The New Movie Conan Full Trailer

The newest trailer, this one with actual film footage, for the 2011 Conan the Barbarian film is up on YouTube. It’s up for release in August.

For reference, here’s the first trailer as well, containing no footage but with a direct quote from the Robert E. Howard original:

The film is taking some flak in geek quarters for presumed infidelity to the source material. It’s really early to make such a call, but at the same time, fans of Robert E. Howard’s Conan have cause to be defensive about a property that was mis-handled for many years. One notable blogger (not an MMO blogger) seems to base his whole complaint around the fact that Jason Momoa doesn’t have blue eyes.

I’m as big a fan of Robert E. Howard as you’ll find, and am especially cognizant of the disconnect between the Howard character and the bowdlerized version as seen in print by such authors as L. Sprague de Camp and Lin Carter, in the Marvel comics, and in the Schwarzenegger films. I was preaching the virtues of Howard’s Conan (as opposed to the others) for many years before it became fashionable.

At the same time, the 1982 John Milius film represented my introduction to the character, and I have tremendous fondness and appreciation for it (if not for its sequel.) It departs, in many ways, from Howard, but in other respects it captures the essential essence of his stories and of the Hyborian world very well, even where it sometimes radically departs from the details of the character of Conan himself. And the quality of its production, especially with regard to production design, costumes and in the epic Basil Poledouris soundtrack (considered to this day by movie soundtrack aficionados to be among the best ever recorded,) cannot be questioned. It still stands today, in a time when we have seen The Lord of the Rings successfully adapted to film and can watch Game of Thrones on weekly television, as one of the great achievements in fantasy film-making. Milius’ Conan the Barbarian remains one of my favorite films of all time.

As far as the new film goes, as a Howard purist I am on the fence. Stephen Lang looks appropriately badass as the villain, but the scenery rings to me more of Final Fantasy than of Howard’s antediluvian world. But some of the scenes shown seem spot-on and the particular Howard quote used in the first trailer encourages me to think that the film-makers may indeed have grasped the essence of the character. I’m very interested in seeing the film when it comes out.

6 responses to “The New Movie Conan Full Trailer

  1. As a fan of both original movies and Robert E. Howar’s books, I can say only one thing about this trailer.
    It looks disappointing. The new Conan looks like a wimp in comaprison to what the genuine Cimmerian supposed to be, and no ammount of cinematography is going to be able to cover that up. Yes, the bodybuilder look is outdated and not popular anymore, but only the former Mr. Olympia could even come close to how bigger than life Conan was supposed to be. And I agree that the Hyperborian world we can glimps in the trailer looks cheap and more like a set from a Scify channel Friday special.

  2. Well call me a nerd, but I had a problem with the first Conan movies because of the way they butchered the story / history.

    1st movie: James Earl Jones plays Thulsa Doom. Thulsa Doom was a villain in Kull The Destroyer’s (another of Howard’s creation) time. Thousands of years before Conan was even born.

    2nd Movie: Thoth-Amon being killed. In the books, he’s Conan’s arch-enemy throughout and only meets his end while Conan is King, if I remember correctly.

    Now, in this version, there is an Acheronian queen. Acheron was long gone by the time of Conan the Barbarian:

    “It was a black reality, an empire of black magicians, steeped in evil now long forgotten. It was finally overthrown by the Hyborian tribes of the west. The wizards of Acheron practiced foul necromancy, thaumaturgy of the most evil kind, grisly magic taught them by devils.” — Robert E. Howard: “Hour of the Dragon”

    So, already I can see a huge departure from the official canon…. I think I’ll wait till DVD for this one.

  3. Granted that the second movie was a turd. Misuse of Thoth-Amon was the least of its problems.

    As for Thulsa Doom, I don’t have any kind of issue with the film recycling an old Kull villain, especially considering how obscure the authentic Howardian Kull was at the time. Recycling material was the kind of thing Howard himself often did. I’ve always preferred to think of the James Earl Jones character as a different character than Kull faced, from some ancient lineage perhaps drawing upon the same sources of dark knowledge, and having taken the name of the long-dead sorcerer. Besides, if they’d portrayed Thulsa Doom as he was in the Kull story he’d have had to look like Skeletor, and that just wouldn’t have worked.

    One charming feature of the first film is how episodic it is; Conan’s adventures as written by Howard are also highly episodic, whether viewed as the agglomeration of various short tales or even as seen in the sole longer work The Hour of the Dragon. I do think it failed the character in the sense of giving Conan a lifelong arc, which was something that would have seemed alien to Howard, despite the foreknowledge that Conan would one day become King of Aquilonia. But the film’s portrayal of the Hyborian world was, I think, spot on.

    Far as the new film goes, Howard himself brought in an authentic Acheronian badass (Xaltotun) in The Hour of the Dragon. I wouldn’t be all that surprised if any “Acheronian Queen” in the film arrives via a similar device. We’ll have to see – as I say, I’m on the fence about it, and I’m prepared to be very critical, but I’m also willing to give the film a chance.

    EDIT: The “Acheronian Queen” business appears to come from pranksters fucking with the Wikipedia entry.

  4. “The film is taking some flak in geek quarters for presumed infidelity to the source material. It’s really early to make such a call”

    How on earth is it too early to make such a call? We KNOW the infidelity to the source material. We know that the film isn’t based on a single Howard story. We know that, Conan himself aside, not a single Robert E. Howard character appears in the film, nor any of the plots of the stories, nor any of the elements, artefacts, places and creatures. This isn’t just infidelity to the source material in the way an adaptation like “The Lord of the Rings” strays: this started off as an original story, which just went further and contradicted several existing stories by its mere existence.

    “One notable blogger (not an MMO blogger) seems to base his whole complaint around the fact that Jason Momoa doesn’t have blue eyes.”

    Sounds like a post I made – and if you reread it, you’ll note that this is just one among a great many complaints. The blue eyes thing is just the tip of the proverbial iceberg, and most certainly not the basis of any complaint.

  5. @alharron: Let me elaborate on your other points now that I have some time. Prepare for dissertation mode.

    First of all, there are several reasons why the Conan property is more amenable to free adaptation by other authors and/or in other media, than is, say, The Lord of the Rings. I have discussed this before: in short, Tolkien’s work was composed as a unified whole, in which every piece links to multiple other pieces. It simply cannot be adapted directly by some other writer or group or whoever, without great difficulty at minimum. You have a single story (or, more properly, one arc within the greater story that is pretty much the whole of Tolkien’s work,) which you can adapt, and possibly bungle, but there’s not much room for a successor to work at telling his or her own stories set in Middle-Earth without going far (and jarringly) outside Tolkien’s very detailed and elaborately developed milieu.

    The Hyborian Age is not like this. It was a rough framework drafted by Howard in which he’d be able to set a wide variety of pseudo-historical stories, kept very loose by the simple fact that he hadn’t written the stories yet. It’s very different from Middle-Earth in almost every way, save in the superficial gloss of a pre-industrial society. Conan himself enjoys a wide variety of adventures, randomly scattered throughout the character’s life, and set in places as varied as analogues of Mughal India, pre-Persian Mesopotamia, late medieval France and the American frontier.

    For this reason the Hyborian Age is very amenable to accepting the work of other writers; there’s a ton of room to play. And indeed, that’s exactly what we have seen: dozens of other writers writing stories, mostly about Conan himself and set in his era, but a few centered on other characters as well. And in various media; the comics, the two Arnie movies, the numerous pastiche novels and short stores, and in video games. Part of this is due to the situation with the Howard estate and the original popularity of the Howard work, but much of it is due to the fact that Conan is a near-ideal platform for such derivative work.

    Each of these, in particular the Milius film and the comics interpretation as conceived by Roy Thomas, et al., represent a distinct iteration of the Conan character and his world. These are all pseudo-Conans if you like, outside the originator’s conception, but not a priori invalid.

    Is, say, the Conan of this new film going to be Howard’s Conan? No, of course not. Neither is the comics Conan, neither is Milius’ Conan, and neither are the various Conans of the pastiches. Nor is the Basil Rathbone Sherlock Holmes Doyle’s Holmes, but you know what? Rathbone’s Holmes is pretty kickass. Do most of those derivative works suck? Oh, Crom, yes.

    But you know, we were able to catch glimpses of Howard’s Conan in the Milius film. It has many flaws both as a film and as an adaptation of beloved source material, but it did a lot of things right, too. This new film… well, I’m pretty leery of it. But there’s a chance it could do the same, even in a similar way, and even while creating its own Conan narrative. And such is my love for Conan that I am willing to give it that chance, and if it succeeds at that, I’ll say it’s enough.