Ad Fidelity: 'Conan the Barbarian'

by Ray Subers
Conan the Barbarian

August 18, 2011

Editor's Note: Ad Fidelity is a new movie review feature that compares the core elements of a movie's marketing campaign with the reality of what's on screen. The purpose is to show whether or not a movie lives up to the promises of its advertising and to shed light on a movie's potential long-term playability.

Lionsgate's marketing for Conan the Barbarian has focused on R-rated slaying, the movie's fantasy world and, to a lesser extent, 3D.

Marketing: With his people betrayed, Conan unleashes a heaping of R-rated violence in his quest for vengeance.
Reality: Conan the Barbarian is essentially 112 minutes of non-stop violent action, broken down in to at least ten separate battle scenes. It's fairly gory, though the camera rarely lingers long enough for the full impact (there is a memorable scene involving someone's nose, though, that got the crowd riled up). Also, the scenes tend to follow the same general pattern: bad guys attack, Conan and friends fend them off, and so on.

Marketing: The tagline "Enter an Age Undreamed Of" and the inclusion of sand monsters and an otherworldly sea creature indicate that Conan transports audiences to a unique fantasy realm.
Reality: The movie traverses around a dozen locales in the mythical world of Hyboria, and, while many of them are desert-based, there is enough variation that they don't completely blend together. Most of the fantasy elements stem from the witch Marique (Rose McGowan), and the driving motivation of the main villain (Stephen Lang) is to achieve god-like power thanks to the reconstruction of a mystical mask. Overall, there's a lot of fantastical creatures and magic here, though not as much as, say, The Lord of the Rings.

Marketing: While the 3D has had a declining importance in the campaign, it's still highlighted in many commercials and on the posters.
Reality: With objects and blood flying out of the screen and swords pointing at the audience, the 3D effects are used in pretty standard ways throughout Conan. A substantial portion of the movie is set in the daytime too, which makes the 3D a bit easier to process. However, the last two major set pieces are unfortunately in the dark, and the quick cuts employed by director Marcus Nispel can occasionally make the 3D disorienting. Ultimately, this is middle-of-the-road 3D, and, if you have any concerns about getting a headache from it, you should definitely opt for the traditional route.

Box Office Implications: Conan should satiate action and fantasy junkies but won't do much for anyone else, so it should experience substantial drops after opening weekend.

Conan the Barbarian was screened at AMC Burbank 16 on Wednesday, Aug. 17. The crowd appeared to be at least partially populated by folks who won a radio giveaway, and their frequent applause seemed to wane as the movie progressed.

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Marketing Links:
Theatrical Trailer
Teaser Trailer
Theatrical Poster
Teaser Poster #2
Teaser Poster #1

More Ad Fidelity:
'Fright Night'
'Final Destination 5'
'30 Minutes or Less'
'The Change-Up'
'Rise of the Planet of the Apes'

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