Possible plot hints on Conan II?

Even though Conan is still in post-production, it seems that work on the sequel is also underway. A while back, it was confirmed that Dirk Blackman and Howard McCain were writing the sequel to the film. Blackman was kind enough to show a sort of “practice screenplay” on his blog, and discussed it on his blog. The response at the Robert E. Howard Forums was… lively.

However, regardless of the Forum’s criticisms of Blackman’s treatment, he and McCain have kept hard at work on the script. Moderator Crossplains Pilgrim has posted a tantalizing glimpse at the plot of the next film.

Click after the jump to find out!

Right, let’s have a look:

I had the opportunity to get a look at an early draft of a script for the sequel to the new Millenium Conan production. It’s penned by Dirk Blackman and Howard McCain. As they took a few hard shots here on the forum last time at bat, I want to assure them the individual who provided my access to the script thought very highly of it. So did I. I will cut the authors a break and not discuss the details of the script, but I can say if it is produced it will be the first Conan film based on a single Howard story.

Because it is based on a Howard tale the principle characters have the same names and retain the same personalities of Howard’s creations. There is a determined female monarch, but she is not a warrior swordswoman with a fifth degree black belt and behaves pretty much as in the original story. The story is, of course, fleshed out with some new scenes that my fellow forum members will almost certainly debate some day in our typically impassioned style. I can’t see how the authors could have gotten around the additions based on the brevity of the original story. The final scene plays out in almost the exact same way as in the original story. All’s well, that ends well.

Requirements for pleasing contemporary audiences being what they are, most of the additions are action set pieces (which in my opinion surpass those in the early version I read of the current film) that do not greatly alter the story arc of Howard’s original yarn. I know this is dangerous ground, but I honestly think that a couple of the new action sequences are terrific. I’m a film guy who also reveres REH, and I wouldn’t kid anyone on the forum. There are a couple of characters, including an important villain (who actually has very brief screen time), who were not in Howard’s original story. As I said before, I don’t see how a screenwriter with the task of shaping a full-length script for the contemporary market could avoid a few new elements. As a film guy, I did enjoy some of the subtle references to scenes from several famous action films. Blackman and McCain provided their Conan with some pretty cool quips that are much more Eastwood than Bond. I thought they enlivened the character without getting too contemporary. Reactions will vary. There are also several references to other Howard-penned Conan tales. Again, reactions will vary.

The best feature of the script for me was the characterization of Conan. However, I am not sure any interpretation of the big guy is going to please everyone around here. No writer has so far. As this is a sequel to the upcoming film, he is a young Conan. However, to my mind, there is no doubt this is Howard’s young Conan. Tough, smart, confident, unflappable and pragmatic, the script offers Conan a chance to evolve a good bit during the course of the film. His road to a throne is definitely intimated. Being Howard’s Conan, he is absolutely the wrong guy to cross, but Blackman and McCain avoid the sadistic overreach of the early draft of the current film. I should point out here that the current film has gone through so many revisions since that first draft, the writers may have considerably altered their Conan as well.

That’s about it. Bottom line is this is a smart, entertaining action flick that sticks pretty close to a single REH story, and, I think, shows a respect for the author and the character. I don’t think I revealed anything that the authors or producers would find detrimental to their development of the film. If Mr. Blackman or Mr. McCain care to comment on my remarks, they are, of course, welcome.

Most intriguing, I must say, and the confirmation from a trustworthy source such as Crossplains Pilgrim that this is in fact an honest-to-Mitra adaptation of a Howard story is a source of great relief to me. After eighty years, an actual Robert E. Howard story is finally coming to the big screen!

The question is, which Howard story could it be? The Forumers offer a few theories, and I think the mention of a “determined female monarch,” that “his road to a throne is definitely intimated,” and that this is still a younger Conan points to one of three stories: “Black Colossus,” “Queen of the Black Coast,” or “The People of the Black Circle.” There’s an outside chance for “A Witch Shall Be Born,” too. All in all, “Black Colossus” seems to be the strongest contender.

If this is going to be a big screen adaptation of “Black Colossus,” then I can see possibilities for expansion, as seen in Dark Horse’s “Black Colossus” arc. We could see Conan join Amalric’s Free Companions, where he quickly rises to captain of the spearmen, and exactly how he earns the name “Throat-Slitter.” There are mentions of Natohk’s war magic that would make thrilling set pieces. Perhaps even the adventures of Shevatas, as he procures the venom needed to slay the serpent guarding Natohk’s tomb. “Queen of the Black Coast” or “The People of the Black Circle” would be awesome too, of course, with similar options for expansion. Conan’s a bit older by the time of “The People of the Black Circle,” but Momoa looks the part enough, and he could have time to get more accustomed to the role.

One has to be cautious, though: Crossplains Pilgrim notes that the film has gone through multiple revisions since the draft he read, so there could be still more changes. We all know how the Hollywood system can mangle and ruin a promising script with executive meddling and demographic hounds: just look at Dune. Even Charles Edward Pogue’s Kull the Conqueror was light years ahead in its original iteration before Daughter of De Laurentiis got her harridan claws on the film.

Still, even considering that there are going to be changes – and that I may not agree with them – the fact remains that this could be an adaptation of a Robert E. Howard story. This is miles better than making up yet another “original” story while some of the best Sword-and-Sorcery yarns are lying right there to be made into a thrilling Sword-and-Sorcery movie that would blow 80% of the existing S&S films out of the sky. No more generic mishmashes like Conan the Destroyer, no more dull escapades like Conan the Adventurer: finally, Robert E. Howard’s stories, characters and world are making their way to the big screen. It’s the best news I’ve heard about this whole project.

Now, as long as they don’t make too many references to Conan: The Wrath of Zym

UPDATE: Crossplains Pilgrim has kindly elaborated on some of the questions:

The Blackman/McCain script for a Conan sequel is a very different animal from “SK.’ It is a full-bore action film designed to entertain a wide audience (by that I mean young). The tone is much lighter without getting as shallow and cheesy as so much of the competition. As I said, this script respects Howard and the genre. Don’t get me wrong. This is an R-rated approach with buckets of mayhem and a more modest amount of debauchery. What sets it apart ( as I said in my original post), this Blackman/McCain script is an adaptation of a single Howard story. One of his most highly regarded stories (of course, most of them were highly regarded). The authors have added scenes and characters that were not a part of REH’s original tale. And there is one extended scene that is strongly reminiscent of another Howard yarn. The best way to describe the changes is to say they have covered all the original bases but have extended the playing field. What this film has in abundance (that I think the early O/S draft lacked) is a clever, engaging plot (partly due to Howard, of course) laced with some real wit and style. And please, if you Millennium guys are actually reading this, I was talking about that very early D/O script. Who knows the state of the script now? It could be a cinematic masterpiece. Please don’t send that guy Vito back to explain things to me.

As far as Hollywood tinkering with this script if it is selected, I would hope not. I don’t see the need even for the good folks at Millennium to mess around with this one. It delivers what a profit minded producer should devoutly desire. The authors have cleverly (IMO) crafted a film that mainstream audiences will enjoy, but unlike Donnelly and Oppenheimer, Blackman and McCain had the advantage of a real Conan yarn to work with and they have taken full advantage of it. The authors have labored to keep most of Howard’s plot elements and characters in tact. That has never happened before. One can quibble over how close their approach is to Howard’s. This being the REH Forum, we most assuredly will. Ad infinitum. My personal opinion is the authors are very close. Closer than any script we have seen. Evah.

I did not mention another strength (at least for me) of this script. The bad guys are very Howardian. Tough as steel, self-seeking, remorseless, and no cowards in the clutch. They all meet their fates straight up without whimpering. Well, all but one, and that is understandable, considering the manner of the character’s departure. The main villain is not a megalomaniacal, paranoid nut-case with delusions of grandeur, but is actually given some mitigating motivation for the villain’s actions and some cruelly witty lines to enhance the character’s venality. The actor who gets this part will relish it.

Of course, unless one is a high priest conducting unspeakable rituals in some shadow haunted temple in darkest Stygia, one can not know the future. But now I am truly hoping Mr. Nispel’s film will do well enough for this script to see the light of a silver screen.

And Thoth-Amon is nowhere to be seen.*

More excellent news. Though the old adage “fool me once, shame on you, fool me twice, shame on me” is echoing around me, and there’s every likelihood that Lionsgate/Millennium have found some way to muck it all up, I can’t help but start to feel a tiny measure of… hope. What a strange feeling it is!

*I had asked earlier in the thread if the “secondary villain” he alludes to was Thoth-Amon, Conan’s arch-nemesis in the comics and pastiches. I’m almost disappointed to see his absence, but then, Conan never actually met Thoth-Amon in the original Howard stories: he was clearly a mover and shaker in the Hyborian Age, being important to the plot of three stories (“The Phoenix on the Sword,” “The God in the Bowl” and The Hour of the Dragon respectively) but the comics and pastiches went way overboard in their attempt to make him a nemesis. It was a nice idea, but Thoth-Amon constantly failing started to get rather Skeletor-esque.