I saw the new Conan movie yesterday. A paint-by-numbers Hollywood plot, but certainly not as bad as the newspaper reviewers say. It’s very watchable entertainment if you know what “pulp” is, and it’s not as smothered with political correctness as I’d feared. It starts very well indeed, anchored by the memorable Ron Perlman (Hellboy) and by the accomplished boy actor who plays Conan as a child. The film’s world-design is well established, and the editing is first-class. The action sequences all look terrific throughout the film, are exciting, and are crisply shot and edited. As with many action movies, it’s the ‘love interest’ who drags it down. Here we get a dull ‘Hollywood eye-candy’ female lead with a hideously contemporary American accent — you’ll yearn for the moments when she stops talking with Conan and gets into some fighting. The dialogue in general occasionally creaks badly as the film progresses. The mattes and scenery are very accomplished, and imaginative within the genre restrictions. The narrators’ voiceover lacks gravity or conviction, and the sense of travelling long distances is not conveyed effectively — there’s a great map in the intro but we never see it again. The sound design is workmanlike, but doesn’t add to the movie in any real way. The music does its job but is completely unmemorable. Overall it’s a rather flawed but entertaining sword & sorcery movie, and one that’s surprisingly faithful to the spirit of the Robert E. Howard stories as I remember them.

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