Filmmaker John Milius’ Conan the Barbarian was a noteworthy critical/commercial success when it was released in 1982 (when it grossed $130 million worldwide on a $16 million budget), yet the Conan live-action movie franchise has often struggled since then – giving rise to a not-so-beloved sequel in 1984’s Conan the Destroyer; then the critical/financial bomb in the form of spinoff Red Sonja a year thereafter; and then a poorly-received Conan the Barbarian reboot in 2011 that only grossed a little over half its $90 million budget.
However, Conan may live again on the big screen and soon, as The Legend of Conan – a belated sequel set to feature original Conan actor Arnold Schwarzenegger as an older version of the eponymous muscular Hyborian warrior – currently appears to be on track to start production by Fall 2015. Producer Fredrik Malmberg isn’t thinking short-term with Legend of Conan either, as he’s now re-acquired the movie rights to Conan creator Robert E. Howard’s other fantasy creations.
Deadline is reporting that Malmberg has picked up the rights to such Howard properties as Conan the Barbarian, Kull the Conquerer, and Solomon Kane, among others – now that he’s acquired the former rights holder, Paradox Entertainment Inc., during a stock deal. Here’s the statement from Malmberg, regarding his newfound catalogue of intellectual properties and characters created by the late Howard:
“These days, it comes down to brands and characters and we are looking at long-term possibilities. We look at how Marvel played out with its rich based of characters, and this too is a universe that lends itself to exploitation in TV and film. There aren’t many libraries like this.”
Legend of Conan is the only Howard film adaptation that’s currently in active development, though, as Deadline reports that first script draft penned by Andrea Berloff (Straight Outta Compton) – based on the screen story/concept from Chris Morgan (the Fast and the Furious series) – is now being revised by screenwriter Will Beall (Gangster Squad). A director for the project has seemingly not been found yet, but Morgan recently offered his assurances that the film is going to be a “logical extension” of the Conan character and his world depicted in Milius’ R-Rated, violent, 1982 swords and sorcery adventure.
Like it or not, building movie universes – be they “Shared” or not – based on established IPs is fashionable in Hollywood right now – whether we’re talking about superhero franchises (the Marvel and DC Cinematic Universes), sci-fi/fantasy blockbuster properties (Star Wars), and/or even shared genre characters (Universal’s supernatural horror monsters). Keeping that in mind, some of the previously-mentioned Howard warriors have already carried their own films, while others have taken on headlining duties in works from other mediums (novels, comic books, etc.). So a Robert E. Howard movie universe seems feasible enough, in that respect.
If there’s a problem with that plan, though, it’s that Howard adaptation haven’t exactly been all that successful in the past (as was mentioned before) – and even Legend of Conan isn’t necessarily a sure-fire hit, seeing as it’s been firmly established by now that Schwarzenegger alone is no longer a huge box office draw. Many of Howard’s fantasy creations have received slapdash treatments in the past, so that is something that’s certainly affected their box office performance.
However, the filmmakers behind Legend claim they’re attempting to do right by the Conan character with this installment, and seem to expect that filmgoers will respond in accordance. Time will tell if that happens, though, so best that Robert E. Howard fans not get too excited about the idea of a new movie universe in the meantime.
We’ll bring you more information on The Legend of Conan when we have it.