Tuesday, March 15, 2011

Some Thoughts On The Upcoming Conan Movie

Now that the first teaser trailer is out for the new Conan the Barbarian (2011) I feel it's time to say a few words.

I don't like to say anything if I don't have anything positive to say, but....

Since there has been a trickle of photo stills from the sets of the film I can't say that I've been much impressed with what I've seen. I'll admit that these are pre post production shots meaning that lighting and tinting can be altered after the fact. I can't help but think Si-Fi original TV movie (that's Si-Fi and not Sci-Fi). I think that even more-so with the teaser trailer.

This time 'round, Conan is played by Jason Momoa (from Stargate Atlantis). Mamoa may be a decent actor and he's not as 'bulky' as Arnold, a plus in my book (like my friend Mike says, "he's a warrior not a body builder"), but every time I see Mamoma's Conan I just don't quite see the character of the Cimmarian. Don't get me wrong, he's no-name enough (for me anyways) to play the part (no typecasting here) but that may be less Momoa's fault and more of the director Marcus Nispel (and through him, the art direction, set design and costumes).

Now maybe the film-makers will tint his eyes a steely blue in post, I'm crossing my fingers.

Say what you will about the 1st flick from the 80's but one thing you have to (hopefully) agree upon is that the art direction by Ron Cobb did set a certain Hyborian mood with it's Frazetta influenced sets. Sure, the movie itself may have been more Kull than Conan but the bulky Arnold did work to some extent in the role of the character (in a more Buscema kinda way). And John Milius' took the Howard vision (as a whole feeling and mood) to heart (IMHO) to a great extent. Was that the perfect Conan movie? I'd have to say not but it did get some things right.

Now Hollywood has to break away from the burly barbarian heavy metal over-sized sword concept of the character and redefine it more closer to Howard's powerful yet cat-like thief-warrior-king. I hope they try to do that in the new movie but from the teaser trailer I don't get that impression. Do we have to leave this up to fan films to do right? Has Hollywood failed again? We'll know in a few months.

All Conan fans have a different impression of the character and that may be hard for any one actor or director to satisfy. But get it in the ballpark at least or let it be.

It's a great character, with fantastic gritty stories. Only time will tell if the new movie even gets close to that.

Can't say that I'm overly excited for this one at the moment.

Oh and speaking of everyone's individual impression of Howard's barbarian, my first exposure to the Conan character was when I was about 5 years old when I had the Marvel Treasury Edition of Rogues in the House and Red Nails so I have a very Barry Windsor Smith vision of the one day king.


  1. I'm a Buscema (sp?) fan on the visuals, I must admit (yeah, I know that's not the "in" viewpoint) heheh. So it's not quite as much of an issue for me about the muscleboundness of the Hollywood vision, but I agree that they totally fail to portray the catlike side of Conan.

    Nice post, and also got you added to my own bloglist.

  2. Thanks Matt. Don't get me wrong, I'm a Buscema Conan fan as well but somehow the bulking barbarian got taken to the extreme with the general public concept of what a barbarian is.

  3. Even as bulky as Buscema would draw Conan he still had a grace on the page that a real big Body Builder would not have.

    I do like the 82 movie but it really is to blame for the public image of a giant man with less than eloquent vocalization...

  4. I would really have liked to see them carry through Windsor-Smith's almost Pre-Raphaelite conception of Conan and his world, but I've got a feeling it will come out looking more Clash of the Titans. Seems a bit strange that a Conan movie got funded at all, but I guess CotT made enough to justify a sequel so studios are looking for anything in that corner of the park.

  5. @MilkManX - Case in point: The Barbarian Brothers!

    @Dave - yes, I agree that a total Windsor Smith version might not work but you mix Windor's Conan especially Red Nails era with, say, the Frazetta influenced Ron Cobb Set design from the 82 flick and you might have something interesting.

  6. That fan flick has its funding I see. looks cool enough. Who knows. Where are they going to find all that snow?
    Also, dont knock the barbarian brothers! OK, never mind its horrible but it does have its moments with costuming and weapons and such. Theres a gleam of polish on that turd!
    I've watched Mamoa on ST:A and he does the brooding warrior very well, he is also quick as he is big. But is he Conan? well, there are some hiccups with that.
    The look so far is a bit scary, like Paul said, its very Si-Fi looking shooting in the same areas as SG:A was shot. Lets hope they have him swing out some windows on to roof tops! Up with Bell! Up with Bell!

  7. Ack, Barry WIndsor-Smith?! I never could stand his narrow-nosed, wide-eyed version of Conan.

    Just looking at the pic you have here of Mamoa, that sword looks really, really lame. It looks like some tacky hunk of junk from a video game.

    I'm not impossible to please. I liked both CtB and CtD movies (not anywhere close to perfect, but good enough for Hollywood), but I am not optimistic about this one.

  8. Everything I've read about this one screams "abortion" to any Conan fan. Sadly, I'm a glutton for punishment so I'll probably go see it in desperate, forlorn hope. But at this point the best I can hope for is a half-decent sword and sorcery movie.

    I will say, however, that I think Conan should be BOTH gigantic and catlike. Howard described him as massive, barrel-chested, having a bull neck, iron-thewed arms, and over 7 feet tall.

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  10. Ummm...at this point I'm actually pretty satisfied with the casting from the look of it so far. Going from a story standpoint and reflecting on the Howard novels there were so many times where it was made more than evidently clear that Conan looked different than most of the characters he was among in so many different ways that I think it's fitting that

    A.) The actor is not very "Anglo" looking which should help to carry the "Alien-ness" of Conan. It should also help make some of the more xenophobic characteristics of the characters around the character a little more believable.

    B.) Mamoa is not as big as Arnold. Don't get me wrong I'm a HUGE fan of the '82 film and without that I probably would have never have developed any interest in Conan, but I tend to think Arnold is honestly a better actor than 99% of the bodybuilders that might be able to fit the look he created for the character. Be honest, Conan pushing that mill wheel by himself was just powerful in terms of defining the character in that film and it would not have carried the dramatic weight had the character been 30 lb.-40 lb. lighter than Schwarzneger.

  11. If you dig around on the conanmovieblog, they have links to some much better 'production' shots. Those make me feel a bit better that it just isn't reused Stargate sets! Shooting in Bulgaria, that should give some old world feel to some of the shots.

    Also linked from the blog site, and this scared me a bit, is a link to a Stargate forum, devoted to how hunky Mamoa is, and posting any and all photos of him. Ok sure thats not too crazy but then, check out the page numbers, the section is over 4ooo pages long! holy crap. Whatever the movie turns out to be, there will at least be some very satisfied Stargate Atlantis fans.

    Also Mamoa is in HBOs Game of Thrones, not a huge role but that might give us a good idea at how well he will do in a S&S style fantasy movie.