Reboots and remakes. A necessary evil? Or just a money grab by the studios, using our nostalgia against us? Regardless of how you feel, the trend is showing no signs of slowing down. Actually, now that I think of it, this isn’t a trend… trends go out of style eventually, and remakes have been around for a long while. So let’s take a look at the 2011 reboot of Conan the Barbarian, brought to us on 4K UHD by Lionsgate.
When you say the name Conan out loud, most people will immediately picture Arnold Schwarzenegger with some truly special hair and a giant sword. Even if you never saw the original movies, this image is easily recalled — Arnie’s portrayal in the classic film is extremely iconic as the ultimate muscular warrior. Some people may even remember the comic books that started the legend of Conan. The point is, even people who haven’t seen the originals or read the comics know the name.
So, rebooting a franchise that has decades of followers, cult status, and public perceptions is a hell of an undertaking. In 2011, we got a peek at Marcus Nispel’s take on the legend. Nispel’s vision begins at the beginning, so to speak. After a short animated introduction (which shows us of a helm that grants it’s host an evil power) we witness Conan’s birth, where his father (Ron Perlman) cuts him from his mother’s womb as she lies dying on the battlefield. Right off the bat we are shown that this is going to be a bloody and savage film, which some viewers will no doubt love. There is little doubt that the tone and style of this film have been deliberately set in this opening scene, an obvious departure from the less serious originals.
We skip around a bit in Conan’s formative years, watching some coming of age style encounters, establishing him as a warrior type. The most important of these scenes includes a warlord named Khalar Zym, played by the incredible Stephen Lang. Zym is restoring the mask we saw in the introduction, hoping to become the ultimate power in the land. Conan’s father leads the fight against Zym, getting killed in the process. Say hello to the revenge motivation, and prepare yourself for the showdown.
At this point, we should probably touch on Jason Momoa as Conan. His name might not be familiar, but you know who this man is. Not only is he starring in the upcoming DC movies as Aquaman, he’s mostly famous from his role as Khal Drogo in Game of Thrones. He is sufficiently big and menacing, and has just enough of the meathead look to him that, to me, makes him a pretty good choice for the role. It’s hard to do any direct comparisons between him and Arnold because the tone is so different, but overall, I felt like he was appropriately cast.
So we have our setup – warrior man out for revenge and an evil warlock with a legendary mask of power. The only problem is that we are missing one thing – Conan must have a love interest, right?
The tone, savagery, and bloodshed are definite highlights in this film. It’s got style for sure. However, there are some issues that hinder this from becoming a classic like the originals. The introduction of Tamara as his love interest is a big one. Not that she isn’t an interesting character, or that a love plot doesn’t add to the story — it just comes across so formulaic that it’s hard to really care. In fact, a lot of the story overall feels like a checklist being marked off as we go.
In the end, we see the battle you would expect, which delivers some decent fighting, but overall was a bit lackluster. Fans of Conan are likely to be disappointed, but to the younger audience, this is a suitable action flick, even if it won’t become a classic.
It might be a bit of a surprise that Lionsgate would choose this title from their catalog to get the 4K treatment, but when you look at the picture quality, that shock dissipates. It is a highly stylized film (think 300 type style here) that looks gorgeous on 4K, with fantastic coloring, textures that pop, and impressive dark blacks.
The audio quality is equally as exciting, with a massive amount of surround channel usage. All sorts of exciting little effects that stood out to me throughout the film that kept me interested and drawn in. This is yet another example of Dolby Atmos being a worthy upgrade.
As we’ve seen in other Lionsgate catalog releases, we are getting the same special features from the Blu-ray release, on both the Blu-ray and UHD discs.
- Audio Commentary with Director Marcus Nispel
- Audio Commentary with Jason Momoa and Rose McGowan
- The Conan Legacy – Cast and crew discussing the inspirations from other Conan films and sources.
- Robert E. Howard: The Man Who Would Be Conan – a short biographical feature about Conan’s creator.
- Battle Royal: Engineering the Action – Fight choreography
- Staging the Fights – Another look into the fighting, with side by side comparisons with rehearsal footage.
As is becoming the standard with UHD releases, Conan the Barbarian comes with a slick looking shiny slipcover with matching art in the black Amaray case. Inside, you get a UV slip, and two discs (UHD and Blu-ray). The UHD disc has matching art with the case which looks quite nice.
Conan 4K UHD Final Thoughts:
This reboot definitely doesn’t follow in the footsteps of it’s original, but it’s a decent enough action flick that is visually exciting and sounds fantastic. Die hard Conan fans should probably shy away, but if you just want to see a mountain of muscle bashing his way to history, then this one is just fine. As with almost anything you can find it on Amazon.
Note: This Blu-ray was sent to us for review. This has not affected our judgement or editorial process in any way. Please contact us if you have any questions regarding this process.