Sunday, August 28, 2011

Conan Review

Watching this movie was like reading a Robert Jordan, Roland Green or John Maddox Roberts pastiche from the Tor era. The spirit of Conan was there, the basic character was there, the world was there, and as a cohesive story (even with a rehashed plot), it was perfectly fine. Sure, there were plot holes. But most movies (and many books) have those.  I guess I'm just one of those viewers who doesn't let a little thing like plot cohesiveness and plausibility get in the way of a good story.

My personal opinion is this: If, after watching this film, someone genuinely thinks it's a steaming pile of crap, they think so based on preconceived notions. As a movie, it was good. I enjoyed watching it. The action was suitably intense, the acting was fine (with a few minor foibles), and the visuals were astounding. It wasn't a movie that required you to turn anything off, other than rabid-fanboyism (regardless of what you're a fanboy of).

That being said, it was definitely made to be a rehash of the 1982 film in many ways. The revenge plot has been done, and I would have been happier without it. However, it was done well this time. Unlike the 1982 film (which I loved), the raiders who slaughtered Conan's village had a real reason to be there. Not some vague notion about "searching for steel." And in keeping with that, it provided a motivation for Conan to do what he did. Personally, assuming that the events that happened to this Conan were to happen to REH's Conan, he would have acted in the same manner. Throughout the movie, it was never a "quest to save the world." It was always personal. Just because his personal vendetta ended up saving the world, it's still just an unintended consequence.  We are shown through some narrative that Conan has been traveling and adventuring for years, without any attention given to this revenge "quest" beyond a passing thought.  Basically this movie is an origin (obviously meant to both set up the rest of the film, and also to wipe away the origin presented before) that jumps to a story that takes place in the middle of his career.  The story picks up when he sees something that brings to mind the fate of his village.  That's when it becomes a revenge tale.  And when it's all done, he moves on.  His work here is done, now on to bigger and better things.

Most of the details that people point out as weaknesses are minor points, meant to strengthen a weak argument. My only irritation was the design of the Cimmerian swords. They were ridiculously large, and when Rose McGowan hoisted dad's sword, it looked even more ridiculous. You could see they were made of wood or aluminum. An actual iron/steel sword that big would probably weigh about 25 pounds. But, meh. It's a minor complaint. Over all, it didn't detract from the movie itself. The good thing was that they were consistent. Which was actually one of the film's strong points. For good or ill, everything was consistent.

So, there you go. The opinion of someone who was introduced to Conan through the 1982 film, started reading the Lancer/Ace editions, and then Savage Sword of Conan.  I feel I got my money's worth.

I laughed, I (almost) cried, I cringed, I cheered, and I am content.

I just wish more people would have seen it.  I would love to see a sequel with Mamoa.


Paul R. McNamee said...

As you have probably surmised, I had a lot of issues with this movie.

But, I will meet you half way and state that I liked Momoa enough that I am disappointed there won't be a sequel.

Somewhere on the REH forums I stated that - after this movie - we could have moved on with a "cinema Conan" vs. "literature Conan" much like James Bond's schism. Momoa's Conan comes out from Cimmeria seeking vengeance, Howard's Conan comes out because of wanderlust. Either way, what's important is that he is out, the 'revenge' story is over, take it from there. The gulf between the two is lightyears smaller than the gulf between "literature Conan" and "Schwarzenegger/Milius Conan".

But, it looks very bleak for that to happen. I was hoping for a Star Trek: the Motion Picture to Star Trek: The Wrath of Kahn evolution without need for a full "reboot", but I don't think it will play out that way.

Charles Gramlich said...

I like you're play off the "I am content" speech by Conan at the end. I will see the movie at some point on ppv.