Conan The Barbarian (4K UHD Blu-ray Review)

Its apparently medieval, sword and sandal adventures month in September for Lionsgate’s 4K Utra-HD slate. Previously we reviewed that Hercules movie and now here comes the other September 19th release, the Jason Momoa led 2011 Conan The Barbarian relaunch. A question was asked on the 4K Ultra-HD Facebook group, “Who was asking for these?” and its a really good question. A lot of Lionsgate’s catalog 4K Ultra-HD releases seem to be that way. Dredd, Cabin in the Woods, that’s stuff people want. The only tie-in or logic I can presume here for Hercules and Conan is that they are coming out the same day as Wonder Woman and maybe fit that Amazonian vibe. Anyway, here is our review for Conan The Barbarian on the 4K Ultra-HD format.


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.

Back in 1982, Conan the Barbarian was a film that made statement and lasting impression on cinema for a significant amount of time. Not only did it launch the career of Arnold Schwarzenegger as a leading man paving his way to megasuperstardom, but it also brought on a fad of fantasy, sword and sorcery movies for the next many years. And I’m not just talking here in the state, the Italians friggin’ ran with this and were making something new every week. In 2011, the Conan The Barbarian relaunch that came, was trashed, bombed and never even made a dent. Its star Jason Momoa would take off to fame moreso with Game of Thrones, which in turn would impact the fantasy realm more than it.

I’m not against a return of Conan the Barbarian or a redo, it just needs to be in the hands of a better studio and director.  Marcus Nispel does bring in some good gore and violence, but this one also suffers from similar filmmaking problems his horror films do. The film isn’t horrible and on a purely gore/violence/fantasy exploitation level its entirely watchable or good background fodder while you’re doing things. The problem is, its also a forgettable also-ran. Which, until this 4K Ultra-HD release, who was even thinking about it aside from Jason Momoa?

Speaking of Momoa, he’s fine in the role. There’s nothing here that is commanding, new or captivating as Arnold was back in the day. But, we are talking about an honest to god deity among film legends here. It was nice in this movie to have Ron Perlman for a few seconds, and the rest of the cast is okay (I’m a solid Rachel Nicols fan, so having her here was a treat). Rose McGowan really is the most memorable here as she has not just a look to her, but she is pretty damn vile. But really being just “Okay” is really the movie’s problem. Nothing is much a standout, good or bad. I’d probably prefer a complete dumpster fire of a film that is just gunning for it, rather than something safe and overly serious like this.

No matter how you break it down, Conan the Barbarain just isn’t good enough and doesn’t really work out. I thought Rose McGowan was kinda cool and some of the blood and guts was nifty from time to time, but aside from that, there’s nothing here that’s interesting or engaging. While I mentioned the gore, there’s nothing there to make it effective aside from “Oh, cool, blood!” This is also a case of a movie or IP that I’m not sure anybody wanted or was asking for. They obviously weren’t interested, judging by box office and reviews. One even has to wonder if its the same for another go with Schwarzenegger back in the role, too.


Encoding: HEVC / H.265

Resolution: 4K (2160p)

Aspect Ratio: 2.40:1

Layers: BD-66

Clarity/Detail: Here go again, different Lionsgate film, same old story. YES, this is an improvement over the previous edition. NO, its not by much. The image is a bit stronger, confident and sharper, but its of a incremental jump up. Where it does improve is the black levels. I’m sorry if I’m sounding like a broken record with these Lionsgate 4K Ultra-HD releases, but its how it is. They are indeed upgrades, but they aren’t ones that feel they really have done more than just bump it up.

Depth:  Conan feels a bit smoother and more natural in the character movements. Background and foreground experience a little bit more three dimensional feel and distances. No blurring or jutter distortion with quick movements occurs.

Black Levels: Here’s the highlight of this transfer. The blacks are deep, dark and very natural feelings. There is a good layering to the shadows and darkness. No real details are hidden that aren’t intended to be and no crushing happened when I did this viewing.

Color Reproduction: Blues and golds/browns come across pretty strong. I don’t really see a whole lot of HDR benefits from this movie at all, but the colors do look pretty good, full and natural.

Flesh Tones: Skin tones are natural, maybe a bit warmer, and maintain a consistent look from start to finish. Facial features like stubble, wrinkles, blemishes, make-up, lip texture, dried dirt and blood and everything come in from any given distance with really good clarity.

Noise/Artifacts: Clean


Audio Format(s): English Dolby Atmos (English 7.1 Dolby TrueHD compatible), English 2.0 Dolby Digital optimized for late night listening, French 5.1 Dolby Digital

Subtitles: English, English SDH, Spanish

Dynamics: Once again, where Lionsgate yawns through the video, they really nail and improve the audio with a really terrific, intricate and loud Atmos track. From the distinct sounds of individual instruments within the music in the film to the great balance displayed with layering and overall depth, Conan really makes a nice impact and fills the room with a lot of action.

Height: There are some nice moments here and there, sparse throughout with something whizzing overhead, but its not overdone too much.

Low Frequency Extension: The subwoofer really shakes the room into place with clip clopping of horses, loud crashing battles, sword clanging, drums beating and much more.

Surround Sound Presentation: Sound travel and placement to where thing are happening on screen relevant to their overall audible impact and wonderfully accurate. Environments feel full and each speaker feels like it has a part in bringing a given scene to life.

Dialogue Reproduction: Dialogue is crisp, clean and perfectly audible throughout the film even during the heat of battle.


Conan The Barbarian comes with the Blu-ray edition and an UltraViolet digital copy.

Audio Commentary

  • With Director Marcus Nispel
  • With Actors Jason Mamoa and Rose McGowan

The Conan Legacy (HD, 18:02) 

Robert E. Howard: The Man Who Would Be Conan (HD, 11:25)

Battle Royal: Engineering The Action (HD, 9:56)

Staging The Fights (HD, 5:48)

Theatrical Trailer (HD, 1:02)


Yes, Conan the Barbarian is lackluster and not very good. Its watchable, but no need to seek out said watching. Here’s the thing though, why doe Lionsgate keep turning out these catalog releases that they do? Nobody is asking for 90% of them. Some of them are fine movies, but really aren’t ones to jump at for 4K (Lincoln Lawyer, Snitch), others are complete failures nobody liked (This, Hercules). They also aren’t really doing a whole lot in terms of the video transfers. The Atmos tracks, YES! But, the video is always a minimal upgrade. I won’t bother about extras, because I honestly think at this point on home video, some films don’t have much left to say. Anyway, it is what it is, I don’t know who’s excited for this, but then again, I’m not doing the market research, so how should I know? I just know they are sitting on stuff that will sell like Evil Dead 2, The Descent, the Saw series and even ones I don’t care for like The Twilight Saga.


Brandon is the host, producer, writer and editor of The Brandon Peters Show (thebrandonpetersshow.com) on the Creative Zombie Studios Network. At Why So Blu he is a Writer/Reviewer. Brandon is a lifelong obsessive film nerd. As eager to educate in the world of film as I am to learn. An avid lover of horror, schlock and trash. You can also find older essays on his blog Naptown Nerd (naptownnerd.blogspot.com).

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