The 2011 reboot of the Conan the Barbarian movie franchise (starring Aquaman actor Jason Momoa) was both a miss with critics and a commercial flop, bringing in $48 million worldwide against a $90 million budget. Perhaps it’s for the best, then, that Universal Studios currently has no plans to reboot the grandaddy of swords and sorcery properties on the big screen again. Instead, the studio is developing The Legend of Conan: a movie that would serve as the (long-awaited) followup to director John Milius’ 1982 Conan the Barbarian, but largely ignore the events of that movie’s less-popular 1984 sequel, Conan the Destroyer.
Arnold Schwarzenegger is lined up to reprise his original star-making role as Conan in Legend of Conan, but a director has yet to be attached to the slowly, but steadily, developing project. The film’s screenplay is also a work in progress for the time being, with Fast & Furious franchise writer/producer Chris Morgan now working on a script draft in tandem with Will Beall: the Gangster Squad screenwriter who is also putting together a fresh Aquaman movie script draft for Momoa and director James Wan, as it were.
Milius’ Conan the Barbarian famously concludes with a shot of an older (and bearded) Conan the Barbarian, now a king and sitting upon his own throne – teasing that one day, the story of the King Conan will be told. Beall, when he spoke to /Film at the CBS, CW and Showtime party for the 2016 Television Critics Association press tour, confirmed that Legend of Conan picks up right with the final shot of Milius’ film:
“It opens there. It opens with this [hand on the chin]. It’s where you have to. It’s the sequel that we were promised and never got.”
The 1982 Conan the Barbarian film contains elements that (understandably) come off being unintentionally campy nowadays, but the overall movie nonetheless boasts a fittingly epic scope and feel – at the same time, remaining true to the spirit (if not so much the text) of the pulpy stories by Conan the Barbarian creator Robert E. Howard that inspired it. Most of the Conan movies and/or spinoffs (like the kid-friendly Conan the Adventurer cartoon TV show) made since then have fallen short of achieving the same balance: being a revenant take on its fantasy sub-genre, yet faithful to the (sometimes outlandish) nature of the larger Conan universe and mythology.
Beall, for his part, feels that Legend of Conan will succeed where others have failed, in that respect:
“I’m 11 when my father took me to see Conan the Barbarian which you should never take an 11-year-old kid to. It was a life changing thing. It’s an unbelievable movie. It comes back to [director John] Milius, right? There’s nobody better and it’s a real movie. It’s a truthful movie. Chris and I from the very beginning said there’s no reason to do it unless it’s a worthy sequel to Milius’s Conan and I think we’ve got that. I really do.”
Beall’s screenplay for Gangster Squad certainly played to the pulp nature of that film’s respective genre (too much so, depending on who you ask), so the real question is whether or not he and Morgan can also deliver a Legend of Conan script that has the grandiose adventure tone and worthwhile narrative that moviegoers tend to expect nowadays, post-Lord of the Rings. Perhaps for related reasons, Beall assured /Film that both he and Morgan are “continuing to hone” the film’s screenplay until it’s in tip-top shape – before going out on a high note with their discussion, by adding “I think that’s going to be a great movie actually.”
We’ll bring you more information on The Legend of Conan as it becomes available.