Friday, August 19, 2011

Conan the Barbarian (2011)

MPAA (R) CNS/USCCB (O) Roger Ebert (1 ½ stars) Fr Dennis (1/2 star, if only that the movie can serve as a reminder of what kind of world we'd live in if the Aryan extolling Nazis had won WW II)

IMDb listing -
CNS/USCCB review -
Roger Ebert’s review -

Conan the Barbarian (directed by Marcus Nispel and screenplay written by Thomas Dean Donnelly, Joshua Oppenheimer and Sean Hood) is the screen incarnation of the character Conan the Barbarian invented by Texas (Southern) pulp-fiction writer Robert E. Howard in 1932.   The previous screen 1982 incarnation featured Arnold Schwarzenegger in the title role.

To be honest, I am surprised that Conan’s character keeps surfacing because while it would be difficult to absolutely prove that Robert E. Howard and German Nazi ideologue Alfred Rosenberg influenced each other, it is more or less obvious that Howard’s Conan the Barbarian and Rosenberg’s infamous Myth of the 20th Century (the second most influential book of the Nazi era only surpassed by Hitler’s Mein Kampf) were inspired by the same brew of race-based “violence in defense of honor” extolling milieu that existed at the time. 

I’ll leave it to readers here to compare Robert’s Cimmeria from which Conan was supposed to have come and Rosenberg’s pre-history of the Aryan peoples in his Myth, noting only that Rosenberg was tried at Nuremberg Trials after World War II, found guilty of fomenting the crimes of the murderous Nazi regime and hung as a war criminal.

So why watch a movie that’s arguably a Texas-baked American version of Nazi-era myth?  Good question.  In good part, I went to see it because I remember seeing Schwarzennergger’s Conan in the 1980s when I was in my 20s (I despised the 1980s version then and despise the new version now) and wanted to see if the new version was just as bad as the old.

I also believe, frankly, that there’s some value in seeing what the world would have been like _without_ the arrival of Christianity and _especially_ “frilly” Catholicism (Protestantism was fundamentally a step back to a black draped, pale Taliban-like austerity):  Yes, we _could have_ ended-up living in a blood and mud covered Hell of eternal decapitations on barbaric “fields of honor.”  Indeed, compared to the blood drenched world of Conan, the frilly angels of Botticelli’s Florence of the Renaissance and the sweet strains of the baroque music of the harpsichord are an absolute breath of fresh air.  There is a lot to be said for looking for God in Beauty rather than in the swing of an iron-age blade aimed at the throat of a nameless “other tribe/raced” opponent.

Anyway, I find little positive in this new blood-drenched 3D version of Conan the Barbarian (the title role played now by Jason Mamoa) except to possibly see what we _could have been_ if Christianity had not arrived ... or what we could have become once again if the Nazis had won the Second World War.


An interesting discussion on the influences entering into Robert E. Thomas' creation of Conan's world can be found on the IMDb's Discussion Board for Conan the Barbarian (2011).

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