Conan the Barbarian [Blu-Ray] Marcus Nispel

Conan the Barbarian [Blu-Ray] Marcus Nispel
Rebooting the Conan franchise isn't an inherently bad idea, but you have to question anyone who'd give sadistic hack Marcus Nispel (Pathfinder, Friday the 13th) 70 million bucks to do it. Granted, if the man's borderline psychotic vicious streak was ever going to work for anything, it'd be this. But to no one's surprise, it didn't. Wrong footed from the start, this iteration of the charming muscle-bound barbarian's tale starts with Morgan Freeman phoning in a random voiceover to explain some convoluted twaddle about an evil sorceress and her mystical mask while a hokey blend of action footage, horrible animation and flaming cross-fades acts out his words in a jumble. A sword to the belly from a foetus's perspective signals the battle-born emergence of baby Conan, his daddy (Ron Perlman) plucking him from his mother's womb with one hand. It's as gross as it sounds, but I doubt it was meant to be so funny in its implausibility. After an obligatory harsh childhood shapes Conan into a prodigious warrior fuelled by vengeance, Freeman's voice pops up again to introduce Jason Momoa (Game of Thrones) as the full grown rogue, freeing some slaves to take along on a voyage – certainly not just because half of them are mostly naked woman. Here, Nispel displays an uncomfortable habit of filling frames with headless breasts, in what I hope is a thoughtless attempt at adolescent titillation and not something more insidious. This over-long adventure is extremely bloody, but oddly unwilling to depict realistic gore, giving the action a cartoonish look. Atrocious dialogue and questionable costuming choices (Rose McGowan looks like Marilyn Manson by way of Lady Deathstrike, with a receding hairline) are only a few of the additional problems that make this the dismal failure it is. Nispel admittedly has a decent sense of visual composition, despite his vision being mean and inconsistent. Jason Momoa ably fills Arnold Schwarzenegger's bodybuilding tights and hints at untapped reserves of charm a better director could use to project a very likable Conan. The special features are better than one would expect based on the quality of the project. "The Conan Legacy" is a long and detailed account of the character's history across various media, decade by decade, with cast and crew adding their thoughts alongside more scholarly opinions. Conan creator Robert E. Howard gets his own mini-feature with "The Man Who Would Be Conan," in which super-fan experts detail Howard's history, including the inspiration for his most famous character, the pitfalls of being a pulp writer and his untimely death by his own hand. Because Conan is all about action without reflection, the violence is subject to two features. "Battle Royal: Engineering the Action" gives a behind-the-scenes look at the sand creature fight, horse chases and more. Luckily the second unit director does most of the talking, but Nispel makes sure to mention his insistence on using an unsafe old Nazi storage cave to shoot the final battle. "Staging the Fights" is a collection of "pre-viz" scenes of the stunt team's fight choreography, shown picture-in-picture with temporary effects against the film for select fight scenes. And, because this is a classy film, the sequence ends with an unnecessary, context-free cut to full-screen boobs. (Alliance)