The first thing that happens in “Conan the Barbarian” is that a pregnant woman gets stabbed in the gut on a medieval battlefield, sending her into labor and requiring her husband (who luckily is fighting nearby) to cut her some more to get the baby out. Not to be a pessimist here, but if your military is so understaffed that women who are nine months pregnant are considered fit for active duty, I don’t think you’re going to win the war.
The baby, of course, is Conan. He was born to be a warrior!! And, eventually, a talk-show host. Next time we see him, he’s an adolescent boy (played by Leo Howard) being raised by his father (Ron Perlman), the head barbarian in their village of barbarians. Li’l Conan wants to fight with the grown-ups, but Dad doesn’t think he’s ready. Sorry, son! Not till you’re older, and/or pregnant! But Li’l Conan proves his mettle by defeating a handful of rival barbarians out in the forest, whereupon he and Dad make a sword and have a training montage.
Anyway, Conan is eventually played by Jason Momoa, a tall surfer-dude type who — and these are not words I thought I’d ever say — doesn’t have as much charisma as Arnold Schwarzenegger. It is Conan’s destiny to prevent the wicked Khalar Zym (Stephen Lang) and his witch daughter (Rose McGowan) from defeating all the clans and assembling the magical artifacts and locating the right virgin to sacrifice in order to harness unspeakably evil powers, and so on. You know how these stories go.
The problem with this one (a reboot of the tales from Robert E. Howard’s 1930s pulp novels, and a quasi-remake of the 1982 Schwarzenegger favorite) is that it never lives up to the level of over-the-top tastelessness of that first outrageous scene. Directed by horror-remake guy Marcus Nispel (“The Texas Chainsaw Massacre,” “Friday the 13th”), the film is plenty violent — but usually in a way that’s merely bloody and ugly, not twisted. Most of the time it’s just generic sword-and-sorcery cheese, without wit or imagination, and a lot of the time it’s just plain boring. Were it not for the buckets of CGI blood and regular appearances by naked breasts, you’d think you had stumbled across a SyFy Channel original movie.
C- (1 hr., 52 min.; )