Friday, July 13, 2012

Meditating on the new Conan Movie

As I have mentioned before, I am not a huge fan of Hollywood. It takes a great deal for me to be interested in actually bothering to go see a movie in the theater. In fact, I tend to place my money with companies and ideas that threaten the current system in Hollywood.

I say all of this as a prelude to explain why it is that only now have I attempted to watch the newest Conan movie — a subject that was discussed in some detail leading up to and right after its release, especially by those in the OSR who are REH fans. This discussion did nothing to convince me to see the movie then and it was only until a few days ago that the movie showed up on Netflix.

Something else I must admit: my time is valuable, therefore I have no qualms about turning a movie off or putting down a book without ever finishing either if I feel as if they are wasting my time. Unfortunately, the new Conan movie falls into this category. I wanted to like it. I watched it longer than I normally would have. In the end, though, it was unwatchable dreck and I turned it off somewhere around the 45 minute mark.

It was enough, however, for me to formulate a theory as to why the new Conan movie failed on just about every level, but most especially as a Conan movie. Hollywood has a history of getting caught up in fads — similarly themed scripts that different studios pick up and produce in order to compete with each other. A recent example is the two Snow White movies that came out this summer.

The new Conan movie is a victim of this slavish adherence to The Fad. I say this because after I turned off Conan, I watched the first 30-45 mins of The Immortals (slightly higher quality dreck) and realized I was watching the same movie:

  • Both start with a narrative about an ancient war in which a powerful magical item was lost/hidden.
  • Both have a vile villain at the head of a huge army in which kills the parent of the hero.
  • Both villains attack a monastery that guards a virgin.
  • Both virgins are necessary for the grand plan of the villain to conquer the world.
  • Both heroes encounter these virgins at the beginning of the movie to set up one of the central conflicts of the movie.

The reason the new Conan movie suffered so much was because Hollywood has far more faith in the current fad than it does in the brilliance of any source material it happens to exploit to push forward the most recent fad.

One of the reasons I got into RPGs in the first place and why I have consistently come back is the DIY element of the hobby. I am completely free to do what I want with a story/campaign/character and never have to be disappointed by some exec in Hollywood who could care less for the material their movie is supposedly based upon.

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