— by CAM SMITH —
Despite being more than 70 years old, with hundreds upon hundreds of short stories and comic books tales to his potent name, for the majority of movie-goers, the character of Conan the Barbarian starts and ends with Arnold Schwarzenegger. Certainly, it’s not difficult to comprehend why this is, as 1982’s “Conan the Barbarian” and 1984’s “Conan the Destroyer” have no shortage of crazed die-hard fans (my otherwise-respectable friend Tony, being very much one of them), while continuing to have an enduring — one might say never-ending — legacy on cable television.
Hence, why, prior to last year’s sudden burst in activity, “Conan” seemed to destined to be eternally chained to the god-forsaken wheel of pain in Development Hell.
However, with the hiring of director Marcus Nispel — who, aside from directing the forgettable “Texas Chainsaw Massacre” and “Friday the 13th” remakes, actually visited similar territory with 2007’s so-bad-its-funny “Pathfinder” — the muscle-bound Cimmerian broke free of his shackles and began a desperate search for the one actor worthy of inhabiting his fearsome, mountainous physique.
And by Crom, Nispel and producers have finally found their (very large) man in “Stargate Atlantis” actor Jason Momoa (pictured)! As confirmed by the Hollywood Reporter’s Heat Vision blog, Momoa — who barely eked out a victory over “Twilight” player Kellan Lutz — will take over the mantle of Robert E. Howard’s mighty warrior in “Conan,” a loose remake of the 1982 film which will see the titular hard steel-swingin’ badass avenging the brutal decimation of his tribe and father Corin.
But wait, there’s more! The resourceful snoops over at Latino Review are reporting that an offer has gone out to recently-resurrected actor Mickey Rourke to toss on his big daddy leathers and play Conan’s ill-fated popsy. Although “The Wrestler” and “Iron Man 2” star has yet to sign on the dotted line, this is at least a solid hint as to what the next casting announcement may in fact be.
Logic would dictate, then, that we’re likely to see “Conan’s” cast filled out with similarly recognizable actors, as the filmmakers are going to want some concrete support to prop up their unknown and unbankable new star. This is, by this point, a standard practice in blockbuster-land (ie. The “Harry Potter” series and “The Golden Compass”) and currently is being utilized in the casting of Kenneth Branagh’s “Thor.”
I must admit, as much as I’m not a huge Conan fan (although I did kinda enjoy “Conan in Space” — aka the seriously derivative “The Chronicle of Riddick”), I’m actually a mite curious to see how a modern take on the Barbarian-Who-Would-Be-King will affect my interest in the property. With modern sword-and-sandal action extravaganzas like “300” and the impending “Clash of the Titans” upping the genre’s ante in regards to carnage and scale, a truly epic-sized, majestic “Conan” adventure just may be a thrillingly cheeseball wonder to behold.
My only real concern at this point is Nispel, who, judging from last year’s “Friday the 13th,” has been wasting away in creative doldrums and, at this point, seems to lack any real energy or style. But who knows? Maybe this will be the crucial project which ignites his artistic fire and allows him to show us all what a “true” Nispel movie can be. History, however, isn’t on his side.
Nonetheless, we’ll have to wait until 2011 to find out whether “Conan” is worthy of the golden box-office crown, or deserving of permanent condemnation to Thulsa Doom’s dungeon of despair.
Illustration by Joe Jusko.
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Follow Cam Smith on Twitter at http://twitter.com/camspcepisodes.