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Film: Conan the Barbarian (2011)

"I live... I love and slay. And I am content."
Conan

Conan the Barbarian is a 2011 film featuring Conan of Cimmeria, the classic Barbarian Hero created by Pulp Fiction writer Robert E. Howard. It stars Jason Momoa as Conan, Rachel Nichols as the Love Interest Tamara, and Stephen Lang and Rose McGowan as the villains Khalar Zym and Marique. It is directed by Marcus Nispel.

It is a Continuity Reboot of the Conan film franchise, again revisiting his Origin Story, though it takes a fair few elements from the first two Conan films which starred Arnold Schwarzenegger. On the other hand, the movie retains many quintessential elements of a good Conan story: a Distressed Damsel, an Evil Sorceress, an Evil Overlord, even an Artifact of Doom for everyone to quarrel over. Of course, true to its pulp origins, the movie has a lot of blood and some nudity and is extremely sword and sorcery.

Set in the distant past of the Hyborian Age, the story revolves around the Mask of Acheron, a Cool Mask made of the bones of kings, which in the even more distant past let the necromancers of Acheron take over the world - except for the barbarian tribes who combined to overthrow their empire. The mask was broken into many pieces and scattered across the lands. As is to be expected, a warlord named Khalar Zym tries to gather all the pieces and reassemble the mask, in order to bring his late wife Back from the Dead and to conquer the whole world. In the process, he tortures and kills Conan's father and burns down his hometown. Conan survives to become a vagabond warrior and thief, but swears to get his revenge one day.

Years later, Khalar Zym has completed the Mask and now seeks the last pure-blooded descendant of the Acheron rulers to sacrifice, in order to unleash the Mask's power. He and his Mooks again cross paths with Conan, who resolves to oppose them. In the course of events he runs into a female monk named Tamara, the very person Khalar Zym seeks...

Unfortunately, the film was a Box Office Bomb, only earning less than $49 million worldwide with a $90 million budget. The next Conan film, should it ever escape from Development Hell, will star Arnold Schwarzenegger again. Its tentative title is The Legend of Conan, and it's supposed to be a sequel to the first film alone.

This work contains examples of the following:

  • Action Girl: Tamara, after gradual promotion from Distressed Damsel. Marique also qualifies.
  • Adaptation Distillation/Pragmatic Adaptation: Despite the film having a mostly new plot, not using any of Howard's plots, and yet using part of the revised origin from the first Conan film, it manages to feel like a typical Conan story anyway due to using the many tropes in them. Also because Conan doesn't grow to adulthood as a slave gladiator despite losing his village again, so his background is still much closer than before.
  • Advanced Ancient Acropolis: The monastery of Shaipur. The monks (or at least their leader) can predict future and presumably spend the majority of their time studying, when everyone around them is busy with butchering each other.
  • An Axe to Grind: At times, though Cool Swords are Conan's Weapon of Choice.
  • Ancient Africa: Where else would Artus come from? One of the tribes in service to Khalar Zym appears to come from here as well. One such warrior, Ukafa, even wields a two-handed version of a khopesh, the traditional sword of ancient Egypt.
  • Annoying Arrows: Conan's father is shot by an arrow from behind, on his lower-left side. He doesn't go down, but it provides a crucial distraction for another solider to punch him in the face.
  • Anti-Hero: Conan.
  • Audible Sharpness: Nearly everything, but especially the claws.
  • Badass Normal: Tamara. While able to hold her ground one-on-one many times, she is often overwhelmed when two or three mooks attack at once.
  • The Bait: Tamara is this for Conan to lure Khalar Zym, and then for Khalar Zym (to lure Conan).
  • Barbarian Hero: First and foremost.
  • Barbarian Tribe: The Cimmerians.
  • Bar Brawl: Staged by Conan to be taken to Khalar Zym's prison.
  • Berserk Button: Conan's is slavery.
  • Big Bad: Khalar Zym.
  • Blood Magic: Performed by Marique.
  • Borrowed Biometric Bypass: Conan cuts the head off a prison guard, then holds it up to the viewing-hatch of a torture chamber's heavy wooden door. The torturer recognizes the face as a fellow guard, answers the knock, and gets belted with a severed head for his trouble.
  • Bound and Gagged: Conan does it to Tamara.
  • Burn the Witch!: Marique's mom.
  • Canon Foreigner: Uh, everyone, apart from Conan and sorcerer Yara mentioned offhandedly.
  • Casting Gag: Back in 2008 there was a project for a new Red Sonja movie to be directed by Robert Rodriguez and starring Rose McGowan. The project fell through... but now McGowan is an evil witch in the new Conan movie.
  • Catapult to Glory: Conan does this to one of Khalar Zym's minions to send him a message.
  • Cold-Blooded Torture: Even Conan does it.
  • Collapsing Lair: The Skull Cave.
  • Combat Pragmatist: Almost everyone. That's no world for old people, after all.
  • Combat Tentacles: What we see of the Dweller.
  • Continuity Reboot
  • Cool Mask: With tentacles.
  • Cool Ship
  • Cool Sword: As a part of Conan's backstory. We not only get the claymore looking Cimmerian sword, we get the sword that Conan's dad forges specifically for him. Aside from Conan, Khalar Zym wields a scimitar with 2 blades that are hinged so that one blade can be swung outward or even separated to form a second sword. Several other swords of a sort uncommonly appearing in film are used by various other warriors, such as Ukafa's two-handed khopesh and Artus' falcata.
  • Daddy's Little Villain: Marique to Khalar Zym.
  • Deadpan Snarker: Tamara. And it only enhances the tension between her and Conan.
  • Decapitation Presentation: Quite often.
  • Designated Girl Fight: Tamara and Marique.
  • Doomed Hometown
  • Double Weapon/Bifurcated Weapon: Khalar Zym has two swords connected by a hinge at the hilt. They can lock together to form a single sword with two blades, but can also separate in combat for unexpected attacks.
  • Elemental Embodiment: Marique conjure some surprisingly nimble Sand Elementals to fight Conan.
  • Even Evil Has Standards: Marique says that she can unlock the Acheronian magic and rule by her father's side just as well as his wife once did, trying to seduce him with Villainous Incest. Khalar Zym considers how much she is like her dead mother and teases her lips, only to reject her.
  • Everything Breaks: The only wood that grows in Hyboria is balsa; they make bridges, walls, benches, ships, and more bridges out of the stuff. Likewise, the only material to make chains is apparently candle wax.
  • Exact Words: Conan to Lucius:
    "You swore you will spare my life!"
    "I said, I will not kill you."
  • Eye of Newt: Marique needs blood to perform some of her magic. Also, her outfit is rather terrifying - one may wonder whether it's just a matter of personal style or, somehow, a necessity for every witch. The latter option is made even more probable by the fact that her mother used to dress in a very similar way... Then again, Marique clearly has some issues.
  • Eyepatch of Power: Ela-Shan.
  • Fanservice Extra: Conan and his crew rescue a group of men and women from slavers, with the women uniformly being buxom and topless. They're collectively listed in the credits as "Topless Wenches".
  • Fantasy Counterpart Culture: Of a mixed variety, e.g. Shaipur monastery seems to be half-Greek, half-Far Eastern in origin.
  • Five-Bad Band:
  • Fruit Cart: They don't have cars so they roll boulders downhill.
  • Groin Attack: Conan does this twice - first to a character who was a minor nuisance, and again to one of Khalar Zym's mooks near the end (a mook who conveniently had helped destroy Conan's village & people - Laser-Guided Karma indeed).
  • Heroic Fantasy: Oh so much.
  • Heroic Sacrifice: Conan's father kills himself so that Conan will survive.
  • Hot Witch: Marique.
  • Invincible Hero: Guess who?
  • Lady of Black Magic: Marique.
  • Large Ham: Both Khalar Zym and Marique.
  • The Lost Lenore: Maliva, the mother of Marique. A rare evil example.
  • Love Makes You Evil: Khalar Zym wants the Mask of Acheron so that he can resurrect his dead wife... and also conquer the world.
  • Monster Shaped Mountain: The Skull Cave. The villains stage a necromantic ceremony inside a rock formation that's shaped like a screaming skull.
  • Mythology Gag:
    • The movie was announced to be Truer To The Text but a lot of details seem to be taken from the Arnold ones anyway. Conan didn't have an Evil Overlord destroy his hometown in Howard's stories, but he did in the first Conan the Barbarian. Nor did he have a thief sidekick (of sorts), but he did in Conan the Destroyer.
    • The "Riddle of Steel" from the first film (steel, i.e. a sword, is only as strong as the one who wields it) is given a nod when Conan's father tells him "the mystery of steel" - both fire and ice are needed to forge steel into a usable blade. Similarly, a warrior must balance both the "fire" and "ice" within him.
    • To Howard's original stories. For example, just after a Bar Brawl Artus alludes to the story told by Howard in "The Tower of the Elephant". (Which would probably make even more sense if the city of thieves was not renamed from Arenjun to Argalon.)
    • The page quote is a very abbreviated quote from the Conan story Queen of the Black Coast. It's the book Conan's answer to "What is best in life?" (His life, anyway.)
    "Let me live deep while I live; let me know the rich juices of red meat and stinging wine on my palate, the hot embrace of white arms, the mad exultation of battle when the blue blades flame and crimson, and I am content. Let teachers and philosophers brood over questions of reality and illusion. I know this: if life is illusion, then I am no less an illusion, and being thus, the illusion is real to me. I live, I burn with life, I love, I slay, and am content."
    • Like the first Arnold film (which in turn took it from the first ever Conan story, The Phoenix on the Sword), the film opens with narration explaining the Hyborian Age, with very similar opening lines. However, the subplot of the Mask of Acheron is new.
    Between the years when the oceans drank Atlantis and the rise of the Sons of Aryas, there was an age undreamed of, when shining kingdoms lay spread across the world...
    • Conan's red-brown war skirt is very similar to his outfit in Conan comics published by Dark Horse Comics, particularly in the miniseries Born on the Battlefield.
  • Necromancer: Marique. Apparently, It Runs in the Family.
  • The Need For Mead: "More mead!!" is one of the first sentences pronounced by the adult Conan in the movie.
  • Old Master: In the Shaipur monastery.
  • Pint-Sized Powerhouse: When Conan is just a kid (he looks to be about ten years old) he is ambushed by a group of Pictish warriors. He kills every single one of them despite initially being unarmed.
  • Physical God: What Khalar Zym claims to be.
  • Pregnant Badass: Conan's mom. She gives him birth on a battle chariot, immediately after slaying one of her enemies, sword in hand, armoured and all. The Caesarean cut is done by the father with his sword, no less - so that a sword is the first thing seen by Conan outside of his mother's womb.
  • Race Lift: Conan is best known as being portrayed by a Caucasian (Austrian) actor, Arnold Schwarzenegger. In the 2011 film, however, he is played by Jason Momoa, a multiracial actor of Native Hawaiian, German, Irish and Native American descent.
    • According to Howard's "The Hyborian Age", the Irish and Scottish are direct descendants of the Cimmerians, while the Germanic peoples are of mixed Aesir, Vanir and Cimmerian descent. Make of that what you will.
    • Howard's writings and physical description of our protagonist also implied that Conan had reasonably dark skin, most likely a heavy tan from being out in the sun traveling so much.
  • Real Women Don't Wear Dresses: Cimerrian women are warriors and dress like it. Conan remarks that Tamara looks like a whore when he sees her in a dress and has the pirate crew get her some leather armor, apparently as a sign of respect.
  • Rescue Romance: Obviously.
  • Roaring Rampage of Revenge: Conan.
  • Scars Are Forever: Conan has quite a lot of them, and many have their stories.
  • The Sneaky Guy: Ela-Shan.
  • Truer To The Text: Despite also having a Doomed Hometown, Momoa's Conan doesn't grow up a slave like Arnold's Conan. (Arnold's Conan was trained to be an expert fighter in the ring, while Howard's idea was that Conan became an expert fighter through sheer hard living as a wanderer - on the streets, as a mercenary, etc.) He's also much more of a Lightning Bruiser than Arnold's Conan.
  • Villainous Incest: In one scene, Marique attempts to seduce her father. Khalar Zym, however, flatly rejects her advances.
  • Virgin Sacrifice: Conan has sex with the potential sacrifice before she's captured, yet it apparently makes no difference despite it being stated earlier that the sacrifice must be both of pure blood and a virgin.
  • Walking Shirtless Scene: Since Conan becomes an adult, he looks like he did not own a single shirt.
    • He wears chest armour late in the movie... the kind that is shaped like a muscled torso, and is pretty much the same colour as his skin, so he looks shirtless anyway.
  • With My Hands Tied: Conan intentionally becomes a prisoner to meet Khalar Zym face to face, and then defeats a couple of guards in spite of being handcuffed.
  • Wolverine Claws: Marique.
  • Would Hit a Girl: Conan even cuts off Marique's hand.
  • Wrecked Weapon: Corin intentionally breaks the sword to show Conan that both fire and ice are needed for steel not to perish.
  • You Killed My Father: Conan and Khalar Zym.

Conan the DestroyerFantasy FilmsD-War
ColombianaFilms of the 2010sThe Conspirator
Conan the AdventurerFranchise/Conan the BarbarianRon Perlman
Wheel of PainImageSource/Live-Action FilmsBarbarian Longhair

alternative title(s): Conan The Barbarian 2011
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