Thursday, August 18, 2011

Quelle Surprise!

Over the last couple of days, I've gotten quite a few emails and other pointers directing me toward various advance reviews of the new Conan the Barbarian movie, which I've talked about on this blog on the past. As you can see from the aggregate consensus over at Rotten Tomatoes, it's probably not a very good movie, but, then, I wasn't expecting that it would be. My hope was that it would be at least a decent B-movie that might sever the connection in people's minds between the character of Conan and Arnold Schwarzenegger. If the reviews I've been reading are any indication, that doesn't seem likely to happen.

Now, it's possible, as is sometimes the case, that the reviews are overly critical and/or unsympathetic to the genre, but several of the reviewers I've read have actually demonstrated more than a passing knowledge of Conan and Robert E. Howard, such as this one from AV Club. Of course, many more are utterly unschooled in the stories of the Cimmerian and speak as much of that ignorance as they do of any flaws in the film. Even with those caveats, it's hard to be encouraged by what I'm seeing so far. It's looking more and more like we've got another forgettable summer action movie on our hands rather than something more substantial.

I still may see it, just to satisfy my own curiosity. On the other hand, I can think of much better ways to spend $15 than to watch a film I was probably going to dislike even if it had been better than the reviews would imply.

22 comments:

  1. I'll be watching it IN 3-MOTHERFUCKING-D!

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  2. It looks like cheese. Bad cheese that has been left out in the sun for a few weeks.

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  3. This very in depth review
    http://www.conanmovieblog.com/2011/08/15/conan-the-barbarian-the-conan-movie-blog-review/

    ...reinforces your opinion. It's not looking good for Howard fans right now.

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  4. Despite owning Howard's works for most my life, I've never really read them. I read some of the comic books and enjoyed how Conan cleaves through the classic Greek principals of drama with a keen blade.

    As far as the movie goes, so long as Conan punches an animal or two (preferably a camel), I think I'll be able to stomach it.

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  5. Sadly, adaptations can eclipse the original source material at times. The Wizard of Oz from MGM is probably the biggest example of this, where if you end up doing a more traditional interpretation of Oz now (like the 1985 Return to Oz movie), the movie overshadows the book.

    Other examples I can think of is "A Year Without a Santa Claus", which was based on a children's book--you can't find the Children's book but the special lives on ABC Family each year. I also found out the book "The Falcon and the Snowman" is out of print but the movie lives on.

    The Lord of the Rings movies, while I doubt will eclipse the book, has set a standard in pop culture so much that I think Peter Jacksons' interpretation of the novels will remain in the pop culture for a least 2 or 3 more decades, until somebody else decides to adapt it.

    I do wish more Hollywood types would try to do faithful adaptations. It seems to happen with newer works than older, probably because their owners are savvy enough to not get ripped off and/or get script approval, which is why you get better interpretations of Harry Potter and Sin City than you do with classic works.

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  6. I've read conflicting reports from two different Howard scholars I respect, so I'm not sure what to think. I can only see it for myself and form my own opinion. Howard's original stories will still be waiting, unchanged, on the shelf when I get home.

    Can you catch a less-expensive matinee showing, James?

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  7. I'm just back home after viewing it. If you forget it's supposed to be a Conan movie and don't look it only on the 'is it canonic enough' point of view, it's a nice sword&sorcery movie. Bloody and well choregraphied fights, nice views of fantasy towns and landscapes, mix of western and oriental influences, a bit of magic but not too much, and pretty mysterious, ambiguous characters. If we had more S&W movies, we could compare, but currently I can say it's a good one.

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  8. Can you catch a less-expensive matinee showing, James?

    I'm sure I could and I still might, because I am curious. It's just that, the longer I put off going, the more likely I am just to wait for the DVD or, like so many other films, just never see it at all.

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  9. I learned long ago to make up my own mind rather than trust reviewers (or even trailers, which can be extremely misleading, like Pan's Labyrinth was, at least in the UK).

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  10. Hmmm...No. Arnie will never be deposed as Conan. If they made Conan the King tomorrow with Arnie I would see it in preference over this new guy.

    Conan the King :) I Guess I can dream of that film never being made.

    As long as Arnie as Conan is on the Cover of D&D Modules it will never happen.

    Crom!

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  11. I'm just back home after viewing it. If you forget it's supposed to be a Conan movie and don't look it only on the 'is it canonic enough' point of view, it's a nice sword&sorcery movie. Bloody and well choregraphied fights, nice views of fantasy towns and landscapes, mix of western and oriental influences, a bit of magic but not too much, and pretty mysterious, ambiguous characters. If we had more S&W movies, we could compare, but currently I can say it's a good one.

    That is encouraging!

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  12. I'll see the film and hope I enjoy it for what it is, but the big difference for me between this and other 'adaptations' is that IMO we've never experienced a Conan *adaptation*. No story of REH's has ever been adapted into film.

    Just a name, vague description of the character which is then put into a story created by Hollywood committee.

    We've seen corporate *appropriations*... a poor adaptation would be better than the Conan films that have come out so far (caveat, I may change my mind about the new film when I see it).

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  13. I'm sure I could and I still might, because I am curious.

    Understood. I don't know anything about ticket prices in Canada. :)

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  14. I'm so glad Michael Moorcock has not allowed anyone to do an 'ELRIC' or "STORMBRINGER" movie. I enjoyed the comics in the 90's tho!!

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  15. The reviews aren't as bad as Rotten Tomatoes would lead you to believe. No one is saying it's a masterpiece but a fair number of Howard enthusiasts have enjoyed it.

    As always, see it for yourself and then decide. Why let the critics pick your movies for you?

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  16. Arnold's Conan was on AMC last night. Great movie, so well done for the genre. So you don't like Arnold as Conan, big whoop. I think the guy you would envision Conan to look and act like from the books does not exist in the acting world. But the foes, the encounters, the characters (Thulsa Doom, Subatai, Max Sydow's king, etc) and the locations could fit right into the setting of the stories.

    Of course, it's sequel was a pile of crap.

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  17. Oh, and as for critics, I agree with Warduke. I might never have seen Blade Runner as a kid if I listened to critics.

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  18. I was rattling about wanting to see this last night and some kid said he heard Conan stared as a video game in the 80's. This began a heated lecture by me that I hope cleared the air a bit. I am going to see it in about 20 minutes for $6, the theatres are very cool and comfortable and dark, so I can't really lose.

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  19. The response from Howard fans have been very interesting. Some, like myself, utterly hated the film not just as a Howard adaptation (that was always going to be the case, sadly) but as a film in itself: pacing, direction, everything. I'm a guy who loves the live-action "Fist of the North Star" and "Mortal Kombat" as examples of preposterously daft action films, but I didn't get that feeling watching it.

    On the other hand, there are also Howard fans and scholars who felt it was a GREAT example of a preposterously daft action film. So who knows: as the old mantra goes, the only review you should care about is your own. I'd say this is one of those films that will be extremely divisive in the fandom.

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  20. The AV&ES quick review: I enjoyed this vastly more than the last few Harry Potter films but it was less a Conan movie to me and more a Sinbad movie; throw in a manticore and a couple of funky centaur-like monsters and it could have been Sinbad: The Broken Mask.

    Now, this did make life interesting when I returned home, still seeing red with bloodlust and finding out that the neighbor kids were shooting a BB gun outside when I was gone. My roars shook the neighborhood and it ain't over yet.

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  21. But the foes, the encounters, the characters (Thulsa Doom, Subatai, Max Sydow's king, etc) and the locations could fit right into the setting of the stories.

    Almost needless to say, I disagree strenuously. The 1982 film doesn't feel Howardian to me at all. There's plenty of barbarism, sure, but not enough civilization and underlying philosophy of thing doesn't remind me of anything in any Conan story I've ever read. I think it's a decent sword-and-sorcery film in its own right, but it doesn't even come close to being a fit for the Hyborian Age as Howard described.

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  22. On the other hand, there are also Howard fans and scholars who felt it was a GREAT example of a preposterously daft action film.

    That's encouraging, I suppose, though I have to admit I find it difficult to reconcile the very divergent opinions of the film I'm reading. It's almost as if several different films all bearing the same title were released and not everyone has seen the same one.

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