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Conan the Barbarian (2011) blu-ray
Reviewed by Mark Finn, © 2011

Format: Movie
By:   Marcus Nispel (director)
Genre:   Conan!
Review Date:   November 22, 2011

I don’t need to tell any of you that I’m a fan of Robert E. Howard, nor that I’ve written extensively about the man and his literary works. If you want to know how I felt about the most recent cinematic offering of Conan, you can read the review right here.

Since the film is the same as what was shown in theaters, I want to instead talk about the blu-ray itself. The transfer was excellent; no artifacts or any pixelated nonsense. But this is hardly news. After all, it’s a modern film, mostly composited in a large computer. Of course it’s going to be a crisp transfer.

The extras in the blu-ray set are a nice surprise. In addition to the standard "Behind the scenes" footage of the actors plotting out sword fights and the like, we are treated to two documentaries about Conan and Robert E. Howard, respectively.

Taken as a whole, they represent a major course correction to the idea that Robert E. Howard was a nutjob.

That was an idea freely floated on the OTHER Conan the Barbarian DVD, in which a maniacally gleeful John Milius regales the audience with half-remembered and mostly-forgotten lore about Robert E. Howard that is so inaccurate as to be libelous. There’s no telling how many people have seen his colorful, wrong-headed remarks.

Thankfully, the producers of these two documentaries did something right: they interviewed me.

Not on camera, but we had a couple of great conversations via telephone about Howard and Conan and his genius and the things that made him tick.

I was very overt with my disdain for Milius’ comments. Even though I’m not on camera, a number of familiar faces are. Paul M. Sammon, Rob Roehm, Fred Malmberg, and even Roy Thomas, all chime in at various points to more accurately round out Robert E. Howard for an audience that likely doesn’t know anything about him.

If you don’t know who those gentlemen are, that’s okay. Suffice to say, they know what they are talking about. I was also consulted, along with Rusty Burke and a few others, which was quite nice.

All of the extras, from the construction of a fight scene, on down to the casual-cool commentary by Jason Momoa, are real stand-outs. Between all of the extras and the commentary, I basically have confirmation that there were too many cooks in the kitchen, and they weren’t all making the same recipe.

That said, the blu-ray is very enjoyable and holds up quite nicely (and, I think, better) on the TV.

I’m going to keep my fingers crossed that somehow, some way, Momoa gets another shot at playing Conan. In the meantime, this set makes a great stocking stuffer for the barbarian fan in your house who has everything. If you were on the fence about checking it out, let me assure you that the bonus materials will not disappoint, at the very least.

Read RevolutionSF investigative nerd journalism about how to pronounce Conan.

More from Mark Finn is at his Finn's Wake site.

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