Friday, September 9, 2011

Conan Rant, Day 2

Driving to lunch this afternoon, we passed through the haze of the wildfires to our north. This morning, the news was carrying a story about asking random people to evacuate their house in 5 minutes and finding out if they could. A few days our governor was cheered by a bloodthirsty crowd for his vicious idea of justice. These are things that I cannot handle today.

Instead, I am posting a second day of Conan ranting. Let me start by saying again that I think the writers and the director and producers of the movie that we saw fundamentally didn't understand what they were making. In their hands, they were making a simple, bloody story in the form of so many other stories recently come through the multiplex. They were making a dress in a particular shade cut to the same specifications as 15,000 other dresses in slightly different shades--instead of one of yellow spandex or one with glowing green lines or one with a nifty cowl, this one is fur and leather, accessorized with a missing sword that must be eeeeeaaaaarrrrnnned. Work it, hero.

Grrrr. Each twist of the story was a simple wooden mallet on a single xylophone note. Tough childhood--ding! Advanced skills from an early age--ding! Immature understanding of heroism--ding! Geas of dead parent--ding! Some willful child is banging on the notes, but the resonance is missing.

What if Conan had emerged, not the toughest child in what appeared to be a rather fearful bunch, but the best among an already tough (not bigger, but brave, skillful, and deadly) group? What if we'd seen none of this as fact, but received it as rumor throughout a movie that involved a quest that was motivated by a warrior with his own purpose? Would it have mattered if none of the childhood stuff were true if the character himself had been strong and interesting from the start?

It seemed to me that most of what we saw in city settings in the movie were cages of people (or taverns, but that's not to the point) being held. If I thought that this was some kind of metaphor for the way people are hemmed in by civilization rather than growing up free and muscular in the wild, it might be interesting. As set dressing, it was boring. The cities themselves were rarely interesting or evocative. Most of the action seemed to take place in dark, undistinguished caves. Again, unevocative. This is world riddled with sorcery and myth and one matte painting of a skull cave should not be the extent of the wonder and/or horror portrayed.

The flat tone extended to the female monk. What kind of monks sit around having the equivalent of slumber party visions? What is the purpose of becoming a monk? Why didn't this character have any spark at all? Random sidekick/love interest--ding! The dialogue between them often sounded as if they were in different movies.

When a familiar character misses his or her chance at the movies, the books remain. Movies can reopen the wonder of the characters, though, and they are one thing that I can share with my husband, whose tastes and mine diverge rapidly despite beginning in similar genres. I hate having to suffer through crap and then hear him say, yeah, I enjoyed it because I wasn't expecting anything. We should expect something. I expect to be entertained.

Perhaps tomorrow will be pleasant (I'll swear off the news for the weekend) and we can all move on from Conan The Deafening.

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