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Film / Conan the Barbarian (2011)

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

Conan the Barbarian is a 2011 film featuring Conan of Cimmeria, the classic Barbarian Hero created by pulp 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 (Pathfinder (2007), The Texas Chainsaw Massacre (2003)).

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 novice named Tamara, the very person Khalar Zym seeks...

This work contains examples of the following:

  • Action Girl: Tamara, after gradual promotion from Distressed Damsel, turns out to be a good fighter, taking on several enemies well.
  • Action Mom: Conan's mother was a warrior woman who'd gone into battle full term by his father's side. She was killed, but not before seeing him born.
  • Actor Allusion: Ron Perlman plays Conan's father. He also voiced Conan himself in the 2007 action-adventure video game on PS3 and Xbox 360. He was also reportedly did the voice for an animated adaptation of Red Nails (the last Conan story by Howard) that was never released.
  • Advanced Ancient Acropolis: The monastery of Shaipur. The monks (or at least their leader) can predict the future and presumably spend the majority of their time studying, when everyone around them is busy with butchering each other.
  • 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 soldier to punch him in the face.
  • Audible Sharpness: Nearly everything, but especially the claws.
  • Back from the Dead: Khalar Zym and Marique, his daughter, are trying to bring back her mother Maliva, who died years ago. They perform an evil magical ritual involving the Virgin Sacrifice of Tamara, a woman whose blood is needed, who will serve as host to Maliva's soul. Conan foils this.
  • 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.
  • Baddie Flattery: Khalar Zym is impressed when young Conan attacks him openly and cuts his face trying to free his father. He lets Conan live as a result, if only for tormenting Conan's father by trying to free him from a death trap. Later too he compliments Conan when they meet again on facing him and Marique all by himself, saying he admires courage even when it's foolish.
  • The Bait: Tamara is this for Conan to lure Khalar Zym, and then for Khalar Zym (to lure Conan).
  • Bar Brawl: Staged by Conan to be taken to Khalar Zym's prison.
  • Berserk Button:
    • For Conan, it's slavery.
    • For Khalar Zim, it's telling him that the ritual to resurrect his wife won't work.
  • Beware the Skull Base: The villains stage a necromantic ceremony inside a rock formation shaped like a screaming skull.
  • Big Bad: Khalar Zym is the main villain of the piece, as an Evil Sorcerer set on retrieving a very powerful magical artifact so that he can revive his dead wife and take over the world.
  • Blood Magic: Marique needs blood to perform some of her magic.
  • 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.
  • Brick Joke: When Khalar Zym sees young Conan's spirit in trying to save his father's life, he notes "I like you, Cimmerian." Despite a But for Me, It Was Tuesday reaction when he first encounters adult Conan, as the two engage in their pitched final battle, something finally clicks.
    Zym: I don't like you anymore.
  • Burn the Witch!: Maliva, Khalar Zym's wife and Marique's mom, was burned alive for evil sorcery.
  • Canon Foreigner: Uh, everyone, apart from Conan and the sorcerer Yara, who's 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.
  • 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.
  • Damsel in Distress: Tamara is captured and then rescued multiple times by Conan, whom she enters a Rescue Romance with.
  • Dark Action Girl: Marique is a good fighter using her Wolverine Claws, and fights alongside her father Khalar Zym.
  • Daddy's Little Villain: Marique to Khalar Zym. He's the Big Bad while she's his loyal lieutenant and daughter, being very close with her father. She takes it to extremely creepy lengths though.
  • Designated Girl Fight: Tamara and Marique, the two female fighters in the film, take each other on at the end.
  • Disney Villain Death: At the end, the bridge massively high over the river of lava collapses under Khalar Zym in front of Conan, making him fall in.
    Zym: "Maliva!!!"
  • Doomed Hometown: Conan's village is burned and its people slaughtered when Khalar Zym's forces overrun it, though they put up a very good fight first.
  • Double 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.
  • The Dragon: Marique is her father Khalar Zym's right-hand woman in his quest to revive her mother and take over the world.
  • Dual Wielding: Khalar Zym when he divides his double-sword. Also there's a Bait-and-Switch when Conan finally gets the sword his father made back and grins, brandishing both that and his own... and discards his own sword.
  • Elemental Embodiment: Marique conjures some surprisingly nimble Sand Elementals to fight Conan.
  • Even Evil Has Loved Ones: Khalar Zym seems to genuinely love his daughter Marique, along with his wife, her late mother. He watched distraught as his wife was burned alive, with one of his main goals in the film being to resurrect her. Marique's love toward him also seems genuine, though in her case crosses into inappropriate feelings.
  • 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 just 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.
  • Evil Sorcerer: Khalar Zym and Marique, his daughter, both practice evil magic as did Marique's dead mother Maliva.
  • Exact Words: Conan to Lucius:
    "You swore you would spare my life!"
    "I said, I will not kill you."
  • 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. the Shaipur monastery seems to be half-Greek, half-Far Eastern in origin.
  • Fed to the Beast: Implicitly the reason that Zym keeps "The Dweller" in the tunnels underneath his prison.
  • Forced to Watch: Khalar Zym, along with his daughter Marique (then just a girl) had to watch as her mother Maliva was burned alive for evil sorcery.
  • 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 Suicide: Conan's father kills himself to ensure that Conan will survive.
  • Hoist by His Own Petard: Zym's henchman Ukafa is killed with his own khopesh when Tamara sticks it on a wall and Conan shoves Ukafa onto it.
  • Horny Vikings: The Cimmerians fight a tribe of tall, horn-helmed warriors in the prologue of the film who may or may not be Vanirmen.
  • Hot Witch: Marique is good-looking, though somewhat creepy with her very pale skin, dark makeup on her eyes and her Wolverine Claws. She wears very revealing clothes throughout the film.
  • Impaled with Extreme Prejudice: Both the female archer who partook in the sacking of Conan's village and Marique die this way.
  • Jack Bauer Interrogation Technique: Conan finds the henchman who was there when his father died, and all Conan could do then was cut his nose off. He interrogates the guy for the location of the Big Bad by putting a finger into the hole.
  • Lady of Black Magic: Marique is an elegant, deadly woman. Most of her magic is used to harm others, directly or at least indirectly and often requires blood.
  • The Lost Lenore: Maliva, the mother of Marique. A rare evil example, as her equally evil husband Khalar Zym genuinely loved her and wants to bring her Back from the Dead.
  • Love Makes You Evil: Khalar Zym wants the Mask of Acheron so that he can resurrect his dead wife... and also conquer the world.
  • Magic Knight: Khalar Zym and Marique are both skilled with evil sorcery. They are good using blades to fight too though.
  • Meaningful Echo: In the beginning, Conan's father says to Khalar Zym: "God or not, you will fall". It becomes both literal and figurative as Conan says it to Zym in the end.
  • Missing Mom: Marique's mother Maliva was burned alive for evil sorcery in the past. Her father wants to revive her.
  • Monster-Shaped Mountain: The Skull Cave. The villains stage a necromantic ceremony inside a rock formation that's shaped like a screaming skull.
  • Mr. Fanservice: Conan is a tall and handsome muscular man who spends most of the film shirtless.
  • Ms. Fanservice:
    • Marique is a Hot Witch who has quite the revealing outfit throughout the film.
    • Tamara is quite attractive. She spends a long time wearing a top which shows her cleavage, and is shown topless having sex with Conan.
  • Mythology Gag:
    "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.
  • Nay-Theist: Khalar Zim says the Cimmerians don't pray, with an armory existing as their closest equivalent to any house of worship. Conan then makes this explicit, when after Tamara wonders if the gods have a plan for them, he replies "I know not. I care not."
  • The Need for Mead: "More mead!!" is one of the first sentences pronounced by the adult Conan in the movie.
  • Not Staying for Breakfast: Tamara sneaks out while Conan's still sleeping after they have sex together. She does clearly care for him, but she doesn't want to distract from their missions.
  • Novelization: It got one by Michael Stackpole which is usually regarded as being better than the movie and closer to the original novels.
  • Physical God: What Khalar Zym claims to be.
  • 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.
  • 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.
  • Pregnant Badass: Conan's mom. She gives birth to him 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. All this after having gotten stabbed in the belly, nearly killing Conan.
  • 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.
  • Remake Cameo: Ron Perlman as Conan's father, after he voiced Conan in the 2007 video game.
  • Rescue Romance: Conan rescues Tamara from Khalar Zym multiple times, and they become lovers.
  • Scars are Forever: Conan has quite a lot of them, and many have their stories.
  • Slavery Is a Special Kind of Evil: Conan attacks slavers early in the film because he loathes slavery, saying "No man should live in chains" before doing so, freeing those they enslaved.
  • The Sneaky Guy: Ela-Shan, the thief Conan befriends in Messantia and helps break out of Lucius' slave pits.
  • Tentacled Terror: The Dweller, a big tentacled monster that lives in a flooded dungeon under Khalar Zym's castle. We don't see much of what it looks like, but it has finger-tipped tentacles.
  • Their First Time: Tamara has sex with Conan near the end of the film, consummating their obvious mutual attraction, and loses her virginity by doing so.
  • Truer to the Text: Despite also having a Doomed Hometown, Momoa's Conan doesn't grow up a slave like Arnold's Conan. He does spend a few scenes in a slave pit but it's a deliberate ploy, and we're not lead to believe he's there for more than a few hours. (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.
  • Vice City: Argalon is a city of thieves. Conan's friend Ela-Shan, a thief, goes there after Conan frees him, where he finds him to get his help with breaking into Khalar Zym's castle later.
  • 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. Although, people do speculate that her sleeping with Conan did have some effect, as the Mask seems to enhance nothing about Zim, except the one time he tries to use it to resurrect his wife, which it seems to be struggling to do.
  • Walking Shirtless Scene: Since Conan becomes an adult, he looks like he did not own a single shirt, though he wears chest armor late in the movie... the kind that is shaped like a muscled torso, and is pretty much the same color 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's main weapon is a set of metal claws on her fingers, similar to Freddy Krueger.
  • 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 seeks revenge against Khalar Zym for causing his father's death. Before this he also had killed several of Khalad's minions who'd aided him in this for revenge as well.