Movie Night with Conan
I recently checked out Conan the Barbarian (2011) from my local library, and I have had Conan the Barbarian (1982) languishing in my TIVO for months now. So, last night, I decided to make a movie night of the two films. And this time, I made the right choice in watching the most recent (and worse) film first. While watching the two films, I noticed something. Many things, in fact. (To differentiate the two films, I’ll be using their dates)
The first thing I noticed is how similar the plot of 2011 is to both 1982 and Conan the Destroyer. Destroyed village (with parent killed before young Conan)? Check. Murderer a warlord? Check. Has a mountain like fortress? Check. Has strange paternal relationship to Conan? Check. Seeks to sacrifice young woman to summon an ancient evil? Check.
So, you see, Khalar Zym is a depowered and more megalomaniacal Thulsa Doom, and Marique is Taramis without being the big bad.
Another thing I noticed are the themes of the two Barbarians. Both deal with the relationships of parents to children. In 1982, the death of both of Conan’s parents lead his pursuit of vengeance. Meanwhile in 2011, it is only the death of Conan’s father that drives him (as his mother died in childbirth on a battlefield).
But, for 2011, the theme of fathers’ relationships with their children is mirrored. Conan and his father contrast with Marique and Khalar Zym. Of course, while Conan’s relationship with his father is wholesome (well, as wholesome as a warrior culture can get), Marique’s relationship with her father is not wholesome (classic Electra complex). So, does this mean girls cannot (or should not) have strong relationships with their fathers? Or could it be that the child, while honoring the father, should seek their independence? Perhaps both?
The theme of family and vengeance in 1982 is depicted as inherently more tragic. Indeed, this film has all the hallmarks of a classic revenge tragedy (save for the protagonist’s death). Thulsa Doom murders Conan’s family, Conan kills Thulsa’s snake (and robs his temple), Conan is crucified, Conan and co. kidnap the princess and kill many servants, Thulsa shoots a snake and kills Valeria, Conan wipes out the bulk of Thulsa’s force, and finally Conan kills Thulsa Doom himself during a mass rally. But in the end, Conan is left empty. His revenge only sowing more sorrow as the price is the loss of Valeria.
Finally, this got me thinking why Conan the Barbarian (2011) failed at the box office. Personally, I think a lot of the problem with the film itself is the shaky and disappointing plot. The movie jumps too much. I would also like to point out the ridiculousness and monstrous nature of the antagonists.
I could rehash what is wrong with Conan as a film property. Al Harron and many other bloggers have done a far better job of it than I can.
I would like, though, to reiterate my argument that a film franchise might not be the right way to go. Why not attempt to film the original stories in a way similar to Poirot? That could be awesome. Hell, I may think more on this and blog about it later.