Conan The Barbarian’s Film History

Posted on Posted in Movies, Reviews/Commentary

 

 

Introduction

 

It has been remarkable that Robert E. Howard’s Conan the Barbarian has managed to stay visible in pop culture across magazines, books, comic books, films, and video games since debuting in print in 1932.  One reason was undoubtedly the surprising amount of basic source material.  Between the time of the character’s creation and Howard’s suicide in 1936, Howard wrote 21 Conan stories and published 17 of them.

In hindsight, history has proven that few other ‘pulp’ characters from that era would match Conan’s longevity and ability to be revived decades later.  So who was Conan and what made him different?

The Conan stories were set in a fictional time period known as the ‘Hyborian Age.’  The timing of this era was described as being after the fall of Atlantis, but before the rise of what we would consider to be ‘modern’ civilization.   This timing put Conan in an ambiguous fantasy realm where magical elements or strange creatures could easily exist.

Over the years, popular images of Conan have often envisioned him as shirtless, usually dressed only in a loin cloth.  In Howard’s stories though, he tended to blend into whatever particular culture he might have found himself in during his wanderings.  Some of that incognito approach was hinted at in the various filmed versions of Conan, with the character sometimes needing to go ‘undercover,’ but it wasn’t a notable character feature.

Howard’s vision of the character as moving ‘like a panther’ has also not really been portrayed by the more muscle-bound actors that have filled the role in film. Granted though, large muscles were always a part of Howard’s description of the character.

One other character trait that hasn’t always been apparent in the filmed versions of Conan was the character’s intelligence.  While most would identify Conan as being an overpowering brute, less recognized was that the character was also assumed to be a sort of tactical genius.  He also knew multiple languages and seemed to have a talent with linguistics.

Unlike many contemporaries of the 1930s pulp era, Conan managed to land what would become a long-running Marvel Comics series that started in 1970.  Writer Roy Thomas was responsible for writing a number of issues of that series and original artist Barry Windsor-Smith made a name for himself with his art on the character.  Conan proved to be popular enough to not only star in the monthly Marvel Comic, but also to carry a comic book magazine.  The “Savage Sword of Conan” magazine offered Marvel the opportunity to tell more adult-oriented stories and that series also sold very well.

Other characters from pulp fiction, such as the Shadow and Doc Savage did re-appear in the 1970s and several hit films of that era, notably “Star Wars,” mined the 1930s pulp and serial film feel.   Not surprisingly, film producers in Hollywood started showing a keen interest in Conan during that time.

 

Conan The Barbarian (1982)

The first such Conan film project was pushed forward by Edward Summer and it involved a screenplay by Roy Thomas.  Summer pitched his ideas to producer Edward Pressman, who paid to sort out the complicated legal rights that had prevented immediate movement on a Conan film.  The rights had been in dispute with the copyright holders and it took several years for Pressman to finally clear the film rights.  The particular success of “Star Wars” helped get funding moving to develop a Conan film, with the first film’s eventual director, John Milius getting involved early, but soon exiting.

Screenwriter Oliver Stone was brought in to produce a new screenplay in the late 1970s, but the estimated cost of his story was deemed too extraordinarily high to proceed.  At various points, Stone and Ridley Scott were considered as potential directors, but eventually John Milius became involved again.

In a fortuitous twist of fate, Milius had been under contract to direct a film for Dino De Laurentiis, who had been a longtime financier of ‘genre’ films.  The film that would ultimately satisfy that obligation to De Laurentiis was “Conan the Barbarian.”  Milius was credited on the final script with Stone and he helped make the story more film-able, at half the estimated cost for Stone’s original story.  Most of Stone’s contributions to the final film came through in scenes during the first half of “Conan the Barbarian.”

Somewhat surprisingly, the then-newcomer Arnold Schwarzenegger had been in mind for the lead role as far back as 1976.  Other actors, such as Charles Bronson, had been considered, but Summer and Pressman stuck with Schwarzenegger.   When Milius made his final casting decisions, he ended up with many prominent newcomers, but anchored the cast with veterans James Earl Jones and Max von Sydow.

Much of the filming was conducted in Spain and its landscapes provided the right mix of familiarity and otherworldliness.  As was common amongst directing contemporaries of the 1970s, Milius acknowledged that his action scenes were influenced by Akira Kurosawa’s samurai films, particularly “Seven Samurai.”

In modern terms, the film that resulted would largely be considered an ‘origin story.’  Young Conan’s parents were killed by the evil conqueror Thulsa Doom and Conan ended up in slavery.  After growing up into a gladiator, Conan was freed from slavery and set out to get his revenge on Thulsa Doom.  Over the course of the film, Conan found tragic love with the warrior woman Valeria (Sandahl Bergman), put together a rag-tag band of avenging thieves, and managed to topple Doom’s snake-cult empire.

Most action film fans, particularly those who grew up in the 1980s, have a special place in their heart for “Conan the Barbarian.”  I was much too young to have first seen it one Saturday morning at roughly six years old.  My uncle and grandmother were supervising me and they should have known that “Conan the Barbarian” wasn’t appropriate viewing for a child of that age.  Just the same, I was obsessed with what I viewed, demanding to watch it and its sequel “Conan the Destroyer” multiple times that day.  In fact, when my parents came to retrieve me later that evening, I insisted that they watch the films too, although I can’t imagine what they thought upon seeing them.

I revisited “Conan the Barbarian” again during college – nearly 15 years later – after the initial DVD release.  I was surprised to find that it was filled with massive amounts of very graphic violence and sex. For whatever reason, that material had not registered on me at all at a young age.  Except for the opening scene, when a young Conan watched his mother get decapitated by Thulsa Doom.  That was a shocking, startling image that I’d always associate with the film.  But it wasn’t really scarring since, in the end, the bad guy who was responsible was served justice.  In my child mind, that made it all okay.

The rewatchablity and craftsmanship in “Conan the Barbarian” tended to get forgotten after the sequels, pseudo-spin-offs, and re-boot that followed.  As a friend recently pointed out to me, “Conan the Barbarian” was a very ‘lyrical’ film and that might explain its longevity.  Due to Schwarzenegger’s limited speaking abilities at that time, the film had to rely heavily on its visuals and that crutch turned out to be one of the film’s strengths.

Although also a novice actress, Sandahl Bergman’s Valeria brought something exotically attractive to the film; maybe it was in knowing how she could seemingly hold her own against any of the many warriors in the film.  There are also some real actors at work in the film though, with James Earl Jones still in his Dark Vader prime and quite effective as Thusla Doom.   Composer Basil Poledouris contributed to the mix by delivering one of the greatest  films scores of the 1980s.

At times, “Conan the Barbarian” had a certain patchwork feel to it, reflecting Conan’s short story origins, but also reflecting the consequences of a long development process behind the script.  I readily acknowledge that there were issues here or there in the film, but when “Conan the Barbarian” was ‘on,’ it was ON.

One aside:  In one of the stranger moments of pop culture parallelism, the final confrontation between Thulas Doom and Conan involved a sort of deja vu with the climax of “The Empire Strikes Back.”  James Earl Jones, playing Doom, said to Conan:  “My child, you have come to me my son.”  Although there isn’t the direct father-son relationship that the Jones-voiced Darth Vader character had with Luke Skywalker, there some oddly similar themes at work, with Doom having indirectly ‘created’ the great warrior that Conan was inspired to become.  However, Conan wasn’t sentimental and didn’t hesitate to decapitate Doom, whose rolling head provided one of the more memorable moments in a film filled with many memorable moments.

 

Conan the Destroyer (1984)

The direct sequel to “Conan the Barbarian” was “Conan the Destroyer” and it was less-fondly received than the first film by most Conan fans.  John Milius was unable to direct “Conan the Destroyer” and he was replaced in that role by Richard Fleischer, a legend in his own right, having directed “20,000 Leagues Under The Sea” in the 1954.

The main problem with the sequel was the odd attempt to make the Conan franchise more ‘family friendly,’ by seeking a PG rating.  “Conan the Destroyer” was successful at getting that rating, but it resulted in a jarringly different film.  There was much less violence and, while familiar elements from the first film were carried over, one could tell that the sequel was a very different product on many levels.

Roy Thomas, the noted “Conan” Marvel Comics writer, helped craft the sequel’s story.  He was joined by fellow comics writer Gerry Conway.  Apparently though, the final screenplay was written by screenwriter Stanley Mann.  While I am a big fan of comic books, it pains me to say that the story came off as rather ‘comic book-y’ – at least, it seemed to be similar to what one might expect of writing in that particular era’s comic books.  Thomas and Conway did distance themselves from the final film and later released a graphic novel that featured their original vision.

The basics of the film’s story seemed to relate in some ways back to Thomas’s original, unused screenplay for “Conan the Barbarian,” involving Conan being sent on a questionable mission to kill a wizard.  Queen Taramis made a deal with Conan that she’ll resurrect his lost-love Valeria if he can recover a horn artifact that she needed to resurrect the dreaming god, Dagoth.  Conan sets off on a quest to retrieve a jewel from an evil wizard that will aide in recovering the artifact.   The adventure party was rounded out by the queen’s niece Jehnna, a warrior named Zulu, and Akiro, Conan’s wizard ally from the first film.  Conan was unaware that the queen’s guard, Bombaata, sent with the group as an escort, was under orders to kill Conan after he completed the mission.

Conan’s group soon defeated the wizard inside his impressive ice castle and obtained the necessary jewel.   They then headed on a second quest to a temple, where the jewel was used by Jehnna to retrieve the horn artifact.  Following his pre-established orders, Bombaata tried to kill Conan, but was instead killed by Conan.  In the process, the queen’s true plan to use Jehnna as a sacrifice to Dagoth became clear.  Conan and the rest of his party then ended up rescuing Jehnna, defeating the queen and installing Jehnna as the kingdom’s new ruler.

While “Conan the Destroyer” has some nice set pieces and action sequences, the middle of the film ended up being rather thin.  There were also many elements about the film that could best be described as unsuccessfully quirky.  For instance, the flirting and later declined marriage proposal between 15-year-old Olivia d’Abo’s princess character and Schwarzenegger’s Conan was, at times, uncomfortably odd.

The casting included a few unusual choices, some better than others.  While Grace Jones delivered as Zulu, former basketball star Wilt Chamberlain essentially began and ended his acting career with the role of Bombaata.  If one wasn’t yet convinced of the oddness of the casting choices, keep in mind that 1980s staple Andre the Giant appeared at the end as the film’s re-born central demon.

“Conan the Destroyer” isn’t poorly made from a technical standpoint, but much of the behind-the-scenes crew stood in such stark contrast to those who had worked on the prior film.  John Milius was part of the ‘new wave’ of directing talent that swept into Hollywood from the mix of hippy and film school cultures.  His contemporaries, like Francis Coppola and George Lucas were more independently-minded and director Richard Fleischer represented the polar opposite of that attitude.  He had worked on high-profile projects in a more-controlled studio era.  Much of the crew that he brought with him had credits dating back to that era, having participated in what would have been the equivalent of summer blockbusters of the 1950s and 1960s.

Despite lackluster reviews, the sequel did perform well enough financially that producer Dino De Laurentiis pushed for another film, although the immediate result took the series in a strange direction.

 

Red Sonja (1985)

Purists would reject any discussion of “Red Sonja” as part of a filmed history of Conan.  Yet, there are too many similarities in “Red Sonja” to the proper “Conan” films and too much cross-over creative involvement to ignore it.

From an character origin standpoint, there was a precedence for a relationship between Conan and Red Sonja that stemmed back to Roy Thomas’s run on the “Conan the Barbarian” Marvel Comics series, having borrowed the character name from an unrelated Robert E. Howard work.  Under contract with producer Dino De Laurentiis, Schwarzenegger co-starred in “Red Sonja” with the rising action heroine of the day, Brigitte Nielsen.  It might surprise those who were only familiar with Nielsen’s unusual celebrity as a reality television star that she was a sort of up-and-comer in the mid-to-late 1980s action genre.

In theory, the film should have only brightened Nielsen’s career, while further catapulting Schwarzenegger into the mainstream, but its poor financial performance didn’t help either individual.  Schwarzenegger later referred to it as his ‘worst’ film and, while he did not play Conan by name, Conan could have easily been swapped in place of his ‘Lord Kalidor.’  As a child, I didn’t realize that they were different characters and I suspect that many viewers since its release have made the same confusing mistake.  Richard Fleischer directed “Red Sonja,” adding to a sense off odd continuity from “Conan the Destroyer.”

Further complicating matters, Sandahl Bergman was cast as the main villainous in “Red Sonja.”  Of course, her character had no relation to Valeria, but it was hard to put Valeria completely out of mind.  Nonetheless, it was a confusing choice to cast the stars of such a similar film – made only three years prior – in lead roles.  In fact, De Laurentiis initially offered Bergman the Red Sonja role, which would have only tangled matters.

Much like “Conan the Destroyer,” “Red Sonja” also avoided the grittiness that differentiated both films from “Conan the Barbarian.”  One could presume that this was a result of Fleischer’s influence on both film and the desire by producers to reach a broader audience through a less restrictive film rating.  “Red Sonja” did up the ante on mature themes though, being granted a PG-13 rating.

The opening scenes of “Red Sonja” were likely responsible for the slightly more mature rating.  Red Sonja rejected the sexual advances of Bergman’s Queen Gedren and the queen not only killed Red Sonja’s family, but also allowed her guards to rape Red Sonja.  The coincidences piled up after that incident, as Gedren stole a dangerous artifact known as the Talisman from a society of priestesses.  Red Sonja apparently had a sister amongst the priestesses and, after this sister escaped the heist, she came upon Lord Kalidor.  Before dying, Red Sonja’s sister put Kalidor in touch with Red Sonja herself.

After various adventures together, Red Sonja and Kalidor, along with their eventual band of allies, were able to take revenge on Queen Gedren.  In the process, they also use the Talisman to destroy the queen and her castle.  Throughout the film, the story was peppered with Red Sonja rejecting Kalidor’s advances, claiming that the only man to become her lover would be a man who could defeat her in combat.  The film ended on that note, with Red Sonja and Kalidor beginning to duel, but a kiss between them hinting that perhaps Red Sonja wanted Kalidor to win.

In real life, we know that Schwarzenegger got the girl, as he admitted to an affair with Nielsen in his 2012 biography “Total Recall.”  “Red Sonja” ended up being both critically and financially unsuccessful, although that stumble did not seem to end De Laurentiis’s interest in either Schwarzenegger or Conan.

 

Conan the Conqueror (1987; Cancelled)

There were sparse details regarding how this project would have appeared in its original incarnation, when it was intended as Schwarzenegger’s third Conan film.  By this time, Schwarzenegger’s contract with Dino De Laurentiis had been fulfilled and he was committed to filming “Predator” instead.

The script was eventually overhauled into the 1997 film “Kull the Conqueror” for “Hercules” television star Kevin Sorbo, who apparently requested that the lead character be changed from Conan to the other Robert E. Howard creation, Kull.   Depending on how much of “Kull the Conqueror” was re-written, the Conan version of the story might have centered around Conan trying to prevent the re-emergence of a banished Sorceress Queen.

 

King Conan (2001; Unmade)

There was talk for years of John Milius returning to Conan and doing his “King Conan” sequel with Schwarzenegger playing Conan as a much older barbarian.  The script was commissioned by Warner Bros around 2000 and would have been produced by the Wachowski Brothers, who were still riding high off of the success of their first “Matrix” film.  Milius’s script eventually made its way out onto the internet for fans to read.  It contained some good ideas, but the leaked early draft needed more refinement.

The story opened with Conan impregnating a woman named the ‘Daughter of the Snows.’  She informed him that he could claim his son from her once he could pay her price.  Over the years that followed, Conan joined the military of the Aquilonian Empire and was tutored by a similarly-orphaned former barbarian named Metallus.  In time, Conan became ‘more civilized’ after living in the Aquilonian world.  He rose, with Metallus as his superior, through the Aquilonian military ranks.

Eventually, Conan became so rich through the spoils of wars that he was able to retrieve his son, Kon.  Upon returning to Aquilonia, he inherited the kingdom of Zingara, but he was reluctant to be the region’s king.  That reluctance put an interesting spin on the final image of an aged Conan at the end of “Conan the Barbarian.”  Unlike Metallus, Conan was bored in his largely political role, never fully adjusting to the ‘civilized’ lifestyle.

Conan’s advisers complicated matters by urging him to send Kon to a sort of ‘king school,’ where he became a rival to the emperor’s son, Fortunas.  While these school scenes occurred, the bored Conan disguised himself as a peasant in order to mingle with his subjects and fell in love with a peasant woman.  The woman, Aeldra, happened to closely resemble Valeria and the ensuing romance with her helps Conan to work out some of the issues that he’d experienced in losing his first love.

As strange as this might seem, the nightly roving actually makes sense in context, as those were the only times when Conan could get back to his barbarian roots and true character.  Life started to fall apart for Conan and Kon when Fortunas learned that Conan and his son had been corresponding to one another via letters.  The letters were intercepted before delivery in an effort to try to turn father against son.

While the empire had seemingly tamed much of the known world, kingdoms of barbarians still existed.  The story became muddled in a political intrigue of sorts, when Conan brokered deals between his kingdom’s barbarian neighbors.  Around that time, the emperor died and Fortunas took over, playing a predictably bratty young ruler.  While Fortunas might have technically been more powerful than Thulsa Doom, the character didn’t have the same intimidation factor.

The climax of the story unfolded with Conan being saved from near assassination by Kon, who eventually forgave his father for their differences – both those that were real and those that had been engineered.  Conan then rallied the barbarian tribes of the neighboring kingdom to take on the ‘civilized’ empire that had tried to break him.

As one might have expected, Kon killed Fortunas rather easily, while Conan killed Metallus in tragic but honorable fashion.  The empire was left standing, but without an emperor for the time being, while the barbarian peoples regrouped across the river from the empire’s civilized land.  A ‘great struggle’ to come was hinted at, as  Conan, Aeldra, Kon and a witch’s daughter named Diera were victorious, but with a great battle seeming to await them.

While the script provided a satisfying ending, the door was left wide open for a sequel.  Milius went so far as to reference the potential sequel to “King Conan” by name as “Beneath My Sandaled Feet.”  A script for that ‘final’ film didn’t appear to have been written.

There were some really interesting ideas at work in “King Conan” when one considered how different it was from a typical sword-and-sorcery film.  The goal of the film was the opposite of what we might expect, with Conan becoming a king at the end of the first act and the rest of the film being about his need to reconnect with his barbarian life in order to truly live again.  That’s a well-considered idea in comparison to the stereotypical ideas that most writers would use when approaching the character and one had to assume that an older, wiser Milius was reflecting on the twenty years that had passed in his own life when he was putting together the story’s themes.

The refinement that the script would have needed mostly related tightening it up.  As written, a potential film would have run nearly three hours and, instead of feeling grand, it would have felt overly long.   I found references to later drafts being produced by Milius that were more refined, but no real details around specifics changes that were made.

Despite my reservations, it was clear that the “King Conan” script was written by the same person who had mostly envisioned the original “Conan the Barbarian” film.  Milius’s machismo style was in full effect and there were memorably touches that definitely evoked his earlier Conan film.  Of course, the idea of a son for Conan seemed like a blatant setup for a younger character to take over the series, but the story didn’t necessarily go in that direction.  At least not immediately.

Perhaps, had “King Conan” and its sequel been a success, fans would have clamored for a Kon series.   We’ll likely never know how that would have played out.  If anything, Kon was a necessary character for Milus to use though, with Kon providing an conflict-filled contrast, having what might be thought of as a ‘blue collar’ father in the ‘civilized’ world of privilege.  Both Conan and Kon needed to come to terms with who they really were over the course of the story.

The “King Conan” project hit a major speed bump when Schwarzenegger was elected governor of California in October 2003.  Milius still vowed to try to move forward with someone else cast in the Conan role, but that plan didn’t go anywhere.  Given that the script was specifically written to reflect Schwarzenegger’s older age, it would have been hard to imagine Milius moving forward in any fashion with a different, older actor in such an iconic role.

 

Conan The Barbarian (2011) 

Warner Bros. didn’t give up completely on the idea of a new Conan film and their executives switched gears to focus on a full re-booting of the franchise.  Over the next six years, directors Robert Rodriguez and Brett Ratner seemed to be solid locks to direct the new Conan film, but that task ultimately fell to Marcus Nispel.  Nispel’s background in commercials and modestly-successful remakes of classic horror films didn’t do much to excite the Conan fan community.

Somewhat by chance, I viewed the eventual film theatrically with my father, a man who had little prior Conan experience and the film wasn’t destined to ignite any further interest.  Expectations were low heading into the franchise’s re-boot, as I’d read many reviews that stated that the film was not very good.  Yet, there seemed to be a certain, redeeming decadence about it that caused credible reviewers to half-heartedly recommend it.

That last-minute hype by fandom, trying to sell the redeeming qualities of the film, were not warranted.  Those seeking only decadent sex and violence, would have been better off seeking out John Milius’s “Conan the Barbarian.” In playing up that particular angle, the film was undermined, since that was yet another area where it failed to surpass its Milius’s “Conan the Barbarian.”  In one small example of where the re-boot film fell short, it relied on an over-use of obviously-computer-generated blood sprays, displaying a decided lack of craft.

The new “Conan the Barbarian” began hopeful enough, with a similar ‘snowy village’ setting as in the original film.  It quickly went downhill after the story shifted from boyhood Conan’s origin to Jason Momoa’s adult Conan. Momoa was fine enough in the role, but it wasn’t a good sign when I found myself quickly missing the early antics of the butt-kicking Kid Conan.

The film’s main plot wasn’t so much bad as it was forgettable.  A mask, crafted long before by a group of sorcerers, was used to conquer the world.  Eventually, the mask was broken apart and its pieces ended up amongst the various barbarian tribes.  Conan’s father had one such piece and the warlord Khalar Zym killed Conan’s father as part of a plan to re-construct the mask.  Zym not only wanted to rule, but also to somehow revive his dead wife, despite carrying on a creepy relationship with his witch daughter.

Collecting all of the pieces of the mask wasn’t enough though, as Zym also had to sacrifice a pure-blood descendant of the mask’s creator sorcerers.  That descendant ended up being the beautiful, but whiny, Tamara.  Conan managed to protect Tamara and ultimately defeated Zym and his daughter.

The drabness of the plot was particularly-frustrating in that Momoa’s contemporary work of the time, “Game of Thrones,” was able to produce ten episodes vastly more interesting episodes for less money than the entire cost of the re-booted “Conan the Barbarian.” For comparison, during the climax of “Conan the Barbarian,” I found myself yawing and my father began talking about a baseball game that he would be attending in a few days.  Clearly, we were not entertained.

While the trend toward fast-cut editing became an unfortunate staple in action films during the 2000s, this film provided particularly bad examples of when that technique should not be used. The most iconic parts of the original Milius film, as with most ‘fighting’ films, occurred when he showcased fights within long cuts. Not only did the rapid cuts in this re-booted “Conan the Barbarian” make the fights disorienting, they ruined the opportunity for the actors and stunt people to showcase their skills for the audience. Fans would have been much more interested in seeing those performers dazzle than in appreciating the editor’s skill at marrying together quick cuts.

The decision to make the female lead somewhat-frail and often-annoying was another major miscalculation. The reason why the Valeria character worked so well in Milius’s film was that she was portrayed as a sort of equal to Conan. After growing up disrespecting women, Conan had suddenly found a woman whom he was genuinely intrigued by.  It made complete sense for his character to be drawn to such a woman.  In contrast, it made little sense as to why Conan would be drawn to a woman who displayed the exact opposite in personality traits.

The re-boot film’s biggest missed opportunity to win easy points with viewers was with the score. I was so bored during the fight scenes that I mentally added some of Basil Poledouris’s original Conan music to them.  Recycling those old Conan themes would have worked great in making the movie more interesting. It was a sad commentary on the state of film scoring circa 2010 that I couldn’t identify a single reoccurring theme song.

The re-boot film wasn’t a complete waste though.  Much as James Earl Jones brought a strong villain presence to the original “Conan the Barbarian,” Stephen Lang was quite credible as Khalar Zym.  Lang surprised me by being a completely different bad guy than he’d been in “Avatar,” a film that had only come out a few months before the new “Conan the Barbarian.”

As was the case from the earliest development of Conan in film, the filmmakers had the potential to kick off a long-running series of films that could have eventually switched in actors like the James Bond series.  Robert E. Howard’s backlog of stories could have eventually been worked through, similarly to how Bond’s films mined Ian Fleming’s books. Given all of those advantages and such a long development period, there really was no excuse for how the film turned out. If anything, what was produced seemed like it had been made to perhaps support a bad videogame.

As the re-boot film ended, I grew depressed rather than angry. The theatre was sparsely-populated and the grosses for the film’s opening weekend were not strong, so any potential new “Conan” series was destined to be canceled before a later installment might improve on the lackluster first film.  Had the film been a hit though, it would only have encouraged more of the same, so the situation was likely no-win either way.

 

The Future

The failure of the 2011 ‘re-boot’ of the Conan film franchise should have been the end of the story, at least for a while.  Re-tries of franchises tend to go in long cycles, with at least a number of years going by before another attempt can be made, particularly if the last attempt ended in premature fashion.

Or so it seemed.  News in October 2012 caused Conan’s cinematic story to take another twist.  Chris Morgan, who had produced several of the inexplicably-more-interesting-with-each-sequel “The Fast and the Furious” series, had become involved in a deal through Universal studios to return Arnold Schwarzenegger to the Conan role.

Morgan seemed to understand how Schwarzenegger could be convincingly involved in a new Conan film, referring to the final shot in the original “Conan the Barbarian” as being a springboard. Morgan’s launching point idea echoed what so many other children of the 1980s thought when they saw that shot’s promise of many more epics.

At the time of this writing, the details of what might occur with the new film were sketchy at best, with only a 2014 release date and Schwarzenegger’s involvement confirmed.  Fans clamored for the involvement of John Milius, but how he might be involved was also not clear.  The “King Conan” script was apparently not immediately available to Universal, having been developed by Warner Bros. and still owned by them.  Given Morgan’s position as a fan of the first Conan film, one would presume that he’d seek out Milius’s involvement in some fashion, but that didn’t mean that Milius would end up having any particular role.

Ultimately, the key question was whether this new film would ever get made?  It was hard to say, since film announcements didn’t always lead to a film beginning principle photography.  Even if this particular film didn’t come to fruition, it seemed likely that Conan would someday again return to the big screen.  The character had proved time and again to have the staying power and adaptability required to cross over various forms of media.  Certainly, we’d not heard the last of Conan.

 

Bibliography


Benioff, David, and D.B. Weiss. Game of Thrones. 2011. Film.
Cameron, James. Avatar. 2009. Film.
Fleischer, Richard. 20000 Leagues Under the Sea. 1954. Film.
—. Conan the Destroyer. 1984. Film.
—. Red Sonja. 1985. Film.
Howard, Robert E. The Coming of Conan the Cimmerian: The Original Adventures of the Greatest Sword and Sorcery Hero of All Time! Del Rey, 2003. Print.
Kershner, Irvin. Star Wars: Episode V – The Empire Strikes Back. 1980. Film.
Kurosawa, Akira. Seven Samurai. 1956. Film.
Lin, Justin. Fast Five. 2011. Film.
Martin, George R.R. A Game of Thrones. Bantam, 1996. Print.
Milius, John. Conan the Barbarian. 1982. Film.
—. King Conan: Crown of Iron. 2001.
Nispel, Marcus. Conan the Barbarian. 2011. Film.
—. Friday the 13th. 2009. Film.
—. The Texas Chainsaw Massacre. 2003. Film.
Sammon, Paul, and Frank Frazetta. Conan the Phenomenon (Conan. First ed. Dark Horse, 2007. Print.
Schwarzenegger, Arnold. Total Recall: My Unbelievably True Life Story. First ed. Simon & Schuster, 2012. Print.
Silet, Charles L. P., ed. Oliver Stone: Interviews. University Press of Mississippi, 2001. Print.
Wachowski, Andy, and Lana Wachowski. The Matrix. 1999. Film.

 

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *