Raarrgh! Why Conan the Barbarian sucks

"I live, I love, I slay" — 2011's Conan stands atop the skulls of a thousand dead narrative possibilities.

**_Conan the Barbarian_ (2011.) ★★ (2 stars).**

The new _Conan_ movie sucks. Let’s leave aside comparisons to the Arnie _Conan_ movies of old, which are fashionable to laugh at but were enjoyable for sword and sorcery fans of the time. _Conan the Barbarian_ as it stands today is as dumb an action flick as you’ll find: little more than fight scenes from start to finish, awful dialog (much of it mere grunts), zero characterization and scant plot. It’s riddled with continuity errors to boot. This is the sort of movie that’s boring enough, because of its lack of variation in tone, that you’ll struggle to stay awake for it if you’re tired.

What’s most galling about the new _Conan_, though, is that it so completely misses what makes Conan cool. Amid the numerous _Conan_ stories and novels about (from not only Conan’s creator, Robert E. Howard, but L. Sprague de Camp and even _Robert Jordan_), and the years and years of Marvel comics, there are at least dozens of story arcs that could be translated easily to the screen for comparatively thrilling viewing. That this was not done here is a crime in itself.

Here’s the simple formula for picking a good Conan story to recreate. Choose a story that:

* has a bit of swordfighting, but also a bit of stealth and thievery
* involves one of the great Conan babes: Zenobia, Belit, Valeria, or Red Sonja
* contains a human villain of modest scale, and a freaky Lovecraftian monster

The new movie makes Conan look dumb–a grunting bonehead with nothing more than brawn at his disposal. But Conan in the wider mythos is not only a warrior. He’s also a trickster, a seducer, and (later) a king. The character needs a varied canvas to show his full range: hence the stealth and thievery to show his cleverness, a villain who’s better than a laughing stock to pit his wits against, and a weird behemoth to evoke the horror of the supernatural.

Finally, the babe should be more credible than the one we have here. I can’t even remember her name, she was that limp. Valeria, Belit, Zenobia and Red Sonja all have guts. They can kick ass almost as well as Conan himself, and their tongues are as sharp as their swords. Kick-ass chicks evoke lust and awe. 2011’s Conan girl, by comparison, is pathetic. The best she can do is get laid, then roll out of bed in the morning, wander off like a helpless idiot and get kidnapped.

2011’s _Conan the Barbarian_ misses almost all the joy that could so easily have been milked out of a character almost as well known in popular culture as Tarzan or Sherlock Holmes, and it does so out of apparent laziness or stupidity. By Crom, this gets a thumbs down. Throw this one to the lions.

Author: Ben Hourigan

Ben Hourigan is a novelist from Melbourne, Australia. His books Kiss Me, Genius Boy and My Generation’s Lament are Amazon category bestsellers, and are available wherever good books are sold online. Ben also works as an editor, copywriter, and self-publishing consultant at his own firm, Hourigan & Co. For news and book release updates, sign up to his email newsletter.