Friday, August 15, 2008

The Riddle of Celluloid

It has come to our attention that one of the strangest projects we've ever heard of is in the works. It is a prequel, of sorts, to a movie close to our hearts.

Before we expound on the upcoming project, we'd like to take a moment to say a few words about fantasy, comic book movies, and Conan: The Barbarian.

What do these subjects have to do with each other? Strangely enough, everything. The Dark Knight, which we've already discussed in quite some depth, is being celebrated for seeming to rise above its genre. While we've expressed... mixed feelings about such a concept, we are certainly unable to deny that much of The Dark Knight's strength came from the fact that the film makers took the property seriously and filmed as they would any great movie. We salute them.

Likewise, Peter Jackson's (iD&Di: .90) Lord of the Rings took a similar philosophy, refusing to discount their subject.

Both of these properties were treated as epic films and developed accordingly. We have admiration for such courage and conviction: it is in short supply. For every Peter Jackson, after all, there is a Uwe Boll; for every Christopher Nolen (iD&Di: .34), a Joel Schumacher.
Jackson and Nolen are both visionary directors, but the path they followed had been forged long before they began. This was done in The Empire Strikes Back, in Superman, and, of course, in Conan: The Barbarian.

In various aspects, Conan can claim a home in both fantasy and comic book genres (while it was originally a series of fantasy novels, the comics developed much of the mythology used on the film). There were many opportunities to treat the film as a joke: one might even say there was an expectation the director would take such a route. But John Milius (iD&Di: .31) chose to treat his source material with respect. He crafted an epic.

And herein lies the heart of the matter: could this prequel possibly hope to even pay tribute to the original? Can anyone step into the blood-soaked shoes James Earl Jones once wore? If the answer is no, there is little hope. But if the creators are wise enough, perhaps... just maybe... a film could at last be forged that is worthy of being in the same world as Conan: The Barbarian.

But we are sceptical. It doesn't help that the reason this particular project was able to progress so far has more to do with the rights behind the character than anything else (as we understand, Thulsa Doom was appropriated along with the rights to Red Sonja, and thus this project was born).
It is also possible that the project could collapse: many properties have suffered such a fate. Perhaps this would be best.

On the other hand, even if the makers of this new film have no comprehension of what they're working on, even if it is an awful abysmal mess, we will be consoled by a single truth:

It will still be better than either Conan: The Destroyer or Red Sonja.

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