Friday, July 15, 2011

CONAN THE BARBARIAN: The movie tie-in novel lives!

Novelizations based on movie screenplays have a long literary/cinematic tradition and it's extra cool when action or horror movies are turned into books.  Having read all the Robert E. Howard Conan tales, I was eager to read this book to see where the new movie is coming from.  I was never really satisfied with John Milius's CONAN (1982) and I didn't buy Schwarzenegger as the barbarian but I thought it was an earnest first attempt.  The new story reads as a much gentler teen-girl friendly, romantic sword and sorcery, Harry Potter-ish take on Howard's savage Cimmerian.  Of course, that's no guarantee of how the film will come off.  I want the new Conan 3D to be good but let's just say I have my doubts after reading the 2D book.  My biggest gripe with the new story and most superhero movies in general is the insistence of presenting the character's back story.  Sometimes it may be necessary but there's no written rule that a film or story has to play out excruciatingly painfully in strict chronological order.  That's my main problem with the book.  We spend too much, not very exciting, quality time with the young Conan and are clubbed over the head with the concept that he was 'born on a battlefield.'   The genius of the Bond films and the first STAR WARS was that fresh approach of just dropping the viewer into mid-action and letting the viewer catch his/her breath.  All the traditional genre conventions are practically in our DNA by now.  We don't need that 'once upon a time' approach to everything.  Conan should remain mysterious with his past only hinted at when need be.  By depicting Darth Vader's dull childhood and adolescence, George Lucas reduced him from an instant iconic figure of metaphorical evil to just an asthmatic kid turned delinquent due to a troubled family life.  Vader used to be cool now he's just like the weird kid I grew up with down the block.  Rob Zombie did the same sad thing to Michael Myers (Oh, your dad has a foul mouth and your mom's a stripper who doesn't even take her clothes off so naturally you grow up to be a super human psycho killing machine!  That's deep s#$%!).  If you take the mythic character quality out of  Conan you're just left with a generic albeit well-written barbarian action story.  That's what's we're left with here. Nevertheless, I'll always welcome more movie tie-in novels! (Novelization by Michael A. Stackpole based on the screenplay.  Recommended for curious die-hard Conan freaks!)  

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