Saturday, 27 October 2012

On the plus side...

Well, just as I thought I was out, they drag me back in.  Actually, no, I have no-one to blame but myself for going back to the Conan Movie Blog: after all, this whole thing is my fault.



I'm officially not allowed to complain about The Legend of Conan any more.




So, though I promised I wouldn't create any more 20,000 word dissertations, I somehow managed to cough up a 5,000 word return post. Yet even writing it, I felt I was just repeating the same points I'd been making about the 2011 film for years, only with stuff I've been saying about the 1982 film for years being thrown in too.

That said, my job's going to be far easier this time around. With the 2011 film, it was meant to be a reboot: people were being assured this was getting back to REH, if not in story, then in spirit: it was imperative that there exist at least one website that didn't view the new film as just a remake, and properly contextualise it as such. Here, though? It's a sequel to the 1982 film. Unless they actually try adapting a Howard story, it has nothing to do with the author beyond basic lip service - so there's no point criticizing it for being inaccurate, because so was the 1982 film.

I keep trying to think of analogies to this situation, but none are really appropriate. The closest I can think of is the many variations of Sherlock Holmes, Dracula, Tarzan or James Bond: there are a wide variety of cinematic interpretations, and some of them are so different as to be their own independent characters. Therefore, if someone announced a sequel to one of those films, then there wouldn't be much point bringing up the fact that it isn't like the source material. It's like, no kidding. I mean, who in their right mind would criticize the details in a sequel to Without a Clue because they contradict Arthur Conan Doyle's stories? Why on earth would your first thought reading a synopsis of Blacula 3 be "wait a minute, I don't remember Bram Stoker setting the story in modern-day Los Angeles!" Likewise, when Fredrik Malmberg says this:

It’s that Nordic Viking mythic guy who has played the role of king, warrior, soldier and mercenary, and who has bedded more women than anyone, nearing the last cycle of his life. He knows he’ll be going to Valhalla, and wants to go out with a good battle.

Why do so very many people respond with "but Conan wasn't Nordic, he was Celtic, and he didn't believe in Valhalla"? It's just so bloody redundant. I'm also somewhat amazed by the number of people who are talking about Arnold's Conan not believing in Valhalla.  Uhm, guys, you did watch the 1982 film, right?


1:45 - "Crom is strong! If I die, I have to go before him, and he will ask me, 'What is the riddle of steel?' If I don't know it, he will cast me out of Valhalla and laugh at me." So yeah, Valhalla is part of movie-Conan's mythology.

But I need to stop talking about this blasted film, especially considering there's no guarantee it'll ever come to fruition. I do, however, plan on hijacking it, and wringing every drop of oppourtunity from it.

Case in point, a Summer 2014 release would give me plenty of time to get my act in gear to finally get the Encyclopedia done, and the buzz from the film would only do wonders. About the only opposition I see is from Universal putting the kibosh on it - maybe they don't want to "confuse" the public, as if the mere presence of the original stories wouldn't do that enough - but even then, I'd do everything in my power to get it out in some fashion. Since starting my new career-of-sorts several months ago, the Encyclopedia seemed more like a labour of love that would have to take second place, but in an odd way, this movie could be the best thing that could happen for it. And now that I'm a published comic illustrator, I might even be able to have some more stuff to put in the "About the Author" section.

Not worrying about how the public perceives it (i.e. as a Howard adaptation, which it isn't, and shouldn't be) also means I'm not going to be spending so much time scouring the 'net for news and snippets: I have a feeling another site like The Arnold Fans or The Conan Completist will be more likely to get big scoops like that, and they're welcome to them. Half of the things which could possibly make it divergent from the source material were already present in the 1982 film. It's so much easier being able to say "this has nothing to do with Howard" than "this is ostensibly a reboot and it has some Howardian elements but it also isn't exactly faithful either."

Speaking of which, this is a good excuse to revisit The Filmgoer's Guide and Newcomer's Guide. Already I've found some things that would be worth clarifying (Did Howard write any stories about Conan when he was old, did Conan believe in Valhalla, were the Cimmerians Norse or Viking inspired, etc), and no doubt there'll be other such things to address in future. I just have to be careful: the last thing I want is to be sucked into another Conan 2011 situation, where it started to dominate everything and my work suffered. Hopefully it'll be once bitten, twice shy, and I'll have my priorities right.

13 comments:

  1. I'm trying to have a good attitude about this, Al, hoping that a successful Conan film would be of some use in furthering the general public's interest in Conan, hopefully bringing some of them to the original stories. I can't imagine many people watching the Momo version and wanting to learn more about Conan, but there's little doubt that the 1982 Arnold version made a lot of folks Conan fans for life. I came in through the Marvel Comics version and here I am all these years later, a REH fanatic, so folks have different paths to the real stuff.
    So yeah, I'm going to try and not worry about the faithfulness to Howard on this one. As you say, not really much point. If it gets made, maybe it will at least be a box office success and blot out the black eye of the recent film.
    Grats on the Arnold mention. That almost made me spit my diet Coke on the keyboard...

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    1. Good attitudes can be hard to foster, but it's better to be positive than negative, though sometimes being negative can be cathartic.

      Grats on the Arnold mention. That almost made me spit my diet Coke on the keyboard...

      Heh, I think Steve was just pulling my leg. Then again, I am on first-name terms with Hollywood types, apparently...

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  2. At least by taking issue with that Nordic Viking description of Conan, those people show they know the differences between original Conan and Arnold's. It's better than being unaware, right? But ignorance is bliss especially with adaptations...

    2014, if it takes that long, is still a long way off. I suppose they'll have to step up their game to make a mark. The fantasy film field will be dominated by The Lord of the Rings Origins: The Hobbit Part III: The Milking of the Cow before the year is out.

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    1. At least by taking issue with that Nordic Viking description of Conan, those people show they know the differences between original Conan and Arnold's. It's better than being unaware, right?

      Oh, no doubt: the problem is when the people taking issue with this are claiming this contradicts the 1982 film, which it doesn't to quite the same degree. Milius' Cimmerians are pretty generic pseudo-Vikings with a little Hun/Mongol thrown in. And I do appreciate the awareness that this is in fact an adaptation which has significant divergences: I'm simply wondering what could be the best way to properly quantify everything.

      I suppose they'll have to step up their game to make a mark. The fantasy film field will be dominated by The Lord of the Rings Origins: The Hobbit Part III: The Milking of the Cow before the year is out.

      The Kine of Araw never knew what hit 'em!

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  3. My partner first watched Milius' movie, and it's a movie we see about once a year. It may not be REH's Conan, but it's an engaging film. She loves the movie, and it took me very little effort to get her to pick up REH's stories. She's now read several and really digs them. And not only Conan, but also Kull, and the Faring Town stories, and the poetry.

    As I see it, a badly made Conan-movie (as, sadly, last year's was) hurts REH's Conan, as people won't feel invigorated to seek out the books. A well-made Conan (as the 1982 movie is) will get people to pick up the books.

    Myths are like Chinese whispers - they are told from generation to generation, mutating and adapting to each audience, multiplying and growing. Which is the one and true Arthur? Mallory? Geoffrey of Monmouth? TH White or Tennyson? Or should one be a purist and disavow everything but Nennius?

    What I wonder about is what REH would have felt (and done) had he lived. I can imagine him trying his hand at writing for the movies, perhaps adapting his own adventure stories. I can imagine an elderly Bob Howard being amused by Marvel Comics' first efforts, praising the artwork, perhaps shrugging his shoulders abput the changes made, but ultimately merely concerned whether the cheque arrived. I honestly think that modern REH scholars are far more purist than REH would ever be. Though that goes for a various living authors too.

    Remco

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    1. As I see it, a badly made Conan-movie (as, sadly, last year's was) hurts REH's Conan, as people won't feel invigorated to seek out the books. A well-made Conan (as the 1982 movie is) will get people to pick up the books.

      I think that's very true, which is why I'm wanting to have an inclusive policy. When someone wants to check out the books of a film they enjoyed only to have people say "Oh man, the movie SUUUUUCKED, the books are so much better" - that can lead to either more interest, or risk turning people away altogether.

      Myths are like Chinese whispers - they are told from generation to generation, mutating and adapting to each audience, multiplying and growing. Which is the one and true Arthur? Mallory? Geoffrey of Monmouth? TH White or Tennyson? Or should one be a purist and disavow everything but Nennius?

      I think when we have a case where we know for a fact who the creator of Conan was, then there's a certain level of acknowledgement afforded to him as the creator. It's much less clear that Arthur was even fictional, let alone who created him.

      That said, if anyone created a version of Conan that equalled or exceeded Howard's, I'd happily acknowledge them. Alan Moore, Frank Miller and others have written vastly superior Batman stories to the original Detective stories, so you'd think that after 80 years there'd be Conan stories that could hang with "Beyond the Black River" or "Red Nails." And yet...

      What I wonder about is what REH would have felt (and done) had he lived. I can imagine him trying his hand at writing for the movies, perhaps adapting his own adventure stories. I can imagine an elderly Bob Howard being amused by Marvel Comics' first efforts, praising the artwork, perhaps shrugging his shoulders abput the changes made, but ultimately merely concerned whether the cheque arrived. I honestly think that modern REH scholars are far more purist than REH would ever be. Though that goes for a various living authors too.

      Imagining what REH would have said or done is a game I don't want to play, because we simply cannot know. He certainly cared enough about the details of his stories to write plans and make maps, and critiqued Napoli's artwork even if he felt his complaints weren't that big of a deal; at the same time, the cheque was what mattered, and he looked on Conan as a meal ticket.

      Modern REH scholars are almost certainly more purist than REH, because we *aren't* REH. The creator of any media is at a disadvantage in terms of judging his own work. What's more, he was painfully self-deprecating, frequently opining to Lovecraft or Smith that his story would be vastly overshadowed by their work, and comparing himself unfavourably to inferior (IMO) authors like Derleth. REH may think we're all nuts, but that's what happens when you create masterpieces.

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  4. Hero of the Federation28 October 2012 at 23:34

    But this time we are ready!
    Planetary defenses are better than ever!
    Would you like to know more?

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  5. Who the heck is writing?29 October 2012 at 01:04

    Every REH fan knows that there's one big positive point and one big negative point to having a last Arnold-Conan movie:
    -the positive would be the ending cycle, the closing chapter, the last of the last..once done we would never again have a movie with Conan praying Crom, reciting the riddle of steel and mumbling about Valhalla, nor having him crying about being forced to push a papier-maché wheel until his 25th birthday . A bonus positive point would be that although Arnold isn't the ideal Conan, he does have charisma and as an ex-governor and a man with many valuable contacts, he could eventually prevent that infamous Conan rights owner from f*cking everything up again as in the movie Conan 2011. Arnold would refuse to see a franchise that led him to the way of Hollywood success go down so miserably in some amateur movie. Sure, its a big fat 'IF' that we're putting on the table. "IF Arnold does the right thing and listens to some REH scholars and IF he doesn't fool around like the shameless producers from Conan the Destroyer, redSonja , Conan TVseries and that lousy Conan 2011 and IF he's capable of making the difference today between a worthy story from a Hercules TV series plot".
    Whatever happens, it will still be "that" Conan from 1982 but it's up to Arnold to put his money on a story that would UP THE LEVEL instead of feeding on the un-howardian clichés seen in 1982

    -the negative point would be that the totally un-REH details force fed by Milius to the public via the movie Conan the Barbarian (1982) will be revived . Ignorant metalheads who listen to pansy epic symphonic metal with blond Conans on the covers waving runeflags and repeating " I will be king" and "Odin I know thy rhyme of steel" , well those pimple ridden teens who've never read once in their lives any original Conan story or any graphic adaptation will see their dream come true : Milus' Conan is coming back . And yes I've read horrible things on some forums and yes people who think "1982 conan is great but original REH Conan is bland" do exist although they've never read any Conan apart from a few Marvel Conan the Barbarian while having a cr*ap.
    It would reinforce the distance between educated fans who dared pick up a Howard book AFTER seeing the 1982 and those who still don't have a clue and have a persistent mental iamge of a mute brutish Conan crying at Thorgrim's feet while Thulsa Doom speaks of Milius' "riddle of steel", as Conan wipes his feet with his tear soaken -light brown- hair babbling about his parents.
    Some extreme fans of the first movie -hate- the original Conan, go and wonder why, maybe Set sent them as a curse.


    All in all, it's hard to imagine Paradox FINALLY starting to produce something ORIGINAL although only slightly based on the original stories but heavily on the Milius version.
    Paradox are not the only to blame as precedent right owners did as much as them -zilch- to help the Conan franchise , suffices to get a look at the Blackstar inspired Conan tv cartoon and Conan TV series, not to mention the Conan comics mini-series.

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    1. Ignorant metalheads who listen to pansy epic symphonic metal with blond Conans on the covers waving runeflags and repeating " I will be king" and "Odin I know thy rhyme of steel"

      Oi, I resemble that remark! And if you don't mind, it's called Flower Metal, thankyerverymuch.

      Joking aside, you've hit the nail on the head. However, we have one big ally now: the Internet. Back in '82, Howard fans fought on through 'zines and grassroots campaigns: in this age of technology, the word of REH can be spread out exponentially wider and with greater strength. There may still be the folks who equate Arnie with Conan in the majority, but now everyone's on a connected global stage, and the REH supporters can coordinate and educate.

      There's also the fact that, while I don't agree with some of Paradox's decisions, they at least had the good sense to release unedited REH rather than rely on endless pastiche: if they don't have another edition of the Conan stories with Arnold on the cover ("The stories that inspired the legend?") then they're out of their minds.

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    1. Well I'm writing, you know... the 'same old guy'31 October 2012 at 01:37

      I've never been against a final Arnold chapter to end the cycle, but I'm really waiting for a good Howard-compatible pastiche and /or a faithful adaptation of genuine source material when speaking of a future NON-Arnold movie.
      I don't see how that could make me go "180 deg" .

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  7. An even more earth-shaking development:

    Disney buys Lucasfilm for $4 billion, Star Wars sequel trilogy planned, Episode VII projected for 2015 release.

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  8. Who knows... if a new Arnold film is well-made and well-received it will improve Conan's status in the general public, something necessary after that 2011 disaster. It will possibly open the way for more Conan-related projects, including possibly a film actually based on REH's Conan.

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