Monday, December 9, 2013

On Movies from Books

So, a little bit ago, Weird Tales Magazine posted a promotional pic of Arnold as Conan on Facebook, with the comment that Robert E. Howard must be spinning in his grave over what has happened to his creation. They went on to quote the “late, great” Karl Edward Wagner in a vaguely-contextual comment where he was not overly-praising of the film. This, of course, brought out the Howard Purists who jumped at the chance to ridicule the movie. Again. Personally, I'm not convinced Howard would have hated it. I mean, how am I to know the mind of a dead man?

I’ve blogged about this before. Suffice it to say, I am a HUGE fan of this movie, and re-watch it every few months. Is it faithful to the books? That’s subjective at best. In plot, not really. In characterization, no. But, the movie does one thing that few movies based on books successfully do; it captures the atmosphere of the source material almost perfectly. It looks, sounds and feels like Howard wrote it. At least, it does to me. Whenever I re-read the stories, the visuals look like this movie in my head (although Conan himself looks like John Buscema drew him).

Why does all of this matter? Well, it doesn’t really. But I like to pull out one of my soapboxes every now and again, and this is a convenient issue for me to nerdrage about. Basically, I think the Purist crowd needs to give it a rest. The movie takes nothing from the stories, so if you don’t like it, don’t watch it. If anything, the movie enhances the stories, because in some cases (like mine) it serves as a gateway drug for all things REH. I started with the movie, moved on to the Ace editions, then to Savage Sword of Conan, and then to other works like Sailor Steve Costigan and El Borak. Now I have almost a complete set of the Del Rey editions, and am always eager to introduce people who like the movie(s) to the written works.

The problem is, when derision is expressed, the tone often seems to add the hidden subtext that "if you like this movie, you aren't a real fan." The Us vs Them mentality. I hate that.

Oddly enough, a couple of the people who commented on the status claimed that the new movie got it more right. Really??? Did we watch the same movie? Because in the new movie, Mamoa’s Conan was about the ONLY thing they got right. The rest of the film doesn’t even deserve to be set during the Hyborian Age. But, fans will be fans, and opinions vary greatly across the spectrum.

In the end, I like my 1982 classic (just watched it again last week), and will continue to re-read various of my favorite stories for decades to come.


Charles Gramlich said...

Seems like most people decide that what they like is somehow superior to what others like. It's pretty much human nature. I like the movie OK, don't really think of it as REH Conan per se, but more the comics version. That's fine. I did think Mamoa was more an REH type of character, but the movie was defiintely too modern feeling.

Charles Akins said...

I like all the Conan movies for different reasons. The Arnold movies are both a product of their time and of the director's view of the subject. Are they perfect, no. But then, how many movies do you know of that are actually better than the books?

As for the new movie. I liked it. It didn't so much remind me of the setting as it did of a Brom painting from the Dark Sun setting. But they're all fun.