Monday, 27 September 2010

Shadow's B-Movie Graveyard on Conan the Barbarian

A fairly comprehensive and impressive review of Conan the Barbarian.

Not that it isn't without its weird moments...

When viewed within context of existing Conan stories by creator Robert E. Howard, the film is somewhat of a patchwork affair, taking various ideas, characters, locations and names from the Hyborean age and melding them into a storyline that simultaneously has little and everything to do with the character. The look and feel of the people and world in the movie are most certainly recognizable as Conan, yet there is an odd emptiness that can be felt on occasion by many fans of the character’s literary origins. Something perhaps lost in translation from written word to silver screen.

"Somewhat" of a patchwork affair?  Ye gods.  Yet again, it's that nebulous "look and feel" being used.  The only phrase that annoys me more is "capture the spirit."  What is this "spirit" which is apparently captured?

Gotta laugh at the "odd emptiness."  As if fan disappointment at the film completely altering the backstory, philosophy and theme of the character was somehow odd.  Something sure was lost in translation: the character of Conan.  Heck, the reviewer seems to stumble upon this himself later:

In the same fashion that the film takes a hodgepodge of Conan lore and molds it into something new, likewise the film Conan is his own person…and being quiet, brooding and aloof is who he is.

Exactly. "Quiet, brooding and aloof" is exactly how I would not describe Howard's Conan.

Conan the Barbarian is a fun film. Certainly it is the best example of the Swords and Sorcery subgenre of fantasy films. Beyond that, it exudes a certain brutal and primitive charm. Not to be over analyzed, it exists purely on a popcorn movie level. Even to this day, it may be too violent for some people, especially kids. For those who like lots of talking in their epics, this film may not be for you. However, for those who like sweeping visuals that really add atmosphere to a story, this may be more to your liking – even if the story in question is a bare bones affair driven by plot more than character. Fans of fantasy films should check it out at least once, though don’t expect the deepness or intricacy of The Lord of the Rings.

And here I'd have to disagree.  I'd considering Conan the Barbarian easily as "deep" and "intricate" as Jackson's The Lord of the Rings.  Hell, I'd actually say it's deeper in some ways.  Jackson and company - like Milius - did Tolkien's greatest hits, with precious little of the subtlety or carefully balanced nuance of the source material.  What resulted in both cases were films telling the director's interpretation of the source material.  Sometimes they got things right - even Milius had Conan almost acting Conan-like in a few brief instances - other times, they got things wrong.  In both cases, I found the production design, costumes, props and score the best parts of the films by far.  Both are big action movies with a surprising amount of depth, though barely a fraction of the depth of their respective source material.

I will say Jackson definitely adapted The Lord of the Rings, though - Milius certainly didn't adapt Howard's Conan.

But then, I have to wonder about a review that says it's "not to be analyzed" and to be enjoyed "purely on a popcorn movie level"... right after a fairly lengthy analysis of the movie.  Hmm.


  1. I'm going to see the movie, pretending that this is Joe D'amato's "Ator"! Maybe a sequel to "The Cave Dwellers", that way I won't be disappointed. And if it turns out to have a Conan feel I'll say "Hey, doesn't Ator act like Conan?"

  2. That's probably the best way to go about it, Atom Kid: either that, or this is Mirror Universe Conan.

  3. in the case of the new film the honest thing if it isn't to be a howardian one is to change the name of the character... just like did the italians with Gunan or Krotar...
    what about this...? animation for adults adapting every story of Conan in episodes of 1 hour or so...