A quest that begins as a personal vendetta for the fierce Cimmerian warrior soon turns into an epic battle against hulking rivals, horrific monsters, and impossible odds, as Conan realizes he is the only hope of saving the great nations of Hyboria from an encroaching reign of supernatural evil.
There are a handful of films that may seem like sure bets in theory, but in execution are complete failures in my eyes. I honestly can't think of a better film for that category than 2011's Conan The Barbarian. I am a huge fan of the cheese factor that makes up the 1982 Schwarzenegger version, but a modern-day version with updated effects should be sure to hit my sweet spot.
The plot here is your standard revenge story. Conan (Jason Momoa) seeks revenge on an evil dictator named Khalar Zym (an almost unrecognizable Steven Lang) for the death of his father Corin (Ron Perlman). Unfortunately, this film is incompetent in almost every way compared to the previous instalments, largely due to the fact that the revenge plot is boring, but the bigger issue is that the action here feels uninspired and shot in a perfunctory manner. The action scenes are staged in such a way that large battle scenes feel like a group of men in a field "Larping."
For a more extensive review of Conan The Barbarian check out our review of the 2011 Blu-ray release Here.
Vital Disc Stats: The Ultra HD Blu-ray
Conan The Barbarian hits Ultra HD courtesy of Lionsgate, with slipcover packaging and some cool as hell box art that may just be the best thing about the movie. Can I get more of that in the actual movie please? Enclosed in the hardcover keep case is a BD-60 Ultra HD Blu-ray, a standard Blu-ray, and a digital HD ultraviolet code. Once we hit play, the Ultra HD disc brings us straight to an animated menu that lets us navigate from there.
Conan The Barbarian battles his way onto Ultra HD with brute force, featuring a 2160p HEVC/.H265 encode that doesn’t quite hit the high marks of some of its predecessors with this format. While being shot in 35mm and mastered at a 2K source, the results are timid. Clarity doesn’t get the biggest bump, but detail gets the bigger uptick. Corin’s cool as hell furs he wears have quite a bit of detail, displaying every individual hair expertly. Framed at a 2:40.1 aspect ratio, CG moments also get a decent upgrade with scenes like the sand skeleton fight looking noticeably better in comparison to its standard Blu-ray counterpart.
HDR gets the biggest uptick, with shadow details having a decent upgrade, but even more impressive is the upgraded color spectrum. Colors don’t look as washed out on this transfer than on previous transfers, allowing for a more three-dimensional picture. Unfortunately, if you couldn’t tell, these upgrades are a minor compared to some of the excellent Ultra HD transfers we have had as of late.
Lionsgate seeks its revenge on Ultra HD with Conan the Barbarian, featuring a Dolby Atmos track (decodes into a Dolby TrueHD 7.1 track) that feels like a bit of an afterthought. Starting with the positive, this is a more dynamic track than its Standard Blu-ray counterpart. Fidelity is actually great here with battle scenes feeling more robust and expansive. That might sound like faint praise, but in reality it is key since it is the only thing selling what is on screen when everything else lets itself down.
My problem with this track comes with the use of the height speakers. They just aren’t used well. I honestly can’t think of one instance where they were used to aid the score. But, since the score wasn’t mixed with Dolby Atmos in mind, it blends in with the other speakers far too often. I found myself putting my ear to them to check for signs of life. This may sound like a nitpick, but when Atmos first came out this is more or less what I was afraid of: throwing something generic in the height speakers and calling it a day. With that being said, this isn’t a bad track by any means; it’s just an unimpressive, uninspired one.
There are very few “swords and sandals” based revenge flicks that I am this ambivalent on. I usually eat them up and watch them multiple times, or actively hate them for betraying the genre. I actually don’t hate Conan The Barbarian. It’s just a really dull revenge story with nothing to redeem itself, or set itself apart for that matter. I feel like if you asked me about any one aspect of the film my answer would just be “mehhh.” How’s the plot? “Mehhh.” How’s the visuals? “Mehhh.” How’s the acting? “Mehhh.” In fact, that trickles all the way down to the disc as well. It’s just kind of mehhh all around. So, if you like mehhh films to put on in the background, then be sure to pick this up. If not, there is no reason to, especially with the great Ultra HD releases that have been coming out lately, and are just around the corner.