Tuesday, October 4, 2011

Conan or Clonan?

In this post, I am referring to the new Conan: The Barbarian movie. Let me state first that I have spent most of my summer reading, and in some cases re-reading, all things Robert E. Howard.

I've always been a fan of Conan, and I've been a peripheral fan of REH; however, it was within the past two years that I became a hard core REH fan.

My introduction to the character of Conan came from issues of Marvel Comic's The Savage Sword of Conan. These comics coupled with the "Arnan" movie drove me to a thirst for all things Conan that has lasted twenty years. As an adolescent, I devoured every Tor Conan paperback that I came across, gleefully innocent of the fact that most didn't match up to the real thing, and over the years, I have followed Conan in comic book form, traveling from Marvel to Dark Horse.

I'm not sure why it took me so long to become a REH fan, but it did. I read other things besides Conan, namely Kull and a few, odd Solomon Kane stories, but I never felt the need to dive into Howard's other creations. This changed with the recent Del Rey Robert E. Howard library series.

I bought them all as they came out, and read the Conan stories immediately. I must admit, I believe this is the first time I had ever read all of the Conan stories, I'm sure I had read most of them in one form or another - mostly various comics adaptions, but never all of them. My initial experience to the true Howard Conan stories was also through the Lancer editions edited by L. Sprague de Camp. Thus, I had never read un-edited Howard.

As I said, it was not until early this past spring that I began reading everything Howard that I could get my hands on. I bought all of the Del-Rey trade paper backs as they came out (minus The Horror Stories of REH, which I for some reason missed). It started because I was so impressed by the Solomon Kane stories that I immediately launched into the Kull stories, followed quickly by Bran Mak Morn, both "Best of" books, El Borak and sadly the last in the series "Historical Tales".

Wow. I am hooked. That being said, I finally found time to see the latest Conan movie at my local second-run-bargain theater. Even though I am now a solid REH enthusiast, I am not an REH Purist; meaning, there are REH fans that loath pastiche. It has been years since I've read any Conan pastiche (other than in comics, which I have read a mountain or two of), and while I am certain I most likely would not enjoy the Tor pastiche novels as much as pure REH, I do have fond memories of reading them. I will have to revisit them one day.

Even though I am not an REH Purist, I did not have high hopes for the new film. My feeling was that if it was better then Conan The Destroyer, or at least as good as "Arnan" The Barbarian (which I still enjoy watching to this day), I would be happy.

I left the theater happy with the $3 I spent on watching it. My son, who is neither an REH fan, nor a particularly big Conan fan, enjoyed it as well. Yes, I have problems with the overall plot, particularly, I had problems with the fact that for nearly two hours our heroes are dreading the bad guy completing and activating the mask. Spoiler Alert: Big Bad Guy does so, but the mask doesn't seem to do much of anything. It was akin to Sauron gaining the One Ring and after much dread, it just looks pretty on his finger.

There are other quibbles, Jason Mamoa has brown eyes, not blue, etc.. However, it was a fun movie. Unfortunately, it wasn't enough of a box office smash to warrant more Conan movies and that is sad. I can promise you this, it's better then, and truer to Howard's vision then the television show Conan the Adventurer, and the cartoon of the same name and don't even get me started on Conan and the Young Warriors.

Overall, three stars. It is not Conan, but is just more Clonan, but check your brain at the popcorn stand and enjoy.

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