Analysis of the new set photos

The following post doesn’t contain any new information: rather, this is one of those speculative posts where I examine the most recent batch of pictures and give my thoughts, theories and musings on what they could mean.

We’ll start with the biggest new image, the first picture of Bob Sapp in costume as Khalar Zym’s henchman Ukafa.

I’ll be honest, this is not what I was expecting of Ukafa’s costume, but that isn’t necessarily a bad thing. It’s a very simple costume: wide red breeches reminiscent of Turkish ÅŸalvar, Arabian sirwal or Indian sharovary; leather boots; and what appear to be red lacquered bracers. No sign of gold or filed teeth. It’s possible that this isn’t the complete Ukafa ensemble, and that there are still some makeup effects or elements to add. Nonetheless, it reminds me less of a Kushite tribesman than of a Red Brotherhood corsair: perhaps the production is leery of using a more tribal African appearance.

More after the jump.

This appears to be one of Khalar Zym’s henchmen, and it’s the first good look we’ve seen of them. I’m pleasantly surprised to see he’s wearing lamellar armour, very popular among the early Mesopotamian empires, as well as many steppe cultures like the Avars, Sarmations and Mongols, and even Medieval cultures likke the Byzantine Empire and Russian kingdoms. Lamellar isn’t described directly in any of the Conan stories, but there are references to scale armour with “plates” which could be construed as being shorthand for lamellar, and it’s a reasonable extrapolation from a historical standpoint. This gentleman’s armour appears to be made of leather – again, historically sound.

The question is what culture he is. The armour our man’s wearing is shared by a number of other extras, frequently seen on horses, indicating that they may be primarily cavalry forces. It’s difficult to discern exactly where these mysterious fellows originate: no steel, silk or gold, so they’re probably not Hyrkanians or Turanians; no steel mail or bronze shields, so not Shemites. Perhaps they’re a unique division formed by Khalar Zym himself.

Another of Khalar Zym’s horsemen, but subtly different: rather than lamellar, he’s sporting a muscled cuirass and manica. However, what’s most interesting is the standard he’s bearing. A purple flag with a gold design, which is probably the same as the sculpture surmounting the flagpole: an eight-tentacled… thing, with what could be a single gaping maw, and single eye above it. This symbol has also been seen emblazoned on tower shields carried by the lamellar-clad warriors, as well as the front of a wagon.

Recent reports on the film’s story have suggested that Khalar Zym is trying to resurrect not the ancient kingdom of Acheron, but a “dark god.” Many of the gods of the Hyborian Age are revealed not to be divine beings, but otherworldly horrors with writhing tentacles: Thog of “Xuthal of the Dusk,” Thaug of “A Witch Shall Be Born,” the unknown fiend beneath Kuthchemes of “Black Colossus,” Khosatral Khel of “The Devil in Iron.”

Could this golden standard be the symbol of that foul deity? Is this a god we know in the Hyborian Age, or one concocted for the film? I’m sure we’ll find out.

This is one of the closest looks we’ve had of Conan’s sword so far. I still feel the pommel is too insubstantial for such a large sword, and it still looks a bit LARPy, but I like the little Celtic knot pattern on the guard. It’s nice to see more Celtic elements being introduced to Conan, even if it’s just small things like this. The chap holding the sword is probably a Cimmerian – more on them later.

When early pictures of the set had been released, there was a fear that the large amount of leather armour on display was a sign of low budget, giving a somewhat Hercules the Legendary Journeys vibe to some. However, as we can see here, one needn’t worry about the quality of metal armour. This chap here is, again, presumably part of Khalar’s motley horde, and it seems logical that he’s of a different culture, or at least division, from the black lamellar-clad horsemen. The style of his shield, turban, sash, sword and moustache, as well as his olive skin, suggest to me that he could be Vendhyan, Iranistani, or Shemite.

These are presumably some of the doomed souls of the ill-fated monastery where Tamara lives. That chap in the back is wearing something very similar to the Imperial Gallic helmet of the Romans, suggesting the Dark Horse interpretation of the Hyborians.

Everyone here’s a Cimmerian, it seems, and I’m pleased to note they’re all brunettes, just as it should be. The topknots bother me a bit, and I’m not sure about all the beards (Howard’s Celts seemed to prefer being clean-shaven, with only the elderly sporting beards) but it’s preferable to seeing blondes and redheads. Overall, not bad Cimmerians, and infinitely superior to the 1982 films’.

Some more Cimmerians, I think – including what I hope is a woman warrior. Yeah, she could just be holding the sword for the photo, but she has dried blood on her face: this can be seen more clearly in other photos.

I think she could well be getting involved in the fighting herself. If she does, it would be another step towards Howard and away from the 1982 film, where the only woman to take up a sword was Conan’s mother: the rest fled in terror from Thulsa Doom’s horde.

Two more extras from the Cimmerian set, immediately distinguished by the fact that they’re two old ladies. Two tough-looking old ladies: I dearly hope we get to see them put up a fight, rather than get speared in the back like their counterparts in the 1982 film. That one on the left exactly fits my mental picture of the old Westermarck matron from “Beyond the Black River,” and the one on the right would make a fine Eadna from “Swords of the Northern Sea.” Come on, Marcus, give these grannies some steel!

Two things of note in this picture. First is the gentleman, who’s wearing armour quite different from anyone else in the photos: it’s lamellar like Khalar’s henchmen, but metal – bronze or gold – instead of leather. He’s also wearing furs, and is sporting black hair, suggesting that he might be a Cimmerian. Our man is very different from the other Cimmerians on the set, though at least one other appears to be wearing some variety of ring armour.

It’s possible both represent Cimmerian adventurers who took their enemy’s armour as trophies. Either that, or Nispel’s Cimmerians have their own armour – however, few of the other Cimmerians have any, suggesting the above are anomalies.

The second item of note is that standing stone in the middle of the village, which is seen in a number of photos. Living a mere stone’s throw (ho ho) away from the majestic Granny Kempock Stone, the significance of a menhir in a Cimmerian village is not lost on this Scot – nor does it go unappreciated! On the side is a carven symbol, vaguely reminiscent of a classic Celtic anthropomorphic sword hilt. What could this design represent – perhaps Crom?

A little behind-the-scenes look of Jason Momoa practising his cleaving. Say, that guy looks familiar…

Now this is a complete mystery to me: what are these unknown dwellings? They look vaguely like yurts, but they appears more permanent, judging by the stone foundations. A closer look reveals an unusual, somewhat haphazard method of construction. The purpose of the buildings from a storyline standpoint is also an enigma to me, since I can’t immediately recall any scenes involving such buildings. Is this the setting of a new scene from the Lobel/Hood rewrite, as yet unseen in any of the scripts?