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Marcus Nispel
Jason Momoa, Stephen Lang, Rachel Nichols, Ron Perlman, Rose McGowan, Bob Sapp, Leo Howard, Steven O'Donnell
Writing Credits:
Thomas Dean Donnelly, Joshua Oppenheimer, Sean Hood, Robert E. Howard (character of Conan)

Born on the battlefield.

The tale of Conan the Cimmerian and his adventures across the continent of Hyboria on a quest to avenge the murder of his father and the slaughter of his village.

Box Office:
$70 million.
Opening Weekend
$10.021 million on 3015 screens.
Domestic Gross
$21.270 million.

Rated R

Aspect Ratio: 2.40:1
English DTS-HD MA 7.1
Supplements Subtitles:

Runtime: 112 min.
Price: $39.99
Release Date: 11/22/2011

• Both 2D and 3D Versions of the Film
• Audio Commentary with Director Marcus Nispel
• Audio Commentary with Actors Jason Momoa and Rose McGowan
• “The Conan Legacy” Featurette
• “Robert E. Howard: The Man Who Would Be Conan” Featurette
• “Battle Royal: Engineering the Action” Featurette
• “Staging the Fights” Featurette
• Previews and Trailer
• DVD Copy


Panasonic 50" TH-50PZ77U 1080p Plasma Monitor; Sony STR-DG1200 7.1 Channel Receiver; Panasonic DMP-BD60K Blu-Ray Player using HDMI outputs; Michael Green Revolution Cinema 6i Speakers (all five); Kenwood 1050SW 150-watt Subwoofer.


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Conan The Barbarian [Blu-Ray] (2011)

Reviewed by Colin Jacobson (November 21, 2011)

Almost 30 years ago, Arnold Schwarzenegger worked in Conan the Barbarian as his first major acting role. From there he became a major star and eventually governor of California. Will Jason Momoa – the lead in the 2011 version of Conan - achieve similar success? Probably not, but check back in 2040.

In a prologue, we learn of ancient times in which the wizards of Acheron create a powerful magical mask that they use to rule the planet. The Barbarian tribes manage to stand against them, however, and eventually destroy the mask. Various tribal chiefs each keep a shard of the mask to prevent one person from putting it back together and using its abilities.

One of the Barbarian leaders – Corin (Ron Perlman) – has a child named Conan. Even as an adolescent, Conan (Leo Howard) shows excellent skills as a warrior, but he lacks discipline. As his father says, a warrior needs a combination of “fire and ice” to succeed, but the impulsive, hotheaded Conan is all fire.

A warrior tribe led by Khalar Zym (Stephen Lang) seeks to reassemble the magical mask, and they need only one more piece: the shard held by Corin. He resists but Zym wins anyway, and in an act of self-sacrifice to save Conan, Corin dies.

From there we leap ahead two decades or so to learn that Conan left his clan and struck out on his own. After all that time, he still seeks Zym to gain revenge. In the meantime, Zym went from simple bandit to his current status as a king, but he still hasn’t been able to unleash the full power of the mask. To do his, he needs to find a “pure blood” descendant of the Acheron sorcerers.

Who just happens to end up with Conan. When Zym attacks a monastery where he believes the “Pureblood” resides, elder priest Fassir (Raad Rawi) sends away Tamara (Rachel Nicols) to return to Hyrkania, her birthplace. Conan comes upon her when he attacks Zym’s enforcer so he winds up paired with Tamara as he continues his quest and ultimately aids her as well.

For reasons semi-unknown, I never saw the 1982 Conan. I can’t even recall if I hoped to view it but never got around to it, though I probably should’ve wanted to check out the flick. I was a big comic book fan at the time, though Conan was never a fave; I bought those mags because I bought all the Marvel stuff back then, but I never had much passion for Conan.

Still, I think I would’ve wanted to check out a big screen take on any comic book stuff back then, so I remain uncertain why I missed it – and why I never bothered to see it in later years.

Now I wish I had viewed the 1982 Conan for comparison purposes, though perhaps it’s best that I can’t rate one against the other. While both feature the same lead role and some thematic/story similarities, the 2011 flick doesn’t remake its predecessor. It stands on its own as an adaptation of the Conan character.

And it does fine in that regard. I can’t say how accurately it replicates Conan from Robert E. Howard’s original stories or from the comics, but the part as depicted here seems reasonably similar to what I remember from my teens. He’s big, he’s fierce and he doesn’t say much – what more do you need from Conan?

As an actor, Momoa appears unlikely to find many Oscars in his future, but he works fine in the role. Again, this isn’t a part that requires great dimensionality. While Momoa does little more than grunt and growl, that’s about all the part dictates. Momoa is the right physical type and he proves to be perfectly satisfactory as the brawny Barbarian.

Nispel also helps bring the tale to life in a reasonably vivid manner. He certainly doesn’t spare the gore, as the flick offers the expected levels of blood ‘n’ guts. That’s appropriate – and appreciated, as it would’ve been easier for the producers to tone down the gore to get a more “mass audience” rating. Perhaps they learned a lesson from 1984’s Conan the Destroyer - a “PG”-rated flop – or maybe they simply wanted to stay true to the character, but it was the correct choice, as a Conan without graphic violence just doesn’t make much sense.

Really, Nispel’s Conan gives us what we want from the character. It’s cruel, bloody and harsh – what else would you expect from a flick about a barbarian? No, it doesn’t have much of a plot, but it provides enough good action to become a satisfying take on the legend.

The Disc Grades: Picture A-/ Audio A-/ Bonus B

Conan the Barbarian appears in an aspect ratio of approximately 2.40:1 on this Blu-Ray Disc. At all times, the presentation looked solid.

I certainly failed to detect any problems with sharpness. The movie featured excellent delineation and clarity at all times, with virtually no softness on display. Jagged edges and shimmering created no concerns, and edge enhancement appeared to be absent. I also didn’t see any signs of source flaws.

Conan featured a fairly stylized palette. Few dynamic hues popped up, as the flick preferred a variety of gray, brown and earthy green tones. These looked fine within the movie’s visual choices. Blacks were dark and tight, while shadows seemed full and clear. I found no reason to complain about this strong image.

I felt the same way about the DTS-HD MA 7.1 audio of Conan. The soundfield helped create an immersive setting. Atmospherics ruled the day, as the natural environment seemed engaging and involving. In addition, the many action sequences managed to provide accurately placed elements that moved smoothly across the speakers. The various pieces combined to form a fine soundscape.

At all times, audio quality appeared excellent. Effects became the most prominent aspect of the track and they were solid. Those components appeared accurate and dynamic, as they boasted terrific low-end. Music also showed very nice range and clarity, while speech was concise and crisp. The mix brought the material to life in a satisfying manner.

When we shift to extras, we open with two separate audio commentaries. The first comes from director Marcus Nispel, as he offers a running, screen-specific look at story and character topics, cast and performances, sets and locations, makeup and effects, action and stunts, music, shooting 3D and a few other elements.

Nispel offers a perfectly decent track here – no more, no less. He covers an appropriate array of subjects and does so with reasonable gusto and detail. At times he simply narrates the film, and those slow down the chat, but they’re not too frequent. While the commentary never becomes particularly engaging, it gives us the necessary details in an efficient manner.

For the second commentary, we hear from actors Jason Momoa and Rose McGowan. Both sit together for this running, screen-specific look at characters and performances as well as various experiences during the shoot.

If you expect any good movie-making insights from the actors, you’ll experience disappointment here. Oh, this isn’t a terrible track, as Momoa and McGowan keep things moving reasonably well. Unfortunately, they don’t really tell us a lot of interesting details beyond what “sucks” and what was fun. It’s a passable listen but not anything memorable.

A few featurettes follow. The Conan Legacy goes for 10 minutes, one second and offers notes from Momoa, Nispel, writers Joshua Oppenheimer, Thomas Dean Donnelly and Sean Hood, Conan the Phenomenon author Paul Sammon, producers Boaz Davidson and Fredrik Malmberg, executive producer Avi Lerner, Marvel Comics former writer/editor-in-chief Roy Thomas, Age of Conan game director/producer Craig Morrison, and actor Rachel Nichols. We learn about the original Conan stories, their survival over the years, and their move into pop culture in the 1960s/1970s. We also find some notes about adapting the character to the big screen. “Legacy” doesn’t provide a great deal of details, but it delivers a nice overview of the character’s development over the decades.

With the 11-minute, 24-second Robert E. Howard: The Man Who Would Be Conan, we hear from Sammon, Thomas, McGowan, Hood, and The Collected Letters of Robert E. Howard editor Rob Roehm. We get a quick biography of Conan creator Robert E. Howard and learn a bit about his work. Like “Legacy”, this one lacks depth, but it gives us a tight, brisk synopsis, so it’s a nice overview.

Battle Royal: Engineering the Action lasts nine minutes, 55 seconds and features Nispel, Momoa, Davidson, Malmberg, Lerner, Nichols, Hood, production designer Chris August, stunt coordinator Noon Orsatti, 2nd unit director David Leitch, and actor Stephen Lang. The show looks at the choreography and execution of the movie’s stunts and action scenes. Expect another quick but satisfying piece, as this one gives us a good collection of notes.

Finally, Staging the Fights fills five minutes, 47 seconds. It shows a split-screen presentation much of the time; we see live-action pre-vis footage of different scenes compared to the final product. This becomes a fun way to inspect the movie’s planning.

The disc opens with ads for Highlander 2, Warrior, Set Up and The Expendables. In addition, these show up under Also from Lionsgate, and we get the film’s trailer as well.

A second platter provides both a DVD Copy of Conan. Note that Disc One also includes 3D version of the film. I don’t have 3D capabilities, so I was unable to examine it.

After a few decades away from the screen, the Conan character returns via 2011’s Conan the Barbarian. And he gives us a pretty nice comeback, as the movie delivers the requisite violence, gore and action; it’s never better than pretty good, but it’s a satisfying take on the role. The Blu-ray offers excellent picture and audio as well as a selection of useful supplements. Though I’ll never be a big Conan fan, I think this becomes an enjoyable adventure.

Viewer Film Ratings: 4.3333 Stars Number of Votes: 3
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