Tuesday, July 13, 2010

New Conan Movie Pics

Each new pic released of next year's Conan movie makes me feel ever more sorry for Jason Momoa. From what I have seen, he seems to be taking the role of REH's most famous character quite seriously and, while men of good will may differ as to whether this or that aspect of his appearance is quite right to properly portray Conan, I'd say he's a great deal closer to my ideal than was Arnold Schwarzenegger. Sure, Momoa is probably too small and too pretty to be the "perfect" Conan, but, as this still shows, he nevertheless seems to channel certain aspects of the Cimmerian well enough.

As I've said before, my gut tells me that Momoa will likely prove a more than adequate Conan, perhaps even a good one, but, given the nature of the story the film is telling, it won't matter. Good acting by the lead aside, I've still seen nothing to suggest that the 2011 film will be any more Howardian than the 1982 film. That's a real shame for many reasons, but most of all because it didn't have to be this way. There are so many more resources available to screenwriters and filmmakers nowadays that simply didn't exist when Milius made his movie. Even if one were not interested in creating a "pure" REH film, why not at least better portray both Conan and the world he inhabits? I just don't get it.

31 comments:

  1. James, what exactly do you mean by more resources to screenwriters and filmmakers?

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  2. The answer to your question is likely this: in the minds of the vast majority of the people out there, "Conan" is 1) Schwarzenegger and 2) Roy Thomas's Marvel incarnation - in that order. People aren't expecting a Conan movie, they're expecting a "Conan" movie, and Hollywood looks poised to deliver the latter.

    You're right, it doesn't have to be this way. I'll just try to enjoy this film on its own merits. much as I enjoyed the 1982 one (but let's not get into Conan the Destroyer....*shudder*)

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  3. Crow,

    What I meant is that, in 1982, Conan (and Howard) were mostly known through a DeCampian lens. Since then, so much scholarship has occurred and the original stories are so much better available, there's no reason why Hollywood has to continue to treat the pastiche era Conan as if he were the only option available to them.

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  4. The most obvious way to do an excellent Conan movie would be to film "Beyond the Black River".

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  5. eh, as far as I can tell, a more honest account of the genesis of this project would be something like "inspired by a Frazetta knock-off I saw painted on the side of a van once"...

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  6. What Geoffrey said. Why they don't just do that (and why the Solomon Kane movie didn't just adapt "Wings in the Night") baffles me. Is it because today's screenwriters don't want to share credit with a pulp writer who has been dead nearly a century?

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  7. IMO, the reason why you don't get it, is that you think only REH's Conan is Conan.

    IMO, Conan has, for better or worse, become like King Arthur. He is a character of the telling, not the told. I think it seems weird to us of modern sensibilities, who believe in authorial ownership, that the authoritative voice is becoming/has become secondary in the cultural conception of Conan.

    I'll watch the movie and hope it's good. I won't watch the movie and expect to see any REH in it.

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  8. It's not the screen writers - it's the producers and sometimes the directors. They don't care about literary worth (unless it is Victorian Lit so they can get an Oscar), they want a movie that as many people as possible will pay to see.

    The script is what the money people want to see. If the writers don't write that, they don't get paid. Simple as that.

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  9. My suspicion is the biggest barrier to seeing a Conan on the screen that would please those who have read the REH novels isn't the imagination of the writers, it's the vast amounts of money needed to see even a modest budget film from idea to distribution. Given the amounts of other people's money the producers are gambling with, they have to listen to the investor more than the creative.
    I know a couple of people who work or have worked in Hollywood. All of them could tell you stories of wonderful projects that will never see the light of day because someone, somewhere, bought the options for it in order to ensure that it did NOT get made. In other cases, committed, creative people start off with a project they love, but, by the time they have finished changing this and reworking that to satisfy all of the commitees, bean counters and investors, the end product bears no relation to the project they started with.
    In most cases, they are not making movies for people who have actually read a book... and if a movie gets made that does interest readers, it's probably pretty much an accident. They are making movies for the people who watch "John and Kate and Eight" or who care about whatever shenanigans Lindsey Lohan is up to this week.
    I know that sounds elitist, but as in so many human endeavors, follow the money and the power.

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  10. James,

    Everyone in this film have said they are making an attempt to be more faithful to Howard's work then what was previously done.

    Will it be exactly like it? Of course not , no film can be 100% faithful to the material it's derivative from do to the nature and complexities of the filmmaking process. Even if Howard himself was here today and was directing the film, doesn't mean he would come closer to making a faithful Conan film then the next guy.


    Until it comes out or at least the trailer is shown, nobody except for the people working on it can tell you what it's exactly like. But with that pic of Morma above I do feel were going to get something closer to what REH envisioned then what we previously attempted by Millius and company.









    .

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  11. "...stories of wonderful projects that will never see the light of day because someone, somewhere, bought the options for it in order to ensure that it did NOT get made."

    I'm intrigued. What kind of motivation would cause this?

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  12. The Watchmen movie was a great example of the above issues with Hollywood. For as many of the small things (The Squid) they didn't get right, they more often than not DID get it right, they were faithful to the material. And in the end they made 'no' money on it.

    I don't feel it's elitist to want, to desire, to desperately hope for more from Hollywood, but I do think it's folly to think it'll happen. No matter how many photos they put out to tantalize, it's still Hollywood, and when it comes to thier 'filmakers' more often than not the following equation proves true;
    Hollywood + Hope = Disappointment

    I will see the new Conan movie, and I most likely will enjoy it for what it is. To attempt to enjoy it as an adaptation of Howard would invite madness.

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  13. @ Badmike
    Yes. That is EXACTLY the reason. I've heard it direct from a storyboard guy who works in Hollywood. Screenwriters need to be able to point at something in the script and claim it as their work.

    @Delta
    Short of somebody like Alan Moore* who's so disgustipated with what Hollywood's done with his work that he wants to guarantee anything else he does is "protected", I can't see that being a motive.

    More often than not, I'd imagine a lot of that sort of thing is infighting between conflicting rights holders or muddled understandings of who does hold the rights.

    *(Before I get corrected, I know that's not really the case with Moore, so much as him throwing up his hands and saying. "Do what you want, I don't give a toss.")

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  14. I've always loved the works of REH and ERB and HPL, and they were even sweeter to me (and still are)because not everybody knew about their stuff. With all my love of this stuff and sci fi and all that, most of my real friends wouldn't know who John Carter or Randolph Carter were. And I'm fine with it. Just as I am fine with knock-off adapations. Who cares if that young Dawson's Creekish hunk dude is what people only know of the real Conan.

    I know the real Conan.

    And who knows, it just might be good. As a fanboy my heart is destined to be broken again and again in Hollywood, but I liked The Watchmen film, the Ah-nuld Conan (first one), and The Lord of The Rings. Perfect? No. Did they show me enough of those beloved worlds as I previously knew them that I could barely keep from weeping at times? Yes. Hollywood CAN deliver. They just usually don't. But keep the faith my friend.

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  15. Gagh, why won't they just put him in armor?!

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  16. in the minds of the vast majority of the people out there, "Conan" is 1) Schwarzenegger and 2) Roy Thomas's Marvel incarnation - in that order.

    Not to be reflexively contrary, but why all the comic book hate? I'm pretty sure that I was introduced to Conan through the Roy Thomas Conan comics in the late 1970s and early 1980s, and I loved them. Looking back on them today after having read a lot of REH's stories recently, the comic book adaptations of Conan hold up pretty well -- they do a damned good job of capturing the character and the world as I read them in REH's stories. Hell, even the guys over at The Cimmerian agree: "In my opinion, Roy Thomas is the most consistently successful translator of Howard into a new medium".

    Were there a lot of bad Conan comics that I missed? Because I remember them being pretty cool.

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  17. "...stories of wonderful projects that will never see the light of day because someone, somewhere, bought the options for it in order to ensure that it did NOT get made."

    I'm intrigued. What kind of motivation would cause this?


    Buying 'options' from cash poor writers is much cheaper than buying the script, and, as I understand it, if you buy an 'option' it means that you give the writer X amount of money and the writer signs a contract not to show the work to anyone else for X amount of time. The concept of 'optioning' is, supposedly, to allow the buyer of the option to go and see if they can secure enough interest to turn a script into a viable project... and if they can't before the option runs out, at least the writer got something for sitting on the script. However, some people buy 'options' on things just to keep them off the market because they might compete with other projects that the option buyer might have a financial stake in. So if you are producing a movie called "Aliens from Uranus" and a project called "Martian Menace" crosses your desk, you might be tempted to buy the 'option' on the Mars script and sit on it until well after your own project, "Aliens from Uranus," is underway. Not only will this mean that "Aliens from Uranus" won't have to compete for attention and box office from "Martian Menace," but it may also result in "Martian Menace" never getting made.
    At least that is how the process has been explained to me.

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  18. I say give the movie a chance. A lot of characters of fiction are interpreted many different ways. Look at many variations of Batman. The Batman of the 30's is different than the Batman of the 60's and the Batman of today.

    I think you are basing you expectation of Conan on the Frazetta artowrk of Conan. You one time had a cover from one magazine that orignally printed one of REH stories and the Conan is not muscular at all.

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  19. The most obvious way to do an excellent Conan movie would be to film "Beyond the Black River".

    I agree. I think that many of Howard's actual short stories are perfectly suited to being turned into feature films. Their only "problem" is that they're episodic in nature and told out of sequence. Plus, Conan has no origin story, thus making him a poor fit with Hollywood's increasingly narrow-minded notion of how to build a movie franchise.

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  20. I think it seems weird to us of modern sensibilities, who believe in authorial ownership, that the authoritative voice is becoming/has become secondary in the cultural conception of Conan.

    I think it'd bother me less if Howard's Conan possessed any mindshare in popular culture, but, outside of his original appearances, the "Conan" most people know is a caricature and I simply hate to see that caricature can an even stronger foothold in the public imagination.

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  21. A series of shorts could be absolutely fabulous, and would completely defy convention on movies. You wouldn't even have to have a substancial budget to pull it off. Hell, they could make money hand over fist in that regard.

    I will say that at the very least, at least they got the singular most distinguisng feature right, his raven black hair.

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  22. I say give the movie a chance. A lot of characters of fiction are interpreted many different ways. Look at many variations of Batman. The Batman of the 30's is different than the Batman of the 60's and the Batman of today.

    Batman's various interpretations can all exist side by side because they've all had their time in the sun. They're all on solid ground and, while some of them may eclipse others for a time, none stays on top forever. With Conan, though, Howard's Conan really hasn't gotten a shot at the public imagination since the 30s and now, just as Howard scholarship is making some inroads on that score, we're set to get a movie that throws us back into pastiche territory. I don't think it's too much to hope for a dramatic translation of Conan that gives the original, Howardian conception of the character its due.

    I think you are basing you expectation of Conan on the Frazetta artowrk of Conan. You one time had a cover from one magazine that orignally printed one of REH stories and the Conan is not muscular at all.

    Actually, I'm not much of Frazetta man when it comes to Conan, but that's neither here not there, because my beefs with this upcoming film have less to do with Momoa and far more to do with the script and story. They're straight out of the Mad Libs Book of 80s Sword & Sorcery Movie Plots and what's the point in that? Why bother with even making a Conan movie if you're just using his name as a brand to plug some schlock that could just as well have been about Krud the Barbarian?

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  23. A series of shorts could be absolutely fabulous, and would completely defy convention on movies. You wouldn't even have to have a substancial budget to pull it off. Hell, they could make money hand over fist in that regard.

    I absolutely agree. I keep hoping that somewhere out there is an independent filmmaker or something like the H.P. Lovecraft Historical Society who'd be willing to take a chance on something like this.

    I will say that at the very least, at least they got the singular most distinguisng feature right, his raven black hair.

    The funny thing is that purer Howardians than I have complained that Momoa's hair isn't dark enough and that it isn't cut properly according to Howard's descriptions. While I'm sympathetic to such complaints, I'm willing to overlook them, because, all things considered, this version of Conan still looks more like my vision of the character than did Arnie.

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  24. Wow, ugly typo's last go :/

    Considering the semi limited scenery in most of the shorts, it wouldn't be too hard to do it as a Indie film and just progress as your budget did from there. I think as long as they stay away from godawful GC they'll be fine.

    Honestly, at this point I'm just happy that it's black. For his size, the guy is 6'4".. thats still very tall. He's not nearly as built as as the old Arnie, but he hardly needs to be. The bodybuilding phenomenon for our heros is fairly new (~70's I believe) and most fighting men of the time were strong vs huge.

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  25. A series of shorts could be absolutely fabulous, and would completely defy convention on movies. You wouldn't even have to have a substancial budget to pull it off. Hell, they could make money hand over fist in that regard.

    As far as shots go. There great if your going to film school, but good luck finding anyone who's willing to showcase or distribute them for you in their theatre. Even with home video/DVD most distributors want something no less then 60 minutes to sell to a customer( their was for a brief time when music videos were being sold but those days are long gone thanks to the net). And yeah, you can have it "play" on youtube, but the last I looked their still having problems trying to find a way to make money from their service.

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  26. I will once again urge everyone to save the money they might spend on a ticket to this movie. I still highly recommend Beyond the Lighted Stage as a movie that even non-Rush fans will enjoy. But this time I’m instead going to urge you to spend that money on an old school RPG product or treat yourself to a new set of dice. How much more will you enjoy creating your own swords & sorcery story with your friends than two hours of a Conan movie that won’t reflect any of our ideas of Conan whether Howardian, comic book, or otherwise? ^_^

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  27. The answer to your question is likely this: in the minds of the vast majority of the people out there, "Conan" is 1) Schwarzenegger and 2) Roy Thomas's Marvel incarnation - in that order. People aren't expecting a Conan movie, they're expecting a "Conan" movie, and Hollywood looks poised to deliver the latter.

    And therein lies the problem. If people equate Conan with Schwarzenegger, how can they possibly be expected to like Momoa? Most of the (non-Howardian) complaints about the film are from people who think Momoa is too pretty, and not muscular enough - not to mention Arnold had that fascinating charisma about him. People are hostile to remakes: when this film is closer to a remake than a new adaptation, people will respond accordingly. It'll likely make good bank at the box office, but be eviscerated by critics and fans.

    IMO, the reason why you don't get it, is that you think only REH's Conan is Conan.

    IMO, Conan has, for better or worse, become like King Arthur. He is a character of the telling, not the told. I think it seems weird to us of modern sensibilities, who believe in authorial ownership, that the authoritative voice is becoming/has become secondary in the cultural conception of Conan.


    Arthurian Legend isn't a good analogy, simply because we don't even know the original author. The original tales of Arthur were woolly oral traditions, where they vary across the telling even from the beginning. Conan started off with a definitive voice easily found and easily recognized.

    In addition, many new tellings of Arthur have been as good, if not even better, than the old ones. Same with Batman, where Alan Moore and Frank Miller have left Bob Kane in the dust. Despite 80 years of new authors and writers, nobody has eclipsed Howard's stories, even when De Camp made a concerted effort (such as mangling "The Black Stranger" into "The Treasure of Tranicos") to make his voice the status quo. Almost all the pastiches are out of print, but Howard remains.

    No, Howard's Conan isn't the only Conan, but he is the best Conan. Sure, Arnold's Conan and the post-Thomas Comics Conan might be more popular, but as good as they might be, they pale into insignificance against Howard's creation. That's why we don't get it.

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  28. Will it be exactly like it? Of course not , no film can be 100% faithful to the material it's derivative from do to the nature and complexities of the filmmaking process. Even if Howard himself was here today and was directing the film, doesn't mean he would come closer to making a faithful Conan film then the next guy.

    Until it comes out or at least the trailer is shown, nobody except for the people working on it can tell you what it's exactly like.


    Crowe, there is a vast gulf of difference between other adaptations and what they're doing with Conan. None of the characters apart from Conan himself appear in a Conan story. None of the events happen in any Conan story. Everything we know from the casting sheet indicates that Conan isn't anything like Conan either. We don't need to see a trailer or the finished film to know that this isn't going to be anything like Howard. There's a precipice upon which one can teeter in regards to giving a film the benefit of the doubt: this film leapt off back when the casting sheet was announced.

    This isn't like giving Spider-Man organic webshooters, or having Rha's al Ghul train Batman, or having Tony Stark build the Iron Man suit in Afghanistan. This isn't "more or less Howard with a few major deviations." Imagine if Jackson's The Lord of the Rings featured nobody from the books but Frodo, where he goes on a quest to steal the One Ring and use it to rule Middle-earth. Or if Superman was not an alien, but a petty human criminal from the mean streets with the "eyes of a killer", who didn't wear his suit, didn't fly, and fought polar bears and giant spiders. That's the sort of thing we're dealing with here.

    This bears more resemblance to the Arnold film than any Conan story, and the problem with that is people are not going to like it if Arnold isn't in it. Marcus Nispel is not John Milius, Jason Momoa is not Arnold Schwarzenegger, few composers in the world are Basil Poledouris... All the things which made Conan the Barbarian great are not present here.

    All we can hope for is that Stephen Lang will be immensely entertaining as Invader Zym, Rachel Nichols will look pretty, and Momoa will cut some dudes up real good. Any hope for this film to be Howardian in any sense is futile, and will lead to disappointment.

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  29. This isn't like giving Spider-Man organic webshooters, or having Rha's al Ghul train Batman, or having Tony Stark build the Iron Man suit in Afghanistan. This isn't "more or less Howard with a few major deviations." Imagine if Jackson's The Lord of the Rings featured nobody from the books but Frodo, where he goes on a quest to steal the One Ring and use it to rule Middle-earth. Or if Superman was not an alien, but a petty human criminal from the mean streets with the "eyes of a killer", who didn't wear his suit, didn't fly, and fought polar bears and giant spiders. That's the sort of thing we're dealing with here.

    That's the crux of it for me.

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  30. In addition, many new tellings of Arthur have been as good, if not even better, than the old ones. Same with Batman, where Alan Moore and Frank Miller have left Bob Kane in the dust.

    You must be joking. You're joking, right? Miller writes a terrible Batman.

    I have to agree with what jgbrowning is trying to say, but I think Tarzan would have been a much more apt comparison than King Arthur, right down to his shared pulp origins.
    Greystoke and Disney's Tarzan don't owe a lot to the stories Burroughs told with the character, but they're certainly fine films that capture a suitably adventurous spirit, and it's my hope that this new Conan can manage the same.

    Of course, we all know how wrongheaded my faith in The Last Airbender was.

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  31. You must be joking. You're joking, right? Miller writes a terrible Batman.

    I was under the impression that The Dark Knight Returns and Batman: Year One were considered two of the finest Batman comics of all, and responsible for restarting the dark edge to the character. Though when it comes to the sequel or All Star Batman & Robin...

    I have to agree with what jgbrowning is trying to say, but I think Tarzan would have been a much more apt comparison than King Arthur, right down to his shared pulp origins.
    Greystoke and Disney's Tarzan don't owe a lot to the stories Burroughs told with the character, but they're certainly fine films that capture a suitably adventurous spirit, and it's my hope that this new Conan can manage the same.


    Both Greystoke and Disney's Tarzan owe more to Burroughs than this film - or Conan the Barbarian - does to Howard. Both Tarzans are English boys whose parents die in the jungle by wild animals, where they are raised by great apes and soon become the alpha males of their families, learn language very quickly, and regain contact with civilization as adults, both of which meet a woman called Jane Porter. Both films are recognizable as Tarzan: perhaps simplified or altered in some respects, but the basic tenets are adhered to.

    This simply isn't the case with Conan. His name is Conan, he's a Cimmerian, he becomes a thief and eventually king, and a few names from the stories are sprinkled about with abandon. That's it.

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