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ON FAITH & MEDIA View Comments

Conan the Barbarian

By
John P. McCarthy
Source: Catholic News Service

Bringing 21st-century moviemaking techniques to the sword-and-sorcery subgenre, the makers of "Conan the Barbarian" (Lionsgate) have delivered up a blood-saturated piece of hokum. Although visually dynamic, the 3-D action-adventure is exceedingly violent and bereft of any positive message.

In the role that brought Arnold Schwarzenegger to prominence back in 1982, Jason Momoa plays the eponymous warrior. Bent on avenging his father's murder, which he witnessed as a boy (after literally being born on the battlefield), Conan pursues the culprit, Khalar Zym (Stephen Lang), throughout the mythical land of Hyboria.

The stakes are raised when warlord Zym and his half-witch daughter, Marique (Rose McGowan), kidnap the last descendant of the House of Acheron, a martial arts maiden named Tamara (Rachel Nichols). Tamara's blood has the ability to reanimate an ancient mask, thus giving Zym supreme powers.

About two-thirds of the way in, Conan expresses his philosophy: "I live. I love. I slay...I am content." He's right about the slaying part, but the only values he upholds are filial loyalty and an antipathy toward slavery. Regrettably, he demonstrates the latter by urging freed slaves to kill their former captor in a distinctly cruel and inhumane manner.

With Marcus Nispel—who specializes in directing remakes (such as 2003's "The Texas Chainsaw Massacre" and 2009's "Friday the 13th")—at the helm, the production values are quite impressive. The expected cheesiness is minimized by solid cinematography and special effects; and the 3-D format proves more of a plus than is often the case.

As for the plot, the three credited screenwriters—Thomas Dean Donnelly, Joshua Oppenheimer and Sean Hood—attempt to ground the mayhem in a relatively detailed legend about the pagan milieu, based on the 1930s pulp fiction of Conan creator Robert E. Howard. Alas, with few respites from the brutality, the story quickly becomes irrelevant.

As one fight sequence follows another, blood appears to begin spurting even before the sword blows have landed.

No mercy is shown for anyone on, or off, the screen. And since no social or moral values, other than those mentioned above—and, perhaps, brute physical courage—are actually affirmed, the numerous objectionable elements listed below stand out all the more starkly.

The film contains pervasive graphic violence -- including decapitations, severed limbs and torture—explicit nonmarital sexual activity, considerable upper female and brief rear male nudity, some sexual innuendo and one instance of crude language. The Catholic News Service classification is O—morally offensive. The Motion Picture Association of America rating is R—restricted. Under 17 requires accompanying parent or adult guardian.

*****
John P. McCarthy is a guest reviewer for Catholic News Service.



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John Paul II: “Open wide the doors to Christ,” urged John Paul II during the homily at the Mass when he was installed as pope in 1978. <br /><br />Born in Wadowice, Poland, Karol Jozef Wojtyla had lost his mother, father and older brother before his 21st birthday. Karol’s promising academic career at Krakow’s Jagiellonian University was cut short by the outbreak of World War II. While working in a quarry and a chemical factory, he enrolled in an “underground” seminary in Kraków. Ordained in 1946, he was immediately sent to Rome where he earned a doctorate in theology. <br /><br />Back in Poland, a short assignment as assistant pastor in a rural parish preceded his very fruitful chaplaincy for university students. Soon he earned a doctorate in philosophy and began teaching that subject at Poland’s University of Lublin. <br /><br />Communist officials allowed him to be appointed auxiliary bishop of Kraków in 1958, considering him a relatively harmless intellectual. They could not have been more wrong! <br /><br />He attended all four sessions of Vatican II and contributed especially to its <em>Pastoral Constitution on the Church in the Modern World</em>. Appointed as archbishop of Kraków in 1964, he was named a cardinal three years later. <br /><br />Elected pope in October 1978, he took the name of his short-lived, immediate predecessor. Pope John Paul II was the first non-Italian pope in 455 years. In time, he made pastoral visits to 124 countries, including several with small Christian populations. <br /><br />He promoted ecumenical and interfaith initiatives, especially the 1986 Day of Prayer for World Peace in Assisi. He visited Rome’s Main Synagogue and the Western Wall in Jerusalem; he also established diplomatic relations between the Holy See and Israel. He improved Catholic-Muslim relations and in 2001 visited a mosque in Damascus, Syria. <br /><br />The Great Jubilee of the Year 2000, a key event in John Paul’s ministry, was marked by special celebrations in Rome and elsewhere for Catholics and other Christians. Relations with the Orthodox Churches improved considerably during his ministry as pope. <br /><br />“Christ is the center of the universe and of human history” was the opening line of his 1979 encyclical, <em>Redeemer of the Human Race</em>. In 1995, he described himself to the United Nations General Assembly as “a witness to hope.” <br /><br />His 1979 visit to Poland encouraged the growth of the Solidarity movement there and the collapse of communism in central and eastern Europe 10 years later. He began World Youth Day and traveled to several countries for those celebrations. He very much wanted to visit China and the Soviet Union but the governments in those countries prevented that. <br /><br />One of the most well-remembered photos of his pontificate was his one-on-one conversation in 1983 with Mehmet Ali Agca, who had attempted to assassinate him two years earlier. <br /><br />In his 27 years of papal ministry, John Paul II wrote 14 encyclicals and five books, canonized 482 saints and beatified 1,338 people. <br /><br />In the last years of his life, he suffered from Parkinson’s disease and was forced to cut back on some of his activities. <br /><br />Pope Benedict XVI beatified John Paul II in 2011, and Pope Francis canonized him in 2014. American Catholic Blog Lord, may I have balance and measure in everything—except in Love. —St. Josemaría Escrivá

 
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