Enter the world of Conan the Barbarian in 3D and you find yourself among fire embers floating in the air in the opening sequence with digitalized scenery in the background giving it an animated feel. The rest of the film, however, lends itself more to comic book graphics, amazing stunts, and the powerful presence of Jason Momoa as Conan the Barbarian from Cimmeria.
Directed by Marcus Nispel (Texas Chainsaw Massacre, Pathfinder), this reboot of the 1982 version starring Arnold Schwarzenegger does a fantastic job portraying the barbaric environment in which the story unfolds. The bloodbath during battle sequences and specific moments are graphic, as in gushy blood splattering everywhere, beheadings, and shockingly violent acts. A more spectacular and somewhat creepy part of the film involves Conan battling sand warriors, reminiscent of the skeletons coming to life in Jason and the Argonauts.
Filmed in Bulgaria, the landscape was used to create distant lands and fantasy cities, the backdrop for the continent of Hyboria. However, amidst the modern technical effects and fantastic stunt coordination, some of the background scenery sometimes appear painted on rather than digitally inserted. Whether or not it was the technique used or if it was done on purpose, it seems a little off with the rest of the cinematography.
Despite the visual discontinuity, Jason Momoa as Conan maintains the momentum of the film with his powerful and meaningful presence. His eyes convey more than his actual words which are limited by the script, in keeping with the original grunt-like barbaric tongue as in the Schwarzenegger role. “I live, I love, I slay, and I am content” is the extent of his vocabulary and his character’s life. He treats women as harlots or warriors in battle, until he runs into Tamara and becomes perplexed. His wielding of the sword becomes his symbol of manhood and ultimate power. Traveling the continent of Hyboria to avenge the death of his father (Ron Perlman), he lithely and gorgeously moves through his battle scenes with force and agility.
The characters in the story also give dimension to the plot and visual aspect of the script. Rose McGowan, as Marique, gives a sinister performance as the psychotic sorceress daughter of the evil lord Khalar Zym (Stephen Lang from Avatar). With a Goth white face and dark eye shadow, she wears high barbaric fashion in tall red boots and semi-revealing outfits. In contrast, the virginal Tamara-with-the-long-name (Rachel Nichols, G.I. Joe) of pure ancient bloodline, is stuck wearing the white virginal sheet until, of course, she meets Conan. Saïd Taghmaoui (also from G.I. Joe) plays the bumbling sidekick Conan befriends and uses to help find Tamara again.
The storyline of film is not exactly like the original but follows the general summation of its characters. This modern version is rich with effects and graphic battle scenes, and the use of 3D is unnecessary except for the introductory portion. Fantasy action and graphic novel lovers will enjoy this film. It is more heartfelt with its theme of vengeance, and Jason Momoa perfectly embodies and enriches the character of Conan the Barbarian.