Chances are, when pulp fiction author Robert E. Howard created the character of Conan the Cimmerian, he didn’t anticipate his barbarous he-man would one day be brought to the screen by a womanizing Austrian bodybuilder destined to become the governor of California. (And all these years later, I still wince when acknowledging that political truth.)
Even less likely is the scribe forseeing that when he concocted the character of Red Sonya of Rogatino, a 16th-century gun-toting Ukrainian woman, she would be later re-imagined by comic book writers as Red Sonja, a chainmail-bikini-clad warrior woman who existed in the same fictional universe as Conan, only to end up as a cinematic heroine played by the paramour of Sylvester Stallone.
It’s no secret that Hollywood steadfastly refuses to greenlight any genuinely new film projects. I’ve ranted about it before and have no wish to do so again. So in the grand tradition of everything old and obsolete being new again, two new projects are in the works: Red Sonja and Conan the Barbarian.
The first Conan the Barbarian came out in 1982 and starred, naturally, Arnold Schwarzenegger. Though the new film hasn’t secured a star as of yet, the rumor mill is in a tizzy that it might be Roland Kickinger, another Austrian bodybuilder. Perhaps the origin of this gossip is the fact that Kickinger played the T-800 in Terminator: Salvation, stepping into the part once played by the aging governator. That would, of course, make this casting choice a little too obvious, and furthermore, it would be unfair to Kickinger, if he is indeed serious about his acting career, to place him as merely this generation’s answer to Ah-nold.
According to this article at CHUD, director Marcus Nispel (who seems to be making a name for himself as remake-go-to-guy with his gigs on The Texas Chainsaw Massacre and Friday the 13th) will be helming the tale of the Cimmerian warrior, with shooting allegedly to start later this year. Though the teaser poster claims the movie will premiere in 2009, I wouldn’t hold your breath.
The Xena to Conan’s Hercules is, of course, Red Sonja, first played by Brigitte Nielsen, who is probably best known to people my age and younger as the drunk, naked old lady from VH1’s The Surreal Life, but my sources tell me that in the 80’s she was considered something of a babe.
The 1985 barbarian flick was apparently something of a box office bomb, a poor follow-up to the slightly more successful Conan movies.
Apparently, a lot of fans were disappointed at the lack of any noticeable T&A factor, considering the source material was a red-headed warrior babe in a chain mail bikini. Nielsen’s red leather corset number just didn’t seem to do it for a lot of salivating nerds.
So what can we expect from the latest installment? For one thing, it’s being directed by Robert Rodriguez, the rebellious director behind such schlocky fare as From Dusk Till Dawn, Planet Terror, and Sin City. And I say “schlocky fare” with love, because I, for one, dig Rodriguez’s style, and his fearlessness when it comes to gratuitous imagery more highbrow directors might shy away from.
In fact, he’s the perfect fit to direct this kind of a movie, and his muse, Rose McGowan, seems like excellent casting for this warrior princess.
But what will the tone be? Well, judging from this article and the teaser poster to the left, this will be a lot more 300 than Conan, and while I’m not particularly a fan of 300, I think the idea of that style of movie done with a female warrior might be some kind of awesome.
I’m particularly charmed by McGowan’s comment about how one doesn’t always desire to play role models, and that really what she wanted was “to take a giant sword and kill a lot of people.”
So who knows? Maybe the incessant flow of remakes might yield one or two gems, and maybe one of these barbarian films will be one of them.
We’ll just have to wait and see.
In the meantime, better practice your swordplay.