By Crom! Give Audiences Another Conan Movie!
Saying Terminator: Genisys failed with both critics and fans is like saying Jai Courtney can’t act. They are both axiomatically correct. Despite my initial review, I ended up selecting Genisys as my worst film of 2015. I stand by my selection, although admittedly I didn’t see Fantastic 4, Pixels, or The Ridiculous Six last year.
Despite Genisys being a rancid fungal infection of a film, the one thing, or rather person, that didn’t disappoint was Arnold Schwarzenegger. Even at sixty-eight (damn!) the role of the Terminator looks as natural as one of Arnie’s signature stogies in the corner of his mouth. I have to admit it was a thrill to watch AH-NULD sport a shotgun, crack his famous lines, and kick-ass in general. That’s why in spite of Genisys‘ many faults, I’m very excited for Arnie to revisit another iconic character–Conan the Barbarian.
Ever since the former Mr. Universe returned to the silver screen a few years ago, the idea of another Conan movie has been kicked around. Back in May Producer Frank Malmberg told the group The Arnold Fans that the script was done and they were aiming for a hard R as well as shopping the script. The movie, whose working title was The Legend of Conan, was to be a direct sequel to the 1982 classic bypassing Conan the Destroyer. It’s supposedly set thirty years after CTB and sees Conan as a king forced into one final adventure. Co-writer/producer Chris Morgan said, “Think Unforgiven…with a sword-wielding barbarian.” I am SO down for something like that.
While Morgan stated shooting could begin as early as last Fall that obviously didn’t happen.
Although months have passed, the film is far from dead. Last month at an event called an “Experience with Arnold Schwarzenegger” in Scotland, Arnold confirmed the film is moving forward and they are currently looking for a director. In addition, the title has changed to Conan the Conqueror, which incidentally was the original title for the aborted third Conan movie back in the 1980s. Despite being in Development Hell for years, Schwarzenegger was adamant stating, “that story WILL be told and that movie WILL be done.”
With the progress of this movie moving slower than Conan pushes the Wheel of Pain, some of you may be thinking of George R.R. Martin’s line, “Words are wind.” However, one thing I’ve learned from following Arnie’s career and reading his autobiography (GETTODACHOPPA) is that the best way to motivate Arnold to do something is to tell him he can’t do it. The man’s force of will is just overwhelming. So if the Governator says this movie will be made, I believe him.
The real question however, is SHOULD Conan the Conqueror be made?
By the crown jewel of Aquilonia my answer is an emphatic YES.
Now despite being in great shape, audiences will naturally question Arnold’s age and if it will impact the quality and enjoyment of CTC. While that concern is understandable, I think the fear is unwarranted. Aside from Schwarzenegger being in great shape (seriously have you seen the dude in those Mobile Strike commercials???) the movie itself is set three decades after the original. This would account for Conan’s age much better than in Terminator: Genisys, where apparently in ten years a cyborg’s thirty-year old body makes it look like it’s sixty. Too much of that high quality endoskeleton cocaine I guess.
Aside from the timeline itself, many people forget a key thing about Conan. Creator Robert E. Howard wrote stories of the seminal sword wielding barbarian from the time Conan was eighteen up into his sixties. Arnold turns sixty-nine this year and could pass for fifty. Based on his health, looks, and the character’s age range, I have little doubt that AH-NULD could pull this off. Furthermore there is precedent. Harrison Ford played the character of Indiana Jones at age sixty-five. Indy was fifty-eight in Kingdom of the Crystal Skull but I think the comparison is fair.
The key element here however is to get the right combination of writing, directing, and talent. Case in point: the sequel to Blade Runner. While originally I was weary of the idea, look at the talent involved besides Harrison Ford. You have director Denis Villeneuve, original writer Hampton Fancher, Oscar-winning cinematographer Roger Deakins, and newcomer Ryan Gosling. It’s also being produced by the director of the original, Ridley Scott. That’s enough talent to fill ten Tyrell buildings. To produce a cohesive and successful film, Conan the Conqueror needs to take a page from the Blade Runner sequel and acquire similar talent.
While my enthusiasm abounds for this film, I do have a few concerns about Conan the Conqueror. Topping the list is the screenwriting. Chris Morgan knows action having worked extensively on virtually all of the Fast and the Furious films and the graphic novel adaptation Wanted. However with movies like Cellular and 47 Ronin under his belt, I question what he can add to Conan in terms of story. Morgan’s co-writer Will Beall is a novelist known mostly for his work on the television show Castle and the underwhelming Gangster Squad. While his resume isn’t awful (it’s not like he wrote The Ridiculous Six) it’s not exactly Citizen Kane quality either. I just don’t want this to devolve into Reign of Fire meets Dungeons and Dragons meets In the Name of the King.
Speaking of films with horrible CGI, I also question the role special effects will play in Conan the Conqueror. While budget could be an issue (Schwarzenegger just doesn’t generate as much box-office as he used to) I don’t want it to be so cheap it turns into a monstrosity like the 2011 Jason Mamoa version of Conan the Barbarian. In fact CTC‘s best bet may be to look to the original 1982 film and adopt practical effects with minimal CGI. Thirty-four years later the original still holds up regarding special effects in my opinion.
Then there’s the matter of new talent as I mentioned. Obviously other than Conan I have no idea who the new characters would be.* However, I envision obviously a major villain (probably with magical powers) and new companions, possibly even a wife for Conan and/or children. My thinking here is that they need at least one bankable star other than Schwarzenegger. I think their best bet would be Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson. Right now he’s box office gold and could you imagine two of the biggest action stars of all time paired up in the same movie? Plus he has ties to Conan writer Chris Morgan through the Fast and the Furious series.
Which brings us to the director. As of yet Arnold and company have yet to find one. It could be that they are being selective but I also wonder if directors may be actively avoiding the film. If Conan the Conqueror is to be a direct sequel to Conan the Barbarian, and looks to capture the tone of the original, then I think there’s only one man for the job: John Milius. Milius directed the original 1982 classic and I think his return to the series could prove invaluable. And anybody who says he’s too old or out of touch to direct, I would have them Google George Miller.
Whether or not Conan the Conqueror becomes reality–only Crom knows. If it does come to fruition, let’s just hope the film isn’t this:
but more like this:
*Chris Morgan (who’s also producing) confirmed that three characters from the original will also be returning. I’m thinking Gerry Lopez as Subotai and Sandahl Bergman as Valeria. As to the third? I’m not sure. It could be the Wizard of the Mounds but unfortunately they would have to recast, as sadly Mako Iwamatsu passed away in 2006.
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