In Praise of Arnold’s Conan

I hereby go on record as saying that I loved, and still love, the 1982 film Conan the Barbarian.

I didn’t at all like the sequel Conan the Destroyer. But the original, while blissfully ignorant of the corpus of REH’s work, was a stirring romp with wonderful cinematography, outstanding music, and a great performance by James Earl Jones. Treat it on its own terms, and it’s a terrific film. Big, broad, and fun. Don’t try to analyze it in the context of the original REH stories. That’s not what it is, or what it’s supposed to be. It’s its own thing. Embrace it as such, and you might find you like it.

So, when I heard the news that a final installment of the series, The Legend of Conan, was in the works, I was cautiously optimistic. Would it be the incomprehensible mess that the second film was? Or would it be akin to the serious, but not ponderous (in the way that the second half of Excalibur is ponderous), first film? Time will tell. As long as it’s not like the Grand Theft Auto-esque remake from last year. That would well and truly suck. 

Written by 

Wargamer and RPG'er since the 1970's, author of Adventures Dark and Deep, Castle of the Mad Archmage, and other things, and proprietor of the Greyhawk Grognard blog.

6 thoughts on “In Praise of Arnold’s Conan

  1. The Milius film is a cultural touchstone even generally, aside from the iconic status it has for geeks. It has plenty of issues as an adaptation but it is a great movie nevertheless, with, as you point out, impeccable cinematography, costuming and production design, and one of cinema's all-time great soundtracks.

  2. Show me a roleplayer that does not feel a stirring in their heart when they hear the bombastic Basil Poledouris Conan the Barbarian opening credit song, and I will show you a sad individual indeed!

    People need to lighten up about that movie. For me, it was one of the few early examples of fantasy film that I could cling to, when such epics were few, WARTS AND ALL! Please, folks, separate the film from Howard's work.

  3. The first movie was great, especially if you've read some of stories. I watched it about two months ago and was able to pick out which parts came from the stories and it really just enhanced it.

    Having said that, I'm not too keen on seeing a 65 year old running around in a loin cloth and swinging a sword. :p

  4. My problem with this new movie is that it does not look like Milius is on board – if he were, and they were going to do "King Conan – Crown of Iron" I'd be very optimistic. Otherwise, I'm a bit worried.

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