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Tuesday, November 10, 2009

New Conan Movie Is a Travesty

The production team of the new Conan movie, scheduled for filming in February 2010, promised us when they came on board that this one would hew very closely to Robert E. Howard's original source material. It was their sole imperative, they said, to give us a film that properly represented the character, his world, and themes, which would move it light years away from the Schwarzenegger films of the 80's.

They lied.

A plot synopsis and casting sheet has been released for the film. You can find details here. All of this information has been confirmed by multiple sources--it's accurate. Even a casual reading will reveal that this is nothing but a poor remake and revamp of Milus' original Conan the Barbarian.

Lord of the Rings fans wailed and gnashed their teeth at the idea of Elves at Helm's Deep. Now imagine what the film would've looked like if the entire story had switched to Aragorn's quest to avenge his parents against the evil warlord Sauron who raped and killed his mother when he was a child, got rid of the hobbits altogether, turned the Ring into his father's stolen mark of kingship and Aragorn's birthright, and made Legolas into a plucky sidekick on Aragorn's quest for vengeance and to steal back his Ring of Kings? That's what they've done to Conan--quite literally, in fact.

The casting sheet and plot synopsis show at BEST a passing knowledge of the Hyborian Age--the temple from which the female lead hails is continually referred to as "Greek influenced," instead of "Argossean." To casual fans that's not a big deal, but to the writers of a Conan film it should be.

The revenge story is also wildly out of place. There's never been anything in Conan's character that even hinted at his desire to avenge his dead parents. He simply was a northern barbarian who was stricken with wanderlust and the certainty of a greater destiny...a destiny he finally achieved when he took the throne of Aquilonia, greatest nation in the world, the Jewel of the Dreaming West, with his own bare hands.

I understand that Howard gave us mostly short stories and novellas, and the producers felt they perhaps needed something epic. So adapt Howard's only Conan novel--The Hour of the Dragon. Conan fans would be thrilled to see a film of him as King of Aquilonia.

But even some of the novellas would translate well. See "The People of the Black Circle," or "Red Nails." There's materials in the stories to mine. Use it. If you absolutely MUST do something pastiche-based, look at de Camp, Carter, and Nyberg's work. Conan the Buccaneer, Conan the Liberator, Conan of Aquilonia, Conan the Avenger, and Conan of the Isles are all full-length stories that could be adapted to film and all capture the spirit of Howard's character fairly well.

Hell, you've even got, if you mine a few short stories, a progression for a series there. Deal with Howard's stories about Conan serving in (and exiled from) Numedides' armies. Then do Liberator, Hour of the Dragon, Aquilonia, Avenger, and Isles. You've got six films ready to go, all with solid stories.

The point is, the material is there. Please use it. A petition has been created for people to protest the current film. I'd encourage anyone who has an interest in the respectful treatment of the integrity of properties translated to the screen, to sign it. It can be found at

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