Friday, 22 January 2010

11 Things you DON'T Need To Know About The New Conan

Empire have posted something that got me rather annoyed. I'm going to need to watch My Neighbour Totoro for three days straight in order to calm down.

The 30 year-old Momoa is a similarly aged Conan to the Arnie incarnation - Schwarzenegger was 33 when he first donned the sackcloth and sandals. However, as blasphemous as it sounds/is, Momoa's lithe physique cleaves more closely to the "panther-like grace" of Robert E. Howard's original barbarian than his predecessor, whose improbably ripped torso at times looked like, as Clive James famously said, a condom stuffed with walnuts.
Here are some descriptions of Conan:

Arus saw a tall powerfully built youth, naked but for a loin-cloth, and sandals strapped high about his ankles. His skin was burned brown as by the suns of the wastelands, and Arus glanced nervously at his broad shoulders, massive chest and heavy arms.
- "The God in the Bowl"

His cheap tunic could not conceal the hard, rangy lines of his powerful frame, the broad heavy shoulders, the massive chest, lean waist, and heavy arms...

He moved with the supple ease of a great tiger, his steely muscles rippling under his brown skin.
- "The Tower of the Elephant"

On the pyramid among the fallen towers sat Conan the Cimmerian like an iron statue, chin propped on massive fists.
- "Queen of the Black Coast"

Then he set to work with both oars, rowing with great, smooth, even strokes, the heavy muscles of arms and shoulders and back rippling in rhythm to his exertions...

The Cimmerian grasped it with both hands, and with legs braced and the muscles standing out on his arms and back in straining knots, he heaved it above his head and cast it from him, exerting every ounce of nerve and sinew...

Conan slept against his pillar, his head fallen upon his massive breast.
- "Iron Shadows in the Moon"

So she watched the white man with painful intensity, noting every detail of his appearance. He was tall; neither in height nor in massiveness was he exceeded by many of the giant blacks.
- "The Vale of Lost Women"

He stood like an image of the unconquerable primordial – legs braced far apart, head thrust forward, one hand clutching the wall for support, the other gripping the ax on high, with the great corded muscles standing out in iron ridges...
- "The Phoenix on the Sword"

And so forth. The idea is that Conan's movement is "pantherish," "tigerish," and "cat-like," which is seemingly incongruous with his massive form. This quote from "Rogues in the House" exemplifies that dichotomy:

Even in the dim light of the dungeon, with his limbs loaded with chains, the primitive power of the man was evident. His mighty body and thick-muscled limbs combined the strength of a grizzly with the quickness of a panther.
- "Rogues in the House"

You get the idea.

Momoa's first acting break was in Baywatch Hawaii. In it he played fresh-faced lifeguard Jason Ioane, whose journey from headstrong youngster to leader of men may mirror his arc in Conan. Although with less surfing and more giant serpents, obviously.

I'm utterly astonished that people are comparing Baywatch Hawaii to one of the great literary icons of the 20th Century. I mean, seriously. Are you kidding me?

Although Momoa was born in Honolulu he was raised by his mother in Iowa. He returned to his roots to attend college in Hawaii and collected Hawaii's Model of the Year award in 1999.

Wow, Model of the Year: truly the qualities we search for in a Conan.

His girlfriend is Lisa Bonet - she of Cosby Show and being-splattered-in-Angel-Heart fame. They have two children together: two year-old Lola and one year-old Nakoa-Wolf.

You know, my mother says she came very close to calling me Thor. Luckily she picked a more normal (though no less badass) name, though I feel a bit sad that she didn't at least choose Thor as a middle name. As such, I have a bit of an ambivalent attitude to celebrities who give their children bizarre names: they'll either hate their parents forever, or they'll take it right in stride.

Conan isn't the first mighty warrior he's played. He will appear as Khal Drogo in the HBO pilot for Game of Thrones, after impressing (read: scaring witless) the producers by performing the haka in his audition. The show, based on George R. R. Martin's wild, twisted medieval fantasy novels, is likely to be picked up, which might cause something of a scheduling problem for Momoa.

I have to chuckle at the description of A Song of Ice and Fire as "wild" and "twisted." It's no wilder or more twisted than Greek Mythology. Orson Scott Card's "Eumenides in the Fourth Floor Lavatory" is wild and twisted. Richard Matheson's "Graveyard Shift" is wild and twisted. Harlan Ellison's "I Have No Mouth And I Must Scream" is wild and twisted. A Game of Thrones is the freaking Care Bears in comparison.

I'm sure nobody on the Conan forums will lament if his scheduling conflict means he has to decline the role of Conan, since A Game of Thrones looks a lot more promising at this point.

Momoa has a long-standing fear of horse-riding, despite his turn as the largely horse-backed warrior Drogo. And unless Cimmeria has had a monorail installed since we were last there or the barbarian has turned power-walker, he's fresh out of luck in Conan too.

HAH! Oh wow, that's unfortunate. The guy we cast for Conan has an irrational fear of horse-riding. Guess that rules out... oh, I don't know, over half the Conan stories.

Seriously, if this is true, then what in Crom's name are Millenium thinking? Their new Conan is afraid of equestrianism? How are they going to surmount this? This is as stupid as casting an ophidophobe as a snake-handler, or an acrophobe as a mountaineer. Way to really shoot yourself in the foot, guys.

While he isn't a bodybuilder, the 6' 4" Momoa probably won't have much trouble holding a sword, even one the size of Gibraltar. In fact, it was test footage of Momoa swinging a giant sword that helped persuade director Marcus Nispel to cast him.

Of course, if there's anything we know about bodybuilders, it's that they're expert swordsmen... Or not. Momoa's skill in swordplay is not in question, as viewers of Stargate Atlantis will attest.

Must do better, Empire.

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