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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...


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:

  • 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.
  • 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 soldier to punch him in the face.
  • 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).
  • 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.
  • 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.
  • 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.
  • 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.
  • 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 Zim seems to genuinely love his daughter Marique, along with his wife, her late mother. 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.
  • Exact Words: Conan to Lucius:
    "You swore you would 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.
  • 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.
  • Five-Man Band: The evil kind.
  • 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.
  • 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.
  • 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:
    "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.
  • Novelization: It got one by Michael Stackpole which is usually regarded as being better than the movie and closer to the original novels.
  • 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.
  • 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.
  • Scars are Forever: Conan has quite a lot of them, and many have their stories.
  • 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 under Khalar Zym's castle.
  • 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.
  • 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.
  • Would Hit a Girl: Conan impales a female archer who took part in the sack of his village with a throwing spear and 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.