The Nexus of Pop-Culture Fandom

Script Review: Conan

Written by: Russell Davidson, CC2K Sports Editor

CC2K takes a look at a draft of the new script by Thomas Dean Donnelly and Joshua Oppenheimer.

ImageWhen you hear the name Conan, what pops into your head? The original Weird Tales pulps? The 70’s Lancer paperbacks with the great Frazetta cover art? Perhaps the Marvel comic? Or, for the youngsters, maybe the Schwarzenegger films from the early 80’s? There’s even been video games based on this guy. Yeah, Conan has been around, and here he comes again, a new movie version, written by Thomas Dean Donnelly and Joshua Oppenheimer. So which way did they go, old school, staying word-true to the original Robert Howard stories, middle school, like the comic, part Howard but slightly more up-beat and polished, or new school, like the Schwarzenegger movies, campy, kinda stupid, but fun to watch?

From the opening sequence, it’s clear this movie is to be as Howard himself may have envisioned it. Brutal. Nasty. Violent.

The film opens with an unborn baby floating peacefully inside his mother. There are noises of a battle raging on the outside, muffled screams and fighting. Suddenly, a sword is plunged into the pregnant woman, and we see the blade just miss the baby’s head. The sword is pulled out as we, too, are thrust into the fighting. You might say this sets the tone for the script.

Donnelly and Oppenheimer have made the right choice here. The stories of Robert Howard have little time for sentimentality, instead, they are more about the thrill of battle, the ugliness of the world, the pleasures of the flesh, the need for vengeance, down and dirty kinda stuff. It is these themes that drive this new version of Conan. I mean, let’s face it, the Arnold films have a certain appeal, and they are violent, no doubt, but when you throw in Grace Jones or Wilt Chamberlain it all seems a little silly. There’s no room for silliness here.

So we get the story of where Conan came from, his parents, his maturity. This goes by pretty quick as we all know where we want to be, with Conan as an adult, kicking ass. Now, we do get very familiar elements as the script progresses. Basically a revenge tale, Conan spends the entire film tracking down, one by one, the guys who did in his Dad. There’s some mumbo-jumbo about Conan being the chosen one, so the bad guys want him found and killed, and some other stuff about a woman with magical powers that Conan must save. Or must he? Seems the fate of the world rests in her hands, and thereby, his.

Now, how much suspense is generated when you know Conan will eventually kill off the evil doers, eventually make it to bad guy number one, eventually save the girl and the world? Not very much. The fun in this movie will be the battles, the action sequences, the creepy visuals, the under-clad women, the bad guys gettin’ theirs. The script does a good job of staying with what die-hard Conan fans will want. Lots of hacked-off limbs. Weirdo creatures like four-armed archers, brain-burrowing worms, and chain-enveloped ogres. Chopped-off heads. Nude ladies. Nude men. Drunkenness. Debauchery. Feats of daring-do. Close calls. Adventure! It’s all here.

Indeed, there’s a universal appeal to Conan. He’s the kind of hero it’s fun to champion, as he’s not much better than the villains he’s up against. Yeah, we all know he’s going to come out on top. But sometimes, as has been observed, the journey is more entertaining than the destination. I give Donnelly and Oppenheimer credit for being faithful to Howard, for not straying far from the world he created. No question, we need our Conan full-blast, not watered down. And this film gives it to ya with both barrels.

Dare I say even Crom would be proud?