Conan the Barbarian (2011) (Blu-ray)
Featurette-(18:01) The Conan Legacy 1080p.
Featurette-(11:24) R.E.Howard : The Man Who Would Be Conan 1080p.
Featurette-Making Of-(9:55) Battle Royal : Engineering the Action 1080p.
Featurette-Making Of-(5:47) Staging the Fights 1080p.
Trailer-(2:04) Start up : The Inbetweeners 1080p.
|Year Of Production||2011|
|RSDL / Flipper||No/No||Cast & Crew|
|Region Coding||4||Directed By||Marcus Nispel|
Roadshow Home Entertainment
|Pan & Scan/Full Frame||Auto Pan & Scan Encoded||
English DTS HD Master Audio 5.1
English Descriptive Audio Dolby Digital 2.0
|Widescreen Aspect Ratio||2.40:1|
|Original Aspect Ratio||2.40:1||Miscellaneous|
|Subtitles||English for the Hearing Impaired||Smoking||No|
|Annoying Product Placement||No|
|Action In or After Credits||Yes, Four minutes before maintitle.|
After watching the new version of Conan the Barbarian, extremely sumptuous and gorgeous looking in its standard 2D Blu-Ray edition, I asked myself if the world really needed another Conan? I don't think so. Nor, so it seems, did the movie-going public. Arnold Schwarzenegger was and always will be the definitive Conan. Arnold was the biggest, most muscular, most barbaric Conan imaginable. So, although there are pleasures to be had from this new Conan, you can't help feeling that a computer generated Arnold may have been better received than this new, more sleek barbarian.
The film begins with Morgan Freeman delivering the obligatory voice-over prologue that usually has me feeling that I should be making notes for a test to be conducted at the end of the film. Since the original Star Wars I have learned that this is all unimportant guff, and merely sets up just who are the goodies and who are the baddies and what is, as Alfred Hitchcock would say, "the McGuffin". In this instance the prologue establishes the existence of a mask which has been broken into four - I think - pieces. Whoever puts the pieces back together gains "unspeakable evil power". So, the baddies want the final piece, which at the beginning of the action of the film is in the hands of Corin (Ron Perlman). We witness the bloody - extremely bloody - birth of Corin's son, whom the spent mother names "Conan" with her last gasp. We jump ahead to see an adolescent Conan (Leo Howard / Logan) prove his manhood in battle, slicing off his foe's nose. A marauding warlord, Khalar Zym (Stephen Lang / Men Who Stare at Goats) is seeking the missing piece of the mask, gruesomely slaying Corin before young Conan's eyes. We then jump ahead to Conan in his strapping young manhood, all streaming shoulder length locks, glistening biceps, abs and pecs. Jason Momoa, whose career began in Baywatch, is a darkly exotic, handsome young man, with a splendid torso, who looks like he has just stepped out of an aftershave TV commercial. In fact, Momoa looks more like the original Conan than Arnold ever did. More lithely muscled, he is undeniably good to look at as he wields his sword above his head, ready to slice bits and pieces from his foes. And there certainly is a lot of slicing going on here, with bodies hacked and maimed in extremely gruesome detail.
Along his bloody way Conan picks up a couple of buddies (Nonzo Anozie and Said Taghmaoui) to assist him combat Zym and his fabulously evil, Goth-like daughter Marique. In this role the normally gorgeous Rose McGowan (Planet Terror) is transformed into a truly memorable screen villainess, the epitome of evil and debauchery. The talented actress has lots to do, but what fun it would have been to see her torture a stripped Conan ! She'd have shown him a thing or two. Nevertheless, Marique and her dad need a "pure blood" in order to finally attain their goal of supreme evil power, and this turns out to be a comely young woman, Tamara (Rachel Nichols / TV's Criminal Minds). Conan joins forces with the desperate young lady, and of course they initially spat before ending up coupling, discreetly naked and bathed in a golden glow. Think those lurid covers of the pulp historical romances which abound in bookshops. Oiled buttocks and nipples glistening, but rather tame.
Performances are uniformly solid, beginning with a restrained Ron Perlman thirty years on from his big screen debut in the truly epic and unforgettable Quest for Fire in 1981. Lang and McGowan are exemplary villains and Rachel Nichols is decorative and more real than one would expect. As I have said, Jason Momoa looks good, and performs with agility, strength and some style. It would be nice if there had been some humour and a bit more lust in the performance. Generally the director, Marcus Nispel (Pathfinder), has done well, keeping the action and dialogue moving along at a brisk place. Where this film does excel is in its look and sound. The entire film is visually stunning, at times simply gorgeous to look at. There are some beautiful widescreen compositions, one early shot of the young Conan cowering in hiding on the right-hand-side of the screen, while pursuing horses hurdle over his hiding place on the left-hand-side warrants a second look. The colour is subdued, a bit of a cliché, but with sufficient saturation to bring the images alive. The sound is spectacular from beginning to end.
All in all this is an enjoyable big screen action film that looks gorgeous on Blu-ray. A bit more humour and style would have been of immense benefit, as it just takes itself too seriously. After a more than disappointing performance at the U.S. box office, I doubt that there will be a second instalment. If there is, I hope they add some humour and spice to make this undeniably attractive new Conan more enjoyable for its audience.
It is difficult to imagine a disc looking better than this.
Presented at the ratio of 2.40:1 in a 1080p transfer, the image is stunning in its clarity and detail. Add to this the sheer beauty of many of the images, courtesy of the art department, and you have a disc which I will certainly be using to demonstrate the capabilities of Blu-ray. From the first establishing shot of Corin's Cimmerian village the detail is stunning, in panoramic vistas, close-ups and the minute detail of costumes and props. Shadow detail is also superb with every dark corner of the numerous dens of evil filled with information. The colour is subdued, but does deliver a rich and satisfying palette, particularly in the countryside exteriors. Reds are very strong in the frequent torrents of blood. I could not see one flaw in the beautiful images that were delivered from this disc.
There are English Subtitles for the Hearing Impaired which were sampled and found to be excellent. Two colours are used to differentiate between speakers, with appropriate placement across the image. A third colour is used for sound effects.
There are two English audio streams : DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 and Dolby Digital 2.0 Surround Encoded. The feature was watched employing the DTS-HD 5.1 track, which gave a brilliant and exciting aural experience.
Dialogue was generally front and centre, crisp and clear with no sync problems. Apart from the dialogue, every channel is utilised to overwhelm the viewer with stunningly active sound. From clanging steel upon steel, thunderous bass, to rustling leaves and whispering breezes, the sound field is alive with action. This is really spectacular stuff. As if this wasn't enough, the original score composed by Tyler Bates (Watchmen and 2008's The Day the Earth Stood Still), is symphonic, sweepingly epic and given the full surround treatment. Despite the multitude of individual sounds, we do not end up with a mangled cacophony. Every component is delivered crisply and cleanly to the ear. This is a brilliant soundtrack.
The Descriptive Narration for the Vision Impaired was sampled and found to be excellent, as is the custom, delivered by a sedate, youngish male voice.
|Surround Channel Use|
On start-up we are served up the high-definition trailer of The Inbetweeners, presented at the ratio of 1.78:1.
The menu is presented over a very attractive graphic in the style of the comic book artwork, with audio of a section of the symphonic score. The only animation is a mass of glowing embers cascading continuously over the image, but leaving the central figure of Conan clear.
Presented in High-Definition at 1.78:1 this very interesting documentary traces the inspiration for the film through the various incarnations of Conan.
Again presented in High-Definition at 1.78:1, this is a biographical study of Conan's creator, author Robert E. Howard. Fascinating in what it does give us of the man, his fantasies and over-riding desire to be Conan himself, this is a mini-portrait that leaves us wanting to find out more about the short life of Robert E. Howard.
Same presentation as above, here we get a behind-the-scenes look at the fight choreography and staging.
Short but fascinating, here we get a pre-viz look at major fight sequences playing alongside rehearsal footage.
There is censorship information available for this title. Click here to read it (a new window will open). WARNING: Often these entries contain MAJOR plot spoilers.
NOTE: To view non-R4 releases, your equipment needs to be multi-zone compatible and usually also NTSC compatible.
The Region A combo pack has two discs.
Disc 1 contains the 3D Blu-ray version of the feature, plus the 2D Blu-ray version. Extras are the same as our local release with the addition of: :
* two feature length audio commentaries, one with director Marcus Nispel, and the second with Jason Momoa and Rose McGowan;
* 7.1 Master Audio;
* Digital Download via iTunes;
* Theatrical Trailer; and
* Spanish subtitles.
Disc 2 contains the standard DVD version of the feature film.
The Region A single disc 2D Blu-ray release has no extras.
Although this new Conan performed disappointingly at the box-office, it's not as bad as one might fear. The new man with the sword is on a different scale from Arnold, in all regards, but he's a handsome, strappingly muscled hero who looks great in action. The villains are excellent and the rest of the cast are fine. Where this film totally succeeds is in its production and presentation. Visually and aurally this is a feast that really shows what Blu-ray is capable of. The extras are meagre, but what's there is interesting. This new Conan has blood and guts by the bucketful. If only it had a bit more oomph.
|DVD||SONY BLU RAY BDP-S350, using HDMI output|
|Display||Samsung LA55A950D1F : 55 inch LCD HD. Calibrated with THX Optimizer. This display device is 16x9 capable. This display device has a maximum native resolution of 1080p.|
|Audio Decoder||Built in to DVD player. Calibrated with THX Optimizer.|
|Speakers||VAF DC-X fronts; VAF DC-6 center; VAF DC-2 rears; LFE-07subwoofer (80W X 2)|