Thursday, May 3, 2012

How to do the Conan Movies Better

Has anyone noticed that the movies never get sword & sorcery right? Name one great sword & sorcery movie? I don't mean one that you enjoyed, but one that is actually really, really good. I mean, fantasy movies in general were mostly pretty pathetic until Peter Jackson came along and showed that a fantasy movie could be done well. Game of Thrones has continued this new trend, and I assume The Hobbit movies will, too.

The first big budget sword & sorcery movies that I can think of are the Conan movies. I didn't hate the original Conan movie, but it wasn't very good either. It may have had a decent budget, but it felt low budget. The director didn't bother with trying to make the world seem realistic; it felt a bit cheesy instead. And don't get me started on the miserable second try.
I was thinking about how I would do such movies if I were in charge, and I really think my way would work far better. The movies tried to tell too much and be too big. Conan stories always worked best in more intimate episodes. Don't give us his childhood and how he developed (you can save that for later movies). Focus on telling simple stories.

I would take stories in logical chunks, such as a couple from his early days in Zamora, Tower of the Elephant and Rogues in the House for example, and blend them into one great movie. Make a second movie of, say, Red Nails. Be true to the actual stories and get actors who can portray the stories faithfully, the way Peter Jackson lent gravitas to Lord of the Rings (only don't do world shattering the way LOTR did; keep it intimate!). Make it gritty and grim and dark, the way Conan was always meant to be. Find great unknown actors rather than use famous ones like Ahnold.

Once you've captured the audience by doing a couple of well-done movies following this pattern, then continue it. You can take a couple short stories or arcs from different areas of the world and make great movies from them. Shadizar the wicked. The Turanian war. Belit. Eventually after a long James Bond-like run of great movies you can finally get to where Conan becomes king.

Heck, I'd be even more happy if someone would do a realistic job with Fritz Leiber's sword & sorcery heroes Fafhrd and the Grey Mouser. Ill Met in Lankhmar would be a great starting movie for this pair!


  1. That's why I've not held my breath for movies of the Shannara series.
    While it wasn't great, remember The Sword and the Sorcerer? Saw that one in the theater - gritty and twisted little movie.
    Then remember travesties like The Blade Master? At least it gave MST3K fodder.

  2. I think I had a much lower opinion of The Sword and the Sorcerer than you, Alex. I'm waiting for someone to use the same quality we see in LOTR or Game of Thrones, but focused more narrowly on sword and sorcery.

  3. a belit movie would be cool. But they would have to work into it.

  4. Budd, I agree. I don't think they can start with his childhood or with a later part of his 'career'. They should start with something really cool but fairly early on, like Zamora.

  5. The original Conan did it pretty good and I kinda liked the Beastmaster even though it was really cheezy. Of course I loved staring at Marc Singer's body. Sigh. You are right of course, Ted. Sword and Sorcery fantasy is hard to do right.

  6. The thing is, Michael, I don't think it is hard to do it right. I think they just aren't really trying.

  7. I also enjoyed the cheesy Conan and Beastmaster type films. And I do agree that there is a great deal there that could be mined for a much better experience. Barbarian-blade type films have always seemed like afterthoughts, but they needn't be.
    One Writer's Mind

  8. I remember watching Beastmaster over and over again with my boys when they were younger. LoTR did set the bar pretty high.

  9. Loved Sean Connery in First Knight. I did enjoy Conan and Beast Master even though they were a bit cheesy. I am outraged at how The Sword of Truth series has twisted Terry Goodkinds story.

    Write us a movie Ted; or just put your novels out. I'm anxious to read your Midas thing :)


  10. Donna, you are always so nice to me. I'm waiting on trying to sell my fantasy novels because I feel I have a much better shot at selling the sci-fi thriller first. If you do want to read the first Midas novel, I can send it to you. I don't understand eReaders very well, but I heard that in PDF format you can upload them to the reader?

  11. I agree that sword and sorcery just isn't generally done well! I'm so glad Peter Jackson did such an awesome job of LOTR. I've also noticed any movies based on video games are horrible.

    Allison (Geek Banter)


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