Saturday, August 20, 2011

Conan The Barbarian

I went to the movies yesterday, hoping to see the new remake of Fright Night, one of my all-time favorite films.  I’m not a friend of the remake/rehash scene, but I am interested in seeing alternate perspectives.  This is the case here.  I’m very curious to see how the new film compares to the original.  However, when I looked the information up on-line, well, I must have jotted down an incorrect show time.  While in line, I realized Fright Night had already started, with the next closest showing being in 3D, of which I’m really not a fan.

Two days earlier I had read an article online, as I bounced about using StumbleUpon. It talked about the positives and negatives surrounding 3D.  The article basically said that 3D is not packing the punch many had thought it would, that moviegoers were not getting appropriate value for their $12 or $13 admission price, to which I have to agree.   Personally, I keep giving 3D a chance.  I want to find that perfect 3D film.  Yet lately, after numerous disappointing outings, I’ve given up hope that, at the present time, the technology can work the way we all, I believe, want it to.  The article then made claims that Conan The Barbarian looked really good in 3D.

I’ve seen the original Conan films starring Arnold, but it’s been so long since that there is really no point to compare the two.  Instead I wanted to see a well-plotted and interesting storyline, jam packed with action that oozed through the screen.  The film didn’t disappoint. 

Conan The Barbarian delivers a bloodied and extremely violent product.  Entrenched in action scene layered upon action scene, the barbarian way of life, the atrocities of war and a world where life is basically boiled down to making war and making love is brilliantly displayed.  The world building in this film is amazing, as it draws from both historical and mythological references.

I liken this film to a video game, with sequential challenges and trials thrust upon the hero.  As Conan solves one challenge another takes its place, gradually increasing in difficulty until a culminating battle scene, that provides both retribution and resolve.  The series of challenges in Conan can be compared to Hercules and his many trials.  In fact it’s so comparable that I highly doubt it could possibly be coincidence alone.

Conan’s quest begins as a simple revenge plot.  The character was built upon, “ A young warrior vows vengeance upon his father’s executioner,” an idea that is the crux for both character and plot.   

Along the journey though we see that the revenge plot has evolved into a story about revenge & liberation, as Conan states his belief, “No man deserves to live in chains.”  Conan travels the world battling injustices, freeing any prisoners and/or slaves that he comes upon.  Despite being drawn as a lone-wolf type, he does make friendships along the way, a quality that assists in character development.  

The traditional barbarian is seen having a particular mindset: The relentless warrior that chooses death over admitting to his flaws and limitations.  While Conan is, without a doubt, capable of handling his own affairs, we see his character deepened by his ability to swallow pride and ask his friends for help when it’s needed.

The traditional barbarian is also seen as a man that lives life to the fullest, on and off the battlefield.  In addition to being a perfectly defined warrior, he’s shown drinking his share of mead, laughing and arm-wrestling with friends and being popular with the ladies.  This aspect of Conan’s character changes though, after he meets the pureblood woman.  He initially treats her like a pawn, bait to snare his enemy, yet as the story progresses, we see expressions of genuine affection, physical attraction that then blossoms into a mutual love shared between the two. 

I make this point despite the fact he does leave her at film’s end.  One may claim that this departure signifies that his love was in fact superficial.  However I view this departure as the last piece to his evolution. 

A warrior is primarily an Id ruled being, but here Conan acts selflessly, leaving his “love,” in order to continue his war against injustice.  This ending is commonplace in mythological lore.  Selflessness is one of the keys that push a character’s legacy forward, from hero into legend or god-like status.  It’s very interesting then, that Conan, in a sense, achieves the thing the villain here wanted most of all.

Conan’s character is fully drawn out, as is the overall plot of the story.   His character development is deeply entwined with the progression of the overall storyline, where his evolution is essential to his ability to overcome each challenge and eventually avenge the deaths of not only his father and his people but also all those who have died at the hands of injustice.

I’m a big fan of mythological stories and tales in general, so this movie fits well for me.  However, I return to the question I began this article with: “Will a 3D movie ever come close to its potential?”

The answer is yes. 

As one of 3D’s biggest detractors, I have to say that Conan The Barbarian should be the poster-child for all 3D films to come.  Every section of the film is 3D relevant, whether it’s the ash and embers of a fire, a scrolling panorama, a mountainous expanse or the intricacies of battle, each nuance is thrust out from the screen and the audience is literally swept into this world. 

I was at the point where I didn’t think it would ever be done.  I knew it had to be possible, but I truly began to feel that this would become one of those technologies with promise never realized.  I’m pleasantly, extremely pleasantly surprised at what I saw in Conan The Barbarian. 

The outcome is as close to spectacular that I’ve seen yet.  Perhaps there are others I haven’t seen, nevertheless this is the first time I’m actually recommending that audiences go and see the 3D version of a film. The only moviegoers who may not like the vividness shown here are those who either don’t like or may not feel comfortable seeing numerous instances of graphic violence and bloodshed.  If you feel this describes you, well then I probably wouldn’t recommend Conan The Barbarian to you, especially not in 3D.


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