The remake of Conan the Barbarian hits theaters today, and you've got your meat skewers and leather nutslinger ready to go. The problem? Conan the Barbarian is a cult classic that has already spawned a series of bad sequels and imitators, and unfortunately it has now spawned a bad remake as well. But you need womb-ripping, sword-licking, eyebrow-bunching action this weekend! And Conan is your only option. We completely understand. So here's a list of rules that should help you make the best of this uneven movie experience.
Rule 1: Marijuana
I know what you're saying: "But Annalee, you always tell us to watch bad movies with marijuana. How is this any different?" OK, I'll admit that's true. But this movie really is the perfect pot flick, and not in a get-stupid-and-you-won't-give-a-fuck way. It's basically crafted around your stoner needs. There are no complicated plot twists. The two main characters — Conan and bad guy Zym — have already played these exact roles (barbarian, bad guy) in Game of Thrones and Avatar respectively. So you won't be confused at all. Even if you are so high that you forget what you're watching, you'll still be able to follow the action if you remember it's Barbarian Guy and Bad Guy.
Also, there is a lot of eating. Watch Conan eat a kebab! Watch Conan eat barbecue! Are you hungry? Don't worry, dude, I totally brought a ton of popcorn and chocolate pellet things to eat. Actually, Rule 1, Subsection 1, should be Don't Forget To Bring Munchies.
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Basically my point is that this movie isn't just accidentally appealing for people who have safely and legally activated their cannabinoid receptors. It was carefully crafted to be watched under the influence. If you don't have some pot before watching Conan, you're basically missing out on the director's vision. You're committing a crime against art, against Hollywood, and Crom himself. I recommend at least 5 hits. Fortified with kief, if possible.
Rule 2: Um, I Forget
Here's the thing about this version of Conan. Even if you're regretfully sober when you venture into the theater, it is imminently forgettable. The writers try to recreate the philosophical weightiness of original Conan's most memorable lines ("Tell us what is best in life, Conan!" "To crush your enemies, see them driven before you, and hear the lamentation of their women!"). But they do it with this weak assertion from new Conan: "I live, I love, I slay - I am content." Actor Jason Momoa, who looks fabulous as our titular barbarian, just can't make these lame lines sing the way Schwarzenegger did in the original. C'mon, without lamentation and crushing, what's the point?
The same goes for a lot of other stuff in this flick. We've got Conan's quest — to kill evil Zym, whose soldiers destroyed Conan's village — and his thief buddy helping out. There's a sort of half-hearted fight with some tentacled things and dust zombies raised by the painfully underused Rose McGowan, who nails it as the gothy, witchy daughter of Zym. There's a swordy fight between Conan and Zym which is merely OK. The whole affair, despite a lot of satisfyingly gory smackdowns with great blood effects, felt kind of mechanical. I wanted more manly talk of swords and steel.
What I really wanted was for the whole movie to be like its first ten minutes, where Conan is born after his mother knifes him out of her womb during battle — and then we see little Conan slay a whole passel of barbarians and bring their heads home to daddy. Now that is some good shit. Sadly, once Conan is a grownup, all that bugfuck insanity is left behind.
Although Zym is played with grimacing competence by Stephen Lang, he also doesn't seem powerful or menacing enough. His evil becomes even less awesome after we find out about the incestuous subplot with his daughter, whom he wants to use to resurrect his dead wife, but not before he snuggles up Chester the Molester style with her. Yes, he's evil and obsessed, but this isn't an art movie about fucked up families in suburbia, people. It's Conan! Give us a bad guy who uses his power for range weapons of extreme blistering kickassery.
Also, WTF with the super prissy lady monk sidekick for Conan? She can punch ninjas in the face and whirl a sword around, but she still screams "eeek"? And looks all "ooh what did I do?" when she stabs a guy in the chest? Conan is supposed to be so tough that he only likes women in armor, so what does he see in little miss Katy Perry? Please let me forget I ever saw the boring sex scene between Conan and Katy.
That said, you'll want to remember the cool sets (the thieves' city and Skull Cave are particularly rad), and the few scenes where Conan poses with his sword and gives the old scrunchy-eyebrow look. Casting Momoa was a great idea.
Rule 3: Re-watch the original Conan the Barbarian
Did you know the original flick was co-written by Oliver Stone? And it was directed by John Milius, who wrote Apocalypse Now. It's a slow, weird, meandering flick with scenes where Conan is enslaved and forced to have sex like a stud bull in a cage while men watch and make noises like "gaw" and "ugh." Conan gets high and punches a camel. Then he hooks up with a true barbarian lady (hot sex included) who would eat Katy Perry's head as an appetizer.
There's also the crucial Voiceover Guy who tries to pull "morals of the story" from scenes where Conan gets drunk and faceplants into his stew. We spend long minutes watching Conan chewing chicken and mumbling about Crom, and then suddenly he's being raped by a pointy-toothed witch. And James Earl Jones as the evil wizard Thulsa Doom is just so freaky and badass that he transcends B-movie status into whatever stratosphere is reserved for campy/amazing villains like Zod and Ming.
And the fighting! Sublime in its aimlessness.
The original Conan is exactly the kind of bizarro genius, over-the-top movie that absolutely deserves its status as a cult classic. You want to know what is best in life this weekend? Renting the original Conan. I mean, after you've gotten stoned and watched the remake.