While TV spots and trailers for Lionsgate's impending Conan the Barbarian have been big on playing up the reboot's merits as an entertainingly violent romp, Jason Momoa's turn as the titular brute will also help make or break the film.
Based on what the Game of Thrones actor had to say in response to questions from fans about his take on the famous muscle-bound warrior, Momoa at least appears to have done his fair share of research for the role - and has a decent appreciation for the sustaining popularity of the Conan character.
According to Momoa, Conan director Marcus Nispel started him off with an eclectic collection of material (comic books, Robert E. Howard's original Conan stories, etc.), saying the director envisioned an incarnation of the character "like [Sean Connery as James Bond] - just very charismatic and you fall in love with him."
As for his own thoughts, Momoa had the following to offer:
"It’s really, truly an honour to play him. I love the fact that he is not the superhero, he’s a man that’s gritty, he’s truly a man, but under the circumstances he does heroic things."
As many people have noted, the visual design of Nispel's Conan reboot seems by and large closer to the aesthetic of the character's comic book incarnation - not to mention, descriptions in Howard's original literary source material - than the John Milius' 1982 Conan the Barbarian film, with Arnold Schwarzenegger as the Cimmerian warrior. According to Momoa, that was very much intentional:
"The wardrobe in [the 'Conan' reboot] is really pulled from the Dark Horse Comics. Obviously the poster looks like the Frank Frazetta painting. We pulled from some of the comics – some do Robert E. Howard’s stories, some do their own. We pulled from a little bit of everything."
Momoa cited titles like Christopher Nolan's Batman Begins or Martin Campbell's Casino Royale, as models for how Nispel and his creative team chose to "re-imagine" the Conan franchise. While such comparisons are almost customary (read: very predictable and over-used) for Hollywood reboots at this point, these actually seem like fair examples to cite in this situation. As the actor put it:
"... [What] we’re doing is really an origin story starting from the very beginning of what it was like when [Conan] was born, being cut out of his mother’s womb, becoming this little bad ass warrior and slowly watching his father die in front of his eyes. And then him being this pirate and beef, and slowly finding the man who killed his father... This is really the essence of Conan in this movie."
While the Conan the Barbarian footage has featured more than its fair share of appropriately graphic and savage content (bloody carnage, gritty violence, etc.), its tone has definitely been on the cheesy side. So the question remains: Will Conan play out more like an action-packed B-movie that's an improvement on last year's similar Clash of the Titans? Or just be too over-the-top for its own good?
It's honestly kind of hard to tell at this point, seeing how certain aspects (ex. the stylishly macabre production design) of Conan seem pretty appealing, while other elements (ex. the hokey dialogue) has made the film less enticing. So long as Nispel actually adheres closer to the classic Conan mythology in his reboot (like Momoa indicates he has) longtime fans will probably be more forgiving of the film's shortcomings.
Conan the Barbarian slashes its way into 2D and 3D theaters in the U.S. on August 19th, 2011.
For more from Momoa, check out his full interview over at the UK Conan the Barbarian Facebook page.