly written a sequel to Conan the Barbarian and sees this movie as his ticket to even more leading roles. Unfortunately, I think the poor box office and negative reviews might set him back a bit. And that sequel? Yeah, probably not happening.

Conan the Barbarian is an action-packed, violent, testosterone-fest. And it’s fun. While it suffers in the acting and plot department, the action scenes and the 3D make this a fun, B-sword-and-sandals flick. Don’t expect any more.

3 Death Stars out of 5

What do you think? Is this newer Conan a worthy reboot? Did Momoa do an adequate job of filling Schwarzenegger’s shoes? Do you want to see a sequel? Share your thoughts in the comments below!


TRON: Legacy: Dazzling, Daring, Daft Punk…End of Line

20 12 2010

Has there ever been a sequel that’s taken almost 30 years to be released? Well, TRON: Legacy is the highly anticipated sequel to 1982’s TRON. And it’s definitely a sequel folks, not a reboot/remake. While the movie does a good job introducing new audiences to the story, a viewing of the original 1982 film should be in order (fans will like the many nods to the original: look for light-tanks, the “End of Line” club and Bit). Here’s the breakdown:

World renowned software designer, Kevin Flynn (Jeff Bridges), has been missing for the better part of two decades. Flynn’s son, Sam (Garrett Hedlund), struggles with the mysterious disappearance, unsure of his future role with Flynn’s global technology company, Encom. But when Sam gets a message from his dad’s old arcade, Sam finds himself transported to The Grid, a super-advanced world of computer programs. Within The Grid, Sam must battle a rogue program in an effort to free his father and make it out of The Grid alive.

The Monkey: It should come has no surprise that TRON: Legacy‘s visuals have been the source of most of its praise; they deserve it. TRON: Legacy is the dictionary definition of eye-candy. Everything in this movie – the actors, the vehicles, the costumes, the sets – is a visual feast. And if you were thinking of seeing this movie in 2D, think again. This movie was made for the 3D experience, and if you have an IMAX theatre nearby, make the drive, it’s worth it. Forget all the mediocre 3D fare that has clogged cineplexes the past few months; TRON: Legacy is at the forefront of what 3D movies should be.

Just as integral to the story as the visuals, TRON: Legacy features a stellar soundtrack, producted by DJ duo Daft Punk. While I’m hardly saying anything new here (the soundtrack has been earning high praise even before the movie’s release), it’s worth noting that the soundtrack almost becomes a character in itself. Just enough parts ’80s throwback and modern electronica, Daft Punk gets the tone and feel of the movie…and it sounds awesome pumping through blaring movie theatre surround sound, let me tell you!

While the visuals and the music have wooed many viewers, the plot has left many less enthused. I think much of the criticism has been warranted, but unduly harsh. The central themes of the story are very universal and relatable: son  seeking father, the lines between order and chaos, censorship and freedom, etc. These thematic undercurrents run rampant throughout TRON: Legacy and provide rather profound and deep philosophical underpinnings for an otherwise effects-laden snooze-fest; however, that being said…

The Weasel: …the film really stretches itself too thin here. There are wonderful nuggets of storytelling nestled into a much larger picture; unfortunately, this means no one theme can be fully (or successfully) fleshed out. TRON: Missed Opportunities might have been a more apt title. For example, the “villain” Clu, is hardly a villain at all – he’s doing his job, cleaning up The Grid, striving for perfection. And while the movie touches on this fact, it continues to portray him as a very stereotypical film villain (maniacal laughter, impassioned speech to millions of minions, and all). Add to this a grossly overlooked plot thread involving self-created programs called Isomorphic Algorithms or “ISOs” (with all the wonderfully underutilized religious connotations this entails) and an interesting (yet truncated) nod to open-sourcing, file-sharing and technological freedoms/censorship, and TRON: Legacy is a wealth of intellectual storytelling…that is shamefully underdeveloped. It saddens me that the writers had these great ideas, fully fleshed out in early script drafts, only to see many key elements left on the cutting room floor to make room for yet another (albeit gorgeous) lightcylce race.

Going into the theatre to see TRON: Legacy, you’re not expecting to listen to Oscar-worthy dialogue; however, I was expecting something better than a string of one-liners and cliches. Sam’s lines were nothing but, “Woas,” “This should be interestings,” “I’m not a programs,” and “This can’t be goods.” I don’t think he uttered a single original line of dialogue. Flynn’s lines weren’t that much better. Clearly a nod to Jeff Bridge’s portrayal of The Dude in the Coen Brother’s 1998 cult classic The Big Lebowski, Flynn’s use of “man,” and “dude” at the end of every sentence wore thin quickly. And why does every movie featuring an amassed army (that can clearly be seen by the audience) have to have one of the main characters say, “He’s building an army!” Seriously? No shit. But the worst? When Sam describes the sun to Quorra (Olivia Wilde) by saying, “It’s warm…radiant…beautiful.” Gack! This has got to be up there with Anakin’s now infamous description of sand in Star Wars Episode II: Attack of the Clones.

Without giving away any spoilers, there is a particular plot thread involving a rather underdeveloped villain, Rinzler, left so unresolved that about 75% of the theatre stayed until the end of the credits, expecting to see an additional scene. Well, I’ll save you the extra five minutes – there is no additional scene (which actually elicited some booing from the audience). The filmmakers passed up a great opportunity (yet again) to tease at a possible third installment, or, at the very least, tie up a rather tacked on plot device.

A movie that could have been much better, if it had only spent a little more time fleshing out its existing story structure. At least it leaves you with a lot to talk about after the credits roll. And with the visuals and music to distract you, it’s still a ride you won’t want to miss.

4 Death Stars out of 5

What do you think? Do you think TRON: Legacy is a worthy sequel to the first film? Do you see a TRON 3 in the future? Share your thoughts in the comments!

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