I had a few catty words about the star, Jason Momoa. Honestly, I've got nothing against him per se. He's an actor and I'm sure he knows this is a much higher profile gig than his previous jobs on Baywatch and Stargate: Atlantis. I'm not going to blame the guy for ambition, or for winning the genetic lottery. I hear he got signed for the HBO Game of Thrones series, and that is a vote of confidence. HBO's cast is solid and the network seems committed to turning out a quality fantasy show.
I still think he's way too pretty to be Conan, but I'd give the guy a chance if everything else looked promising. Unfortunately, it doesn't.
Let's see the plot as outlined on that fount of InterTubes wisdom; Wikipedia:
"Khalar Singh, an old friend of Conan's father, Corin, arrives in Cimmeria seeking Corin's help in finding Ilira, the 'Lost Queen of Archeron.' When Corin refuses, Khalar and his mercenaries attack. Corin and the other Cimmerians are killed, but Conan escapes. Conan becomes a thief and eventually seeks revenge against Khalar for killing his father. In the meantime, Khalar has found and captured Ilira on his own, but her bodyguard Tamara escapes. Tamara meets Conan and the both travel to Khalar's city, Khor Khala."
This plot has next to nothing to do with Robert E. Howard. I could easily replace every reference to "Conan" with "The Beastmaster" and probably achieve the same resulting movie. It's generic Sword and Sorcery Plot #69. With the exception of "Conan" and "Cimmeria" none of these characters or places appear in the original stories. The plot is unrelated to anything that happens in the Howard stories.
Perhaps I'm ungenerous. After all, the Milius Conan film was at least as divergent. Well, call me a hypocrite because I'm giving that film a pass on two grounds. First, Milius and his writer (Oliver Stone) managed to capture the thematic tone of Howard's stories. Second, I grew up with the movie; it's as simple as that sometimes.
But we're now in the post-Lord of the Rings era. Would Tolkien fans have applauded a movie in which Frodo was a swashbuckling hero with a magic ring who, alongside his jovial sidekick, Gollum, worked to free Middle Earth from the Oppression of the Dark Riders? What if Hollywood insisted on matching Frodo with Arwen because all heroes need a love interest? Hmmm... Maybe Frodo is too short, hairy and his feet are too big. We should fix that. Maybe we can make Hobbits a bit taller, or elves a bit shorter. Certainly Hobbits should be a lot less hairy.
No. I don't think that would've worked well at all. Of course, Peter Jackson did make some adjustments to keep the running time down, but he remained faithful to the source material. Is there something wrong with Bob Howard's work that we can't do the same for Conan? The episodic nature of Conan's story is perfect for a movie series. I could easily see 3 - 5 Conan movies. Harry Potter has proven audiences will stick with a longer, but finite, series that move toward a conclusion.
Conan's story has many interesting aspects ripe for the screen. He's born on a battlefield, grows up in a warrior culture, and marches to war at the age of 15. His first battle is against an imperial invader challenging his way of life. Yet it sparks an intense curiosity in him, and he does something few others in Cimmeria dare do. He travels. At its core, Conan's story is about exploring the world. (BTW, this is great for providing exposition to the audience. Conan always needs to have things explained to him.) He builds a career and frequently changes jobs. He has a wonderful cast of supporting characters -- and many of them are strong female roles. He overcomes increasingly difficult challenges, and eventually achieves great fame.
There's no reason to discount Conan because he is a pulp character. If treated with respect and dignity, the source material could yield something every bit as rich and insightful as the Nolan Batman films.
So, it's not Jason Momoa I have a problem with. But I think his casting is symptomatic of the production. We're being given generic stuff under a Brand Name. I can't shake the feeling that casting Momoa was less a case of finding the right actor to portray Conan than it was a casting director thinking, "He looks fabulous with his shirt off!" Because that's all Conan is to the production: Branded, Grade-A Beefcake.