The thing about Hollywood’s obsession with sequels, remakes, and franchises is that sooner or later one of their movies runs headlong into the childhood memories of its older viewers. And by older, I mean people in their thirties and forties and nostalgic twentysomethings.
Such is the case with Conan the Barbarian. The original was certainly no classic. (And quite frankly neither is the remake.) But both the original and the remake are enjoyable summer fare. But even though I had no great love for the original, I still couldn’t help but be struck by the differences between the two movies.
As in the original, Conan’s entire village is slaughtered in front of him, instilling in the young barbarian a lifelong lust for revenge. Everything else, except for some of the names is different. In the original, Conan is a force of nature who slaughters armies single-handedly and “becomes a king by his own hand.” The new Conan is more of a barbarian Robin Hood, slaughtering slavers to free their slaves and surrounding himself with a band of merry warriors whom he leaves behind for his final showdown with the bad guy.
Despite the occasional light-heartedness of Conan and his men in the remake, the movie itself takes itself much more seriously than the campy original. The original movie was also more quotable with lines like: “Do you want to live forever?” and the epic “To kill your enemies. To see them driven before you. And to hear the lamentations of their women. That is what’s best in life!” The best line the remake can serve up is, “I live, I love, I slay.”
The one thing that the new Conan has over the original however is Jason Mamoa. A veteran of sci-fi and fantasy television who played likeable badasses on Stargate Atlantis and Game of Thrones, Mamoa’s infuses the new Conan with a depth and nuance that he doesn’t really need but which nevertheless is enjoyable to watch. He’s a thinking man’s Arnold Schwarzenegger and deserves chance to kick ass onscreen for years to come.