I caught up with the amusing The DeCampista Awards posted by Al Harron from a proposal by Mark Singleton, which takes up the very worthwhile pursuit of calling people to task for spreading lazy and inaccurate notions about Robert E. Howard and his work. For those unfamiliar with the crux of this issue, I highly recommend "The De Camp Controversy" by Morgan Holmes, which I previously linked in my post Thongor.
Then I found Harron's Conan the Rehash.
Are you kidding me?
Sadly, I know he's not.
Now, I'm generally a Howard purist, although not too much love Conan the Barbarian by John Milius or enjoy many of the Marvel Conan comics by Roy Thomas et al, so I'm willing to meet a creative person halfway, if they show some effort.
The "big" issues brought up in this article, such as it being more racially insensitive than the original works, which were written by a man who grew up in small towns in West Texas during the early years of the twentieth century, are all things that could be fixed by a single rewrite by a moderately talented writer.
But frankly, it's not only the purist in me that wonders why everyone feels the need to walk away from Howard's stories when trying to bring the Conan character to the big screen.
Seriously, if there was ever a writer whose prose stories were custom made for movie adaptation, it's Howard. They have nice three-act structures, plenty of action and spectacle, glorious imagery and compelling characters.
The criticisms of his work generally center around his skill as a writer in a literary sense, and are sadly still too often built on an understanding of his writing based on re-edited versions, posthumous "collaborations", pastiches and adaptations, all of which were done long after his death.
Even so, all of the things for which he receives the most praise are exactly what's required of a kickass adventure movie and all of the supposed vices he's accused of are irrelevant to them. There's no call in this to reinvent the wheel.
Supposedly this animated Red Nails will come out eventually. Won't it? The most recent news on their web site is over 2 years old. That would be the first direct adaptation of a Howard Conan story to be filmed and the best idea anyone's had in terms of making a Conan movie.
As Howard biographer Mark Finn writes in An Appeal To Paradox, "Look at Casino Royale. Batman Begins. Pirates of the Carribean. All of these films took dead characters, dead franchises, and dead genres and reinvigorated them by not playing it safe. Even fans of Conan the Barbarian don't want a rehash of that. We are twenty years older now, and we need something more sophisticated. Bryan Singer learned that the hard way with Superman Returns. This can NOT be a nostalgia project."
A good Conan movie could make everyone happy. It could be, like the projects mentioned above, and I'd add Iron Man, a major commercial, critical and popular success.
The movie described in "Conan the Rehash" could be marketed to make a lot of money and get some half-ass "popcorn movie" praise, but it couldn't be those other things nor would it be a tent pole on which one could build a lasting and profitable series upon.
Frankly, though, if the IMDb is correct and Marcus Nispel is attached, then the script, even a terrible, trite and even racist script, is the least of its problems. On the other hand, if the casual reference I heard to Neil Marshall being attached instead is right, then maybe, just maybe, there is some hope...
BONUS: Here's Revenge of the Barbarian adapted from Howard's Black Vulmea's Vengeance by Thomas, John Buscema, Alfredo Alcada and Marie Serverin and hosted by Diversions of the Groovy Kind (which also hosts a number of the better Howard comic adaptations). I wouldn't argue it's the best comic adaptation of the Howard stories, but it gives a hint at what a really kick ass Conan movie could be like.
(And, yes, I recognize the hypocrisy of using a pastiche adapting a non-Conan story into a Conan story as my example.)