Thoughts: The structure of Conan The Barbarian is the structure that every true action film should adhere to. It has the requisite main battles and note-perfect climaxes, but all that boring inbetween stuff like plotting and characterization is punctured and laced through with tiny little scuffle and action moments that never allow the pace to slacken. Conan is, simply put, one of the most action-filled films I've ever seen, bar The Raid. Movement is constant and flowing, and the plot and characters are adequately fleshed out- for a true action film. There's nothing more an action fan could ask for.
The film follows the story of the eponymous battle-born Cimmerian right from moment of birth- in the midst of a large scale conflict. He is literally torn from his fatally wounded mother's womb, and exposed to the world. Of course, this literally transfers to him being a bad-ass by birthright. It wouldn't really work if through his violent entry it led to him being a scrawny, mild-mannered banker now would it. Anyway, resident bad dude Khalar Zym (Stephen Lang) and his witchy daughter (Rose McGowan, later) bust into town chasing after pieces of a Macguffin known as the Mask Of Shazbot or something. Once collected, all one needs is the blood of a pure woman, and you can do funky things like raise the dead and take over the world, apparently. So the entire race of Cimmerians are slaughtered, and young Conan's dad is killed right in front his eyes. Needless to say, Conan gets all growed up and played convincingly by Jason Momoa, and he's off to take sweet, sweet revenge. And of course he runs into the aforementioned pure woman (Rachel Nichols) and decides to help her too- help that turns to out to be- what else- killing Khalar Zym! So it all works out.
The actors do fine, with Stephen Lang and Rose McGowan hamming it up suitably. I personally loved all the overacting and general evil-ness that is layered so thickly over the whole production. It really ties in well with the insanely over-the-top blood and violence on display. And WHAT blood and violence! It's almost like all the human beings are big ripe tomatoes just waiting to be stomped. You throw a dude against a wall, and he leaves a massive ketchup stain. Heads pop like rockmelons attacking a deadblow hammer. limbs are severed and bodies ripped in twain. It is all, frankly, quite glorious.
And the action is fantastic as well. There's the awesome main set pieces, such as the fight with sand-born demon ninjas, and the massive octopus showdown towards the end. All are well shot, and full of great sword-clanging and slicing. Personally though, I really loved all the mini fights scattered throughout. They display a great sense of space and capture these great moments of swordsmanship and badassery that are commonly lost in other films. Basically, it takes Conan himself from a man who speaks with large words to convey his awesome, and turns him into a man who displays his awesome through his skills. It is a small shift that turns a common film into a great one, in my opinion.
Of course, if you're not one for hammy, bloody fantasy actioners, then you'll probably not want to touch this with a 20 foot pole. The story can be summed up in about 2 sentences, and characters never really progress beyond their desires. But in my opinion, a great action film can easily be defined by the skill it displays in effectively producing its one proper commodity- captivating and entertaining action. And in my eyes, Conan The Barbarian fulfils that task effortlessly.