Friday, January 22, 2010

The New Face of Conan

We’re making tin gods out of those poor buffoons in Hollywood; I dote on movies and appreciate the scanty art therein but I consider the profession about the most debased and debasing I know.

--Robert E. Howard to Tevis Clyde Smith (February 20, 1928)
The Cimmerian's Deuce Richardson has reported that Jason Momoa has been cast as Conan in the upcoming feature film. While I can't say I'm particularly pleased by this story, if true, I honestly don't think that the casting of Momoa, about whom I know little beyond what I can see, is going to make or break this picture. Far more worrisome is the story treatment, which seems to have even less of Howard about it than the original Schwarzenegger flick.

Momoa gets points for at least not being an underwear model turned "actor," but, on first blush, he doesn't quite look the part. Maybe with a different haircut, some blue contact lenses, and an appropriate costume, I could buy him as Conan. I don't know; it's hard to imagine, but I could grin and bear it if the script were good. I have little hope of that, unfortunately, and so I'm left with the hope that the movie will come and go without much notice and leave the work of introducing a new generation to Conan to the writings of Howard himself.

27 comments:

  1. His character in Stargate: Atlantis is essentially a Klingon knockoff, but on the bright side he doesn't come across as rock-stupid which many of the people rumored to play Conan do. It's the kind of casting I find neither upsetting or exciting.

    As you say, the script is probably more important.

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  2. His features may not match up to Conan, but I think he has a solid physical presence, which might make up for it. His SG: Atlantis character was a bit one-dimensional, but as Kevin says, 'not rock-stupid'.

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  3. Casting choices have little to do with the story. Its all about box office draw. The producers might feel that Jason is a bigger potential draw because of his Stargate role.

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  4. Finally saw Avatar at a Fox Studios screening last night, and I have to restate that I really think that, if given the "Avatar Treatment," Cameron is the man for both Conan and John Carter. Right mixes of humor, characterization, and damn me if almost half of the creatures didn't seem like they were right out of Mars.

    As for the new actor to play Big C, I don't buy him as Conan. Conan should have thuggish good looks, but not the face of a pretty boy.

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  5. I'm always apprehensive about TV actors going to movies. It's not always the case, but most times there is a reason that they are doing tv and not movies.

    I think the bigger concern is who will direct. That's the vision we'll be left with, and if they ruin it there is a good chance that the franchise will die a twitching, blood soaked death.

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  6. I cringe at everything I see or hear about this movie. I wish that the animated version of Red Nails would finally come out. I think Ron Pealman's voice is perfect for Conan!

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  7. I never really cared for the Ronan Dex character.

    I certainly don't see him as any version of Conan, let alone REH's.

    More's the pity.

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  8. Eh, it'll be fun. Momoa was decent on SG:A and I'm sure (I would hope, anyway!) that he'll lose the dreads for the role and probably bulk up some more. But, as others have said, it's all in the script.

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  9. Does something as minor as eye color really make that big a difference? As long as he plays the role well and the story's good I could care less what he looks like.

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  10. I’m still trying to reconcile that the Margaret Brundage and Frank Frazetta depictions are the same character. ^_^

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  11. Huh. He's certainly not the person I would have picked (though I can't think of an alternative). His character on SG:A was pretty much a waste, and I wasn't impressed with his acting.

    Meh.

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  12. I don't know... But someone should buy this copy of the original Conan yarns for this guy for Christmas, or Valentine day or something... If he is "not rock stupid" maybe he and the movie can benefit from it...

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  13. FWIW he no longer has the dreads.

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  14. I like Dwayne Johnson, "The Rock". He was great in The Rundown. And although he always sounds like he needs to blow his nose, I liked Vin Diesel in Pitch Black, Saving Private Ryan and Find Me Guilty. In all cases I had no expectations about how they should look. But both those guys have a kind of cross-racial look that I think is not an accident. I think our man Momoa here has been chosen for similar reasons. Conan was white skinned, black haired, and blue eyed.

    The second thing is that Conan appeals to men because he's a reaction to a certain kind of male impotence and confusion produced by women and society in general. To quote James Ellroy in My Dark Places, Conan is " male angst-alienation as a public service announcement." If you wonder what I'm talking about, look at the actor Ed Harris in anything he's ever done.

    There is a particular rage that some men get that you can't learn as an actor if you haven't felt it. Arnold actually has it some, I think. So do Stone and Milius. This guy looks too pretty when he smiles. I don't buy it. Conan's a story about a powerless man who gets strength in an amoral and uncaring world. It's about amassing power as a salve for wounds which you don't understand and which never stop burning.

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  15. Does something as minor as eye color really make that big a difference?

    Complaining about eye color is the critical equivalent of a cop adding to your ticket for speeding through a school zone because you weren't wearing a seat belt. That is, it's something I point out only because I'm already skeptical of the actor's ability to deliver anything approaching a Howardian vision of Conan.

    As with the John Carter film, I am open to being pleasantly surprised by this Conan movie. I don't think the casting of Momoa makes the odds of that happening any greater, but I'm still open to the possibility nonetheless.

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  16. To me, the real problem appears to be that this is a remake of the original Conan the Barbarian movie, itself a pastiche of Howard stories without being a Howard story. The same way the new Clash of the Titans movie is a remake of a conglomeration of greek myths, not a film based on any specific myth itself.

    Recycled pastiche. That's pretty lame Hollywood. But as long as people continue to fork out money for it...

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  17. I was already pretty confident that this film would stink, and the casting of this does nothing but strengthen that belief. If the script were actually any good, someone would at least try and give it some legs to stand on as far as actors and directors are concerned. Stargate actors are the science fiction equivalent of Soap Opera stars.

    On the other hand, Avatar proved that terrible movies can still be fun to watch and that you don't need a good script for your film to make billions of dollars.

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  18. I can see a similarity to Buscema's Conan, around the cheekbones and eyebrows. So visually he could work, the proof, as has already been mentioned, will be in the script and direction. Signs there don't look to promising, but so far is just bits and drabs and I've been pleasantly surprised before.

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  19. Not an expert on SGA, and Ronan's character didn't seem to be fully explored (unlike McKay), but Momoa seemed to do the best he could with what he was given.

    At times, Ronan showed some subtly and cunning that was expressed with few words. The same approach is probably what the producers are looking for for Conan.

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  20. Go, armchair quarterbacks, go!

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  21. Conan the movie had that high fantasy feeling, unlike pulp fiction. For those wanting a nice Howard-esque fantasy movie, I suggest The Sword and the Sorcerer from the early 1980's. If THAT film does not capture the feel of the swords and sorcery (unlike the cheap special effects and bodybuilders in medieval drag), then I don't know a fantasy film, that does.

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  22. "Does something as minor as eye color really make that big a difference?"

    Howard didn't seem to consider it "minor," since it's one of Conan's most distinctive features. More often than his large frame, muscles, bronzed skin, or even his black hair, Howard mentions Conan's "volcanic blue eyes." I'd even say blue eyes are more important than those things, when it comes down to it.

    Of course, if everything else is wrong, blue eyes aren't enough to save it.

    "The second thing is that Conan appeals to men because he's a reaction to a certain kind of male impotence and confusion produced by women and society in general."

    Society, sure. Women, I'm not so sure. What exactly do you mean by this?

    " Go, armchair quarterbacks, go!"

    The "armchair quarterbacks" phrasing always bothered me. It's like saying you don't have any right to complain about a meal that makes you retch violently, because you don't happen to be a five-star chef. "So you didn't like my pasta? Well I'd like to see you do better!"

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  23. I've had the good luck to see a few pictures and shops of him outside of his Stargate character and I don't see how anyone can think he doesn't look like Conan, aside the eye color.

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  24. "The "armchair quarterbacks" phrasing always bothered me. It's like saying you don't have any right to complain about a meal that makes you retch violently, because you don't happen to be a five-star chef. "So you didn't like my pasta? Well I'd like to see you do better!""

    I liken it more to someone seeing two ingredients to the pasta sauce and complaining bitterly that the meal will be horrible. Because one of the ingredients isn't what was expected.

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  25. Conan is clearly the prototypical pre-black-Irish black Irish guy. (Not surprising, given that his prototype in Irish legend is also your black Irish type.)

    So he's a little darker now. Not the critical factor. Probably will save a lot of people from saying stupid things about Conan being racist.

    Yes, it doesn't fit Howard's pulp decor; but nobody has cried over the fact that most of the James Bond actors haven't had gray eyes or scars or spent a lot of time looking cruel and scary. Bah.

    Anyway, it's the other elements of the film that worry me, more than the actors.

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  26. I liken it more to someone seeing two ingredients to the pasta sauce and complaining bitterly that the meal will be horrible. Because one of the ingredients isn't what was expected.

    In this case, it's a hell of a lot more than one ingredient.

    So he's a little darker now. Not the critical factor. Probably will save a lot of people from saying stupid things about Conan being racist.

    It'll also be effectively capitulating to those people, essentially admitting that Conan is racist.

    Yes, it doesn't fit Howard's pulp decor; but nobody has cried over the fact that most of the James Bond actors haven't had gray eyes or scars or spent a lot of time looking cruel and scary. Bah.

    "Nobody"? I can't count the number of Fleming fans who hate the films for those reasons.

    Besides, Bond's eye colour is not as prominent an aspect of his character as it is with Conan.

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