Ok – so I saw CONAN THE BARBARIAN… the new one. And I’m not spitting mad, not OUTRAGED. In fact, this is a film that is so far away from the greatness of the original… but there were so many bad decisions made making this film, that well… You can tell that Nispel was involved heavily.
The score is frankly shit. Not so bad as to rip you out of the movie wholly upon it’s fault, but this score wasn’t helping the film, injecting the film with soul. Instead it just sort of lays there. The biggest problem is that there is so little of Howard here. The language and the sound of Howard is missing. It’s violent, there’s tits, but it isn’t serving a story that IS great. The dialogue is all 20 levels beneath the original, but I knew all that going in.
I’d read this script. Knew who was directing. Knowing that he misses the details, robs the film of atmosphere, instead concentrating upon big splash panels that scream epic, before settling for a run of medium and close-ups. As soon as the producers settled on Nispel, we all instantly knew what problems would likely arise. They’re all here.
BUT – there’s stuff that I liked about the film. I like Jason Momoa’s look. He has CONAN in him. That is absolutely evident onscreen. That’s amazing, because the dialogue is far from where it needs to be for this character. We need to see more variety to Conan, than what this story called for. The dialogue in this is more generic Barbarian speak, but Momoa has so much more in him than Nispel would know to get at. My dream? Oliver Stone, $110 million, and adapt BEYOND THE BLACK RIVER or my personal fave, THE TOWER OF THE ELEPHANT. If Ollie isn’t into it, let’s go with Walter Hill – who is working with Jason & Stallone right now. But the good news is, they have an actor that can absolutely be CONAN THE BARBARIAN. He looks good as the character, absolutely can swing the sword around, although Nispel cuts so quickly you never get a full long sequence to stand against Arnold’s – but you can see he has the talent to. The director just never gave us that moment.
Almost every character is wasted opportunity. Like Stephan Lang & Rose McGowan. They just don’t have much to do. Because this script is just weak. So while I like the actors and oddly I kinda did dig their weird look… But they’re not really saying or doing anything that has given me anything at all to care about. They look and act cool, but that’s not quite enough.
The film waddles out the gate with a MARCH OF THE BARBARIANS narration by Morgan Freeman – in one of the most perplexing and tonally WRONG choices that I’ve seen. I mean, the Barbarian Age just screams Morgan Freeman. I mean, it is never a bad thing to hear Morgan Freeman speak. In fact, it is quite pleasant, soothing even. What about CONAN THE BARBARIAN is soothing or pleasant? These are not the tones that needed to be struck up front. It was certainly an odd decision. I’ll give them that.
The opening 10-15 minutes are pretty damn cool, if you can get past Morgan, then it’s basically just a different version of essentially the same story from the first CONAN – minus 100% of the pain and suffering. Minus the sweeping natural landscape.
Momoa was asked to be savage and he is. But make no mistake about it, he’s absolutely got that roguish charm that Conan needs, it was on full display at tonight’s post film Q&A at the Alamo Drafthouse South.
The facts are – while a lot of the film choices annoyed me, this did LOOK like a CONAN movie should. I just don’t see why the producers of this film don’t understand that they have a potential LORD OF THE RINGS or 300 style success if they JUST ADAPT Robert E Howard properly… with a TALENTED filmmaker who is passionate. That understands not just the pretty aesthetics, the blood and savagery and the eroticism of the era… BUT THE PSYCHOLOGY of it. The LEGENDARY nature of it all.
Get someone like Mark Protosevich to write it. Then get someone that has a history of seriously great films. Stop hiring hacks to kick off what should be a franchise. This could be JAMES BOND… and Momoa can do it. There’s evidence here in the film, I just hope that the missteps of Nispel won’t doom the franchise.
If you treated this source material with the respect that Warner Bros did HARRY POTTER – we’d have movies to worship. I’m pretty sure they have the actor… let’s hope the film succeeds well enough for a second chance. And if they seize that chance, they do it right.
In some ways it reminds me of the first X-MEN film, where the parts that are right outshine the enormity of wrong. But there’s moments where Momoa looks like a Frazetta or a Ken Kelly. Other points where he seems to pop out of the pages of SAVAGE SWORD OF CONAN. As a CONAN geek I clutch to the aspects that resemble in an abstract way – what I want from a CONAN franchise. But man… it is really out there for you folks to decide now. The film was made cheap enough that if it has any kind of decent opening, it’ll be in good shape…
As a fan of this material though, I have seen worse. This in no way resembles the trauma I experienced during KULL THE CONQUEROR and the agonizing pain of Sorbo. Momoa deserves to be on the screen as the character. He won that kind of respect from me on screen and off tonight. But I don’t want this to be another Pierce Brosnan – where you have a guy that looks dead on awesome as the character, but then… after multiple attempts never got a chance to make a GREAT one. And at the end of the day that’s what I want. Another GREAT Conan film. This isn’t it. Not by a long shot, but there could be a great one.
Oh – the 3D in the film is pretty great looking I thought. So much of the film is in broad bright blue sky daylight that the dimensional play is clear, bright and cool. Wait for the “CHINATOWN” moment… abstract reference involving a nose.
So go in knowing you’re not getting anything near the awesome of Milius’ masterpiece… but it isn’t a bunch of silly bullshit either. There’s no lack of respect for the character of CONAN. The character just isn’t fully realized in the script or by direction… but the basic performance is there. Momoa can do this. Give it a shot, it might surprise you.