Conan the Barbarian (2011)

Does the only depth in this barbaric blockbuster stem from its 3D conversion?

As much as I enjoy Arnie’s 1982 take on Conan, I’d be hard pushed to describe it as anything like a faithful screen adaptation of Robert E Howard’s pulp icon. Which is why I was quite excited by the idea of somebody trying to reboot the franchise.

But any hopes that this latest version will finally bring the ‘real’ Conan to the big screen are soon dashed. While the cast acquit themselves well, the narrative itself is a tiresome and predictable romp through every fantasy genre cliché you could think of. Epic in scope, but decidedly small in ambition, it’s a real missed opportunity.

Picture: This latest version cinematic take on the big screen barbarian flexes some pretty impressive AV muscle on Blu-ray. Viewed in its 2D form, the film’s AVC 2.40:1 1080p encode is a thing of true beauty. While colours tend to be fairly muted for the most part (although the frequent splashes of blood are vividly saturated), the rest of this hi-def presentation simply scream for attention. Edges are as sharp as Conan’s sword and the quality of the fine detailing and textures evident throughout the film continually impresses.

But that’s only part of the story. Throw the disc into a 3D-capable home cinema system and you can opt to watch the film stereoscopically (as with Lionsgate’s previous 3D discs, the option to watch in 3D only appears when the disc is inserted into a compatible system). Sadly, Conan the Barbarian wasn’t shot in native 3D, but was converted in post-production, a fact that is evident from the generally uneventful nature of the stereoscopic presentation. Technical issues like crosstalk are few and far between, instead the real problem is how flat and dull the 3D experience. There’s very little convincing dimensionality found in any shot, and the added depth feels layered rather than wholly natural.
Picture rating: 4/5

Audio: While the film’s 3D visuals aren’t exactly convincing, the same cannot be said of this enveloping DTS-HD MA 7.1 soundtrack. Filled to the brim with directional effects and packing some astonishing bass, it’s the kind of track that makes up for its lack of acoustic subtlety with raw power. Remarkably, despite all of the brute force in evidence, there’s also an impressive clarity evident throughout, with everything from vocal performances to the sharp ring of clashing steel presented with perfect clarity and detail.
Audio rating: 5/5

Extras: The special features gets underway with a disappointing chat-track from director Marcus Nispel that proves most notable for the number of long silences it contains. A second, much more chatty track is provides by stars Jason Momoa and Rose McGowan. Perhaps combining the two commentaries would have been the better option in this instance? The remaining extras take the form of four all-too-short featurettes looking at Conan’s legacy, the life of Robert E Howard, shooting the film’s action scenes and pre-viz/rehearsal footage. The set also includes the trailer and a bonus DVD copy of the film.
Extras rating: 2/5

We say: This fantasy flick is surprisingly one-dimensional for a 3D Blu-ray release

Lionsgate, Region B BD/R2 DVD, £25 approx, On sale now