Robert E. Howard’s Cimmerian warrior, Conan the Barbarian was originally given the big screen treatment back in the 1980s, with Arnold Schwarzenegger playing the titular role. While the Schwarzenegger films are generally considered good campy fun (the first Conan is, at least), even their fans don’t deny they aren’t exactly loyal translations of Howard’s source material.
Yesterday marked the arrival of an official Conan the Barbarian trailer, which offered an early look at this summer’s reboot. If nothing else, the footage on display suggested the new film will adhere closer to the look and atmosphere of Conan literature, especially that of the character’s comic book incarnation.
Conan the Barbarian was scripted by Dylan Dog: Dead of Night writing duo Thomas Dean Donnelly and Joshua Oppenheimer, in collaboration with Sean Hood (Halloween: Resurrection). The combination of those screenwriters with director Marcus Nispel (The Texas Chainsaw Massacre, Friday the 13th) calling the shots on the Conan reboot seems to suggest that the film will likely return the character to his R-Rated roots.
Hood has spoken out on the new Conan the Barbarian, and confirmed as much:
The world of Hyboria, as Robert E. Howard described it, is fleshy and brutal. Bloody beheadings and bare-chested slave girls abound. However, while the movie is unflinching in its depiction of barbarism, slavery and warfare, the violence and nudity emerge from the fabric of the story. It isn’t gratuitous.
Robert E. Howard’s stories, although violent and perverse for their time, were not intrusively graphic either. So this is ultimately a movie about the character Conan, a character that will hopefully launch a healthy franchise of movies with stories and characters that celebrate Howard’s work. Yes, you’ll see blood and boobs, but this isn’t a Cinemax movie; it’s epic action/fantasy. And yes, it’s rated R.
The material on display in the full-length Conan trailer was given a positive reception by many a fan, but the overall impression so far seems a bit on the mixed side. Although this reboot is clearly not taking a tongue-in-cheek approach to the titular character and the world he inhabits, what footage has been shown from the film seems (to me) a bit too reminiscent of other (fun, but goofy) period fantasy-adventure flicks (the Clash of the Titans remake in particular). And yes, although most of the action looks appropriately unpolished, those couple of Matrix-style moves that Momoa’s Barbarian pulls in the trailer seem out of place.
Right now, I’m mostly on the fence about the new Conan the Barbarian movie. While the visual design and atmosphere of the ancient world setting in the film looks pretty good, there seems to be a risk that the pic will descend into unintentional silliness. I’m still intrigued enough by what’s been shown (and what Hood has said) to give this one a look, but going in with moderate expectations seems the proper approach right now.
Conan the Barbarian arrives in theaters this summer on August 19th. After watching the trailer and reading what Hood has to say, how are you feeling about the film?
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