The original 'Conan the Barbarian' may be remembered for many things but the background score by Basil Poledouris was the defining factor for me that truly gave the movie its epic feel. Coupled with the amazing cinematography and brutal fight sequences that crafted one hell of a movie that was so simplistic yet primal and ironically 'barbaric'. Arnold's Conan might have not even spoken more than ten lines throughout the running length of the film and his imposing, unpolished demeanour only served to strengthen his barbarian credentials. All the good work done by the original however was undone in a flash by the cheesy sequel 'Conan the Destroyer' & with the long rumoured third movie never taking place I did actually look forward to the remake with anticipation; however this Conan is a different beast with very little in common with the original. I havent read the books so for me the definitive version is the 1982 one, which shines like a beacon of brilliance compared to this hackneyed tale of revenge.
Morgan Freeman's opening narration talks about the mystical land of Hyboria & how its ridden with strife for a magical artefact. The barbarian tribes manage to retrieve it and for the safety of all humanity break it into various pieces which each one hides away. All is well until a warlord by the name of Khalar Zym (Stephen Lang) comes looking for the last piece to reconstruct the artefact. His armies overrun Cimmeria, wiping out every last person in the land leaving only a young Conan (Jason Momoa) as the last of his kind. The action shifts to many years later with grown up Conan now seeking vengeance on all those who wiped out his village. Through accident he learns of the identity of Khalar Zym who's now a very powerful 'shadow-lord' feared by all in Hyboria. Zym is looking for a 'pureblood' woman to complete a ritual that shall revive his dead wife, a powerful sorceress. Conans first attempt at killing Zym doesn't go as planned but he ends up with the woman Zym seeks, Tamara (Rachel Nichols) thus setting up a journey for the two to fall in love and also a climactic battle with Zym.
On the face of it the movie's actually packed with too much plot but none of it matters as characters & story contrivances are disposed off with little or no regard. Add to that the manner in which the movie has been butchered by the censor board, you will be left wondering where the story went. In the original which too was essentially a tale of revenge, director John Milius made you root for a "wooden-as-oak" Schwarzenegger to slay James Earl Jones in the most gruesome manner possible. Here by the time the final battle with Zym arrives you don't really care.
The movie is packed with blood & gore and often far too much for its own good. The effect wears thin real quick and beyond a certain point just gets plain sadistic. The action routine too gets tiresome real soon since inspite of the balls-to-the-wall fight sequences they offer nothing new or truly entertaining.
The characterisation of Jason Momoa is another problem. He's a far more emotive actor than Arnold but he lacks that primal rage which Arnold possessed. He does still perform better than I was expecting which also applies to Rachel Nichols. Nichols actually manages to infuse a poorly written character with much humanity. If the forced romantic angle between the two wasn't so abrupt and given time to develop it could have been actually believable. Stephen Lang is highly ineffective and seems to be playing a second-rate version of his Col. Quaritch from Avatar while Rose McGowan is absolutely unrecognisable under all the make-up and missing eyebrows as his incestuous daughter Marique. Ron Perlman brings a class of humanity and toughness like always and lights up the screen for the brief period he's there.
The 3D I cannot comment on because the screening I attended was in 2D, but the effects are honestly run of the mill with nothing truly spectacular to offer inspite of the many CGI rendered landscapes and cities on display.
'Conan the Barbarian' offers what the name suggests in terms of guts & blood. The action never stops but it doesn't get exciting either. The mess of a plot has little to offer and the tale of revenge gets caught in cliches which kill off any chance of us rooting for Conan. My advice to you is go rent the original and let this one arrive on your television a few months later.