Re-Action: Conan the Barbarian (1982) vs. Conan the Barbarian (2011)
As long as Hollywood continues to remake/reboot action films, fans will continue to debate: “Should they have even done it?” “Did they stay true enough to the original, without blatantly ripping it off?” And maybe the most important debate of all… “Is it actually better?!”
It is a difficult task enough to try and remake a beloved action movie. It only becomes that much more difficult when trying to find an action hero to fill the shoes of THE action hero. Director Nispel and actor Momoa take on the challenge as we look at Conan the Barbarian.
Budget = $16,000,000
Box Office = $70,000,000 (worldwide)
Lead Roles = Arnold Schwarzenegger as Conan / James Earl Jones as Thulsa Doom
Director = John Milius
Score = Basil Poledouris
Running Time = 129 minutes
Budget = $90,000,000
Box Office = $50,000,000 (worldwide)
Lead Roles = Jason Momoa as Conan / Stephen Lang as Khalar Zym
Director = Marcus Nispel
Score = Tyler Bates
Running Time = 113 minutes
My Two Cents
Let’s go ahead and get the most important piece of the puzzle out of the way. Conan IS Arnold Schwarzenegger. There may be no other role in cinematic history that could have been a tougher feat to overcome than to try and fill his shoes. Does Jason Momoa do it? Of course not. But, it is not in the “fell flat on his face” kind of way that many fans thought that he might. Momoa is imposing in his own kind of way and he does tone down the “buffoon” moments a little more than Arnie does in the original that does also helps. The supporting cast in both versions is about as equal in my opinion. James Earl Jones’ portrayal of evil is more subtle and eerie; while Stephen Lang and Rose McGowan’s villains are meant to be a little more over the top and they both do it well. There is no denying that Nispel spent a little more on his budget to get actual PRETTY woman to take their clothes off in his remake so there is a definite mark for his version in that regard.
The stories are very much the same, with a little more of a plot to move along the remake, while the original relies on the look of the film to entertain throughout much of film. That’s not necessarily a bad thing, as it gives you more of an “epic” feel than the “popcorn flick” that you feel like you are watching with the 2011 version. But, the side story of the mask in Nispel’s does keep it moving along and fun.
The direction is where these two films truly begin to separate themselves. As mentioned before, the 82’ original has a true epic feel to it and it is just one of those films that you can put in when you are in the mood to zone in and out of it and appreciate it for what it is. The remake was made with the intention of in your face action, while trying to stay true to the sense of the original and it just didn’t work in that regard. The tone of the remake is just so uneven throughout. Not to mention the look, which bounces from a “Highlander feel” with the rolling landscapes, to “Lord of the Rings” literally in the next shot when they oversaturate a background with CGI castles.
The scores are miles apart. Again, the original has a true epicness to it, with a sense of tragicness and doom. The remake is lost as it tries to balance between epic and action flick. It’s not a bad score so much as it just tries too hard for this kind of movie. Sometimes less is more and Basil Poledouris proves this in the original.
Again, comparing these two films is like comparing Blade Runner and Speed. There is just two completely different feels to them and you must choose which you prefer at the time you sit down to watch a movie. For me, it’s Ah-nold all the way!