Monday, December 24, 2012

Modern American Mythology is Poop

He looks like a
Hyborean-era Pict!
Ronon Dex took a stab at being Cimerrian and it ended about as well as you'd expect it to end in this, the era of molesting franchises with the yard stick of vapid writing. Wasn't quite Transformers level bad but it's not exactly adequate either. (I am now convinced that the reason Transformers made so much money was because those who watched it recognized the sin they were committing and felt compelled to see it again as penance.)

Robert E. Howard was doing something akin to "selling out" or lowering his standards when he created the Conan novels; finding the discipline of historic fiction to be too much work, he decided to make a history-inspired high fantasy setting instead -- one that would require far less research.

Because the pulp fiction era was in full swing, Howard chose to give people the easy reading materials they wanted; a patch-work quilt of sex and murder to help them escape the ennui of 20th century life. The success of the franchise was an indication of how ardently people wanted to escape their ever-mechanized, soul-sucking world.

Such criticism lays bare in the dialogue of this 2011 re-re-reboot of the story; even exploring the possibility that the barbarian world is indeed morally superior to the established, sedintary life. A cute little piece of commentary that might be considered deep if you generously account for its dude-bro origins. (I just now realized how much I hate the term "reboot" as it's used in film and therefore vow to do this to anybody who uses the term in that way from now on).
I am the master
wizard!  I look down on
your shallow suburban

Somebody took a story written in the 1930's and retold it in a comic book in the 1970's and told it again as a movie in the 1980's before it gets ruined by the cookie cutter film industry of 2010's. If this was all a plot on the part of the Schwarzenegger cult to convince us that his new remake is going to be more authentic, I suppose we can call that more successful than the conspiracy to convince Americans that a Moon Landing ever took place.

As expected, Conan lost most of his cunning and replaced it with a boyish mischiev. It lost most of it's atmosphere and replaced it with just name-dropping; "See! See how much research we did? We copied/pasted some words from the Hyborean wiki!" Most disappointing and least surprising of all, this movie completely deemphasized the most important character and character dynamic in the story.
Now there's a good,
traditional, paleolithic
nuclear family.

Conan stories were always a product of their times. In the original novels, you had the common 1920's tropes of remembering past lives via hypnosis, the idealized primeval man, and cults engaging in human sacrifice. The comics introduced a precedent for the loincloth and more over-the-top action scenes than the comparatively mundane Flynning that took place in the books. Arnie gave us punching horses in the face. Momoa couldn't be expected to hurt his pwitty wittow surfer hands by smacking the horse directly.

This Conan is as contemporary with his writers as the Conans past were with theirs. It was so modern that I kept forgetting whether I was watching 10,000 BC or a slightly funnier Your Highness. It expresses how deeply weaboo our culture has become with deep-crouching weaboo poses mid sword fight, how trivially we understand social issues like slavery and conquest, and most annoyingly of all how proud we are of our mysticism while ashamed near to death of our theism.

Crom is the single-most important character in the entire Conan universe and they reduced him to less-than-lip-service status in that movie; a stark contrast with the original Howard stories that boasted a much lower fantasy but never shied away from theism any more than it did nudity -- both natural traits of humanity, really.

The relationship Conan had to Crom was a compelling and meaningful one that makes any of the Conan material worth reading. Film writers are too gun-shy when it comes to divinity to ever approach the matter with much more than a trite portrayal of Olympians like they were royal conspirators in a Shakespearean tragedy.

Dead-false god!
Conan never needed to reduce gods to mortality the way Teal'c did in order to keep the SG-1 plot moving. There was always the implication that Conan's relationship to his deity was a precarious one and this strain was gracefully told in the form of Conan's life.

As you read the Conan novels and comic books, you start to share Conan's tenousness regarding the topic. He accepts as a matter of fact that Crom is divinely powerful but is not certain as to how powerful that actually makes him. He prays to him regularly but doesn't keep a fearful reverence. The protagonist seems to accept that he himself is mortal but gets that he's no ordinary mortal. He is haunted by the uncertainty as to how much of his power can be attributed to his deity and how much can be attributed to himself.

It's the sort of question that quietly drives Conan crazy. "How powerful am I, really? I seem to get through all kinds of situations that kill normal people. Will Crom abandon me some day and leave me to die like the many people I've met? Has he already abandoned me and I'm just lucky?"

The only way for Conan to know his limits is to ultimately find them; leading him to be ambitious and cocky because the worst thing that could possibly happen is that he dies knowing how far his power actually extends.

The coolest theist in
all of literature is still
this guy.
It's the theme that constantly alludes to an ultimate showdown between Conan and Crom himself; because he's gonna have to know sooner or later and the truth might actually be worth blasphemously dying for. This doesn't make him any less devout in his worship of Crom. Indeed, it seems to be a more complete expression of his faith -- I mean, how will you ever get to challenge somebody to a friendly bout of (im)mortal combat if you aren't on speaking terms with him?

I didn't really expect to find these things in the newest Conan movie and I honestly don't expect Arnie's re-re-re-remake to do any better (even tho' he did have that awesome prayer in the first movie). But if any Conan movie is going to do it right in Ishy's book, this'll pretty much have to be considered.

Though it's fun to mock this movie, I'm not entirely sure that it deserves the scorn it's been getting (from others or myself). Its vices are not unique to itself but are more a reflection of just how amazingly uninteresting modern American movie writing has gotten. It's a product of its literarily depressing times. It's no longer an escape from the soul-sucking modern world but a victim of it.

Welcome to the 21st century, Conan.
They say "berserker rage" is
code for something.

Friday, December 21, 2012


Well, we gave it a shot.  It was a fan made video made for himself-Ridley Scott; except it was the worst fan made movie.  It was just horrible, none of it made any sense.  For example: why would anyone care if some scientists found cave drawings that might mean life on another planet, who would spend that kind of money? How do you get a xenomorph from a worm, or black goo?  And how does it change a man to a monster from just being inside him?  And how does a squid grow in a human?  If  a baby has any dna difference it will reject it.  How does a xenomorph come from a squid?  What killed those 'architects' really?  
Ugh, it was all so badly written!  Not a good tribute at all!