Tuesday, August 16, 2011


Conan the Barbarian is coming to theaters this Friday, August 19. I have mixed feelings about seeing this film. I'm sure that if I go to it expecting to see Conan as written by Robert E. Howard I will be disappointed. If I go to it hoping that it is more like the original Conan than the 1982 Conan film, I will probably feel ambivalent about it. Finally, if I go to it expecting a grand action Swords & Sorcery film, I'll most likely enjoy it. I always try to see any film with as few preconceived expectations as possible, but with a film based on a literary character that I am extremely familiar with, it will be very difficult.
I was first exposed to the world of Conan and Howard's Hyborian Age in the form of Marvel Comics, as written by Roy Thomas and drawn by John Buscema. I was given several of the Lancer Paperbacks for Christmas and once I read the Howard originals I was a Howard fan for life. I've since read all of Howard's original Conan stories and the pastiches finished by Lin Carter and L. Sprague de Camp, as well as some of the better Conan original novels by Karl Edward Wagner, Andrew J. Offutt and Steve Perry. I've read most of Marvel's Conan comics as well as their Savage Sword of Conan black & white comics magazine. I have even been reading Dark Horse Comics' more recent adaptations of Howard's Conan stories. As far as the film versions of Conan go, I was enough of a fan back in the day to stand in a long line in 1982 to see John Milius' Conan film. I liked Arnold Schwarzenegger well enough as Conan, but Milius' and Stone's script was almost nothing like Howard's Conan and I was disappointed by it. The 1984 Conan the Destroyer had a story treatment by Conan comics scribes Roy Thomas and Gerry Conway pieced together from various Howard short stories, but the finished script by Stanely Mann made Conan a supporting character in his own film.
I remain hopeful that some of Howard’s noble barbarian will shine through in the new Conan the Barbarian film. If not, I think I'll still appreciate Jason Momoa as Conan; an actor whose TV work I'm familiar with from HBO's Game of Thrones and SY FY's Stargate: Atlantis. Director Marcus Nispal did a decent job on Parthfinder, which had a similar theme to Conan, so that has me fairly optimistic as well. Check out the trailer for Conan the Barbarian!


  1. Hello Doc.
    It's relatively clear you have a firm grasp of the Conan material. Also, understanding your love for comics, like me, you're sure to be disappointed on some level.

    But, these films rely so heavily on CGI today that I'm often let down.

    Having said that, I like your approach to it. I also am a big fan of Jason Momoa and the character of Ronon Dex that he brought to life on Stargate Atlantis. Momoa is certainly a talent. It's good to see him having success here and on Game Of Thrones, which I'm looking forward to checking out as well.

    Admittedly, I do not have a strong handle on the Conan source material. I love your mention of the Conan artists. I loved John and Sal Buscema's work. Just amazing. Some of my fondest memories of comics come from their works. Thanks for mentioning them.

    I really liked the original Arnold Conan film and, unlike you, to some degree, I liked the sequel film almost as much. Surprisingly. Your mention of those films has me putting them back on the radar. I know they are headed for Blu-Ray.

    Anyway, I enjoyed your Trailer Tuesday entry spotlighting Conan and I will say that I am looking forward to seeing this film eventually, probably on DVD, but with the caveat that it will look different to the originals and have a different tone to match the kind of energy expected in films today unfairly.

    Take care

  2. Thanks for checking in, Sci-Fi Fanatic! I’m using my relatively new “Tuesday Trailer” weekly post to either bring attention to upcoming movies (and sometimes TV shows) that I’m looking forward to seeing; or to expound on my reasons for why I may be somewhat ambivalent about seeing them – and ambivalence is about as negative an emotional response to something as you’re ever going to get from me here at Guardians of the Genre!

    I spent a fair amount of time within this post explaining my passion and familiarity with Conan so as to better explain why I am so hesitant about seeing the new Conan the Barbarian film. As you surmised, I’m not a big fan of either Schwarzenegger Conan film – in fact; I’ve not watched ether film since the 1980s. Therefore, I’m not concerned with the new film comparing unfavorably to them. I’m also not worried that the massive amount of CGI will ruin the realistic feel or look of the action sequences or the immersive effect on the Hyborian Age in general. My eyes have long since become accustomed to accepting CGI effects as “real” and since so much of Conan’s world is fantastic anyway, it makes it all the easier to do so. However, and I’m glad you mentioned it, the tone of the new film is what I find I’m most concerned with. I have watched both a full scene of Conan the Barbarian on the official web site and the “Red Band” trailer for it and I can say without hesitation that the tone of Conan seems to be more towards brutal visceral violence than towards action adventure fantasy. I have no problem with violence – heck, one of mine and yours’ favorite guilty pleasure film franchises are the Resident Evil films – but it just looks like the new Conan film is aiming at the lower end of fantasy film action than what I prefer.

    I spent more time than I care to admit reading every positive review – I don’t waste my time with the negative ones – to get an idea of what the better elements of Conan the Barbarian might be. I even read the forum pages of Robert E. Howard’s official web site to find out what the diehard Conan fans thought of the film! Unfortunately, I came to the conclusion that the new film was not worth my time or money to see at the theater. I will watch Conan the Barbarian when it arrives for rental on Blu-Ray, but even then it may be difficult to muster up much enthusiasm for it.

    Thanks again for stopping by to comment, Sci-Fi Fanatic!