Like the thunder of horse hooves in the distance, the sound of hyperventilating Conan fans who believe the Cimmerian originated in the comics and the 1982 movie can be heard as August 19 draws nearer and the hype ramps up in anticipation of the premiere of the “rebooted” Conan the Barbarian movie. In the past few weeks, a motion poster and a regular one-sheet have been released, along with a teaser trailer and the announcement of the novelization of the movie. Stills from the movie are also all over the web. (Is it just me or does Stephen Lang as Khalar Singh look like Kenny Rogers, post-plastic surgery?) Meanwhile, like so many yellow cockroaches, lower-evolved Conan fans have crawled out of the woodwork to make insane comments about the movie on various blogs and websites. The comments run the gamut from sexist to racist to homophobic to psychotic and everything in between. The best place to get a sane take on the film is at the Conan the Movie Blog, hosted by Al Harron.
As more and more details of the film leak out I am less and less optimistic. Conan isn’t about big muscles and nearly nude babes; it’s about the saga of a Cimmerian who moves through the pre-cataclysmic Hyborian Age fighting and thinking his way up the ladder from thief and adventurer to rise up to be king of Aquilonia, the most powerful nation of his time. As in the past, this is lost on clueless filmmakers.
The appearance of Conan in the comics has been both a blessing and a curse. The comics put forth the theme that a “superhero” needs an origin – even though Roy Thomas stuck with Howard’s vision and did not kick off Marvel’s Conan the Barbarian comic with an origin. This new movie with Jason Momoa as Conan features an origin theme. If I have seen the “baddies killed my mommy and daddy so I have to kill them” theme in a movie once, I’ve seen it a thousand times. The director and writers should have stuck with the source material — I mean, born a battlefield and participating in a raid on an Aquilonian outpost just past puberty – that is not exciting enough for Hollywood? If there is a second movie, hopefully it will it move toward using Howard’s original stories now that the obligatory “origin of Conan” is out of the way. I seriously doubt it.
Despite my major reservations about this movie, I will see it and I expect to see a diverse crowd in the theater: pimple-faced fanboys with asthma inhalers in their shirt pockets, old hippies who still have the Frazetta Lancer cover painting posters pinned to their bedroom walls, White supremacist skinheads, heavily tattooed bikers, wanna be MMA fighters, etc. There will be some wimmen there, but most not of their own free will. I only hope I can make through the whole film — I walked out 20 minutes into the Kull movie.