Stills & Analysis of the Red Band Conan the Barbarian Trailer, Part 1

Now we come to the big one, the Red Band Trailer!

As before, I won’t post anything that we’ve seen in the first trailer – however, I will post stills that have been seen in the TV spots, since the Red Band Trailer available offers a nice 1080 by 720 resolution. Unfortunately, there’s an IGN watermark in the bottom right corner, but we won’t begrudge them the credit. I should also note that some of my discussions will include spoilers – though only the spoilers which come up in the trailer itself.

With that said, let us commence.

Well, first off, instead of giving Lionsgate, Millennium and Paradox their own screens, this new trailer has them all grouped together, which nicely gives us more time for the R-rated goodness.

A female voice…

“My master said I would meet you…”

And we see Rachel Nichols’ Tamara and one of her nunly sisters looking off-camera. I can’t quite tell if this is a mirrored shot, but given the proclivity of such methods in trailers, I wouldn’t be surprised.

Jason Momoa’s Conan mounted upon the steadfast Rudolpho, as they ride through the rocky desert location. The lone standing pillar and ancient statue on the right side of the continue the theme of post-apocalyptic landscape. The head’s wavy beard, letterbox mouth and stern expression give me unfortunate Kull the Conqueror vibes, but we won’t hold that against it.

“… He said our paths would merge.”

Over Momo’s shoulder, we see that mysterious griffin-headed statue, which appears to be some sort of marker for…

… A city. This is possibly the Middle-Eastern City location which may or may not be Khor Khala. Based on the little I can see here, this is a lot closer to the splendour, majesty and exotic glory of Howard’s Hyborian Age, whose cities boasted spires, towers, minarets, domes, walls, citadels and palaces. The 1982 film went with a more rugged, primitive approach, with a fairly Iron Age level of technology and civilization, and that served the narrative Milius was trying to tell: this is more like the world Robert E. Howard described.

The next voice speaking talks in a low rumble, so forgive me if the translation is inaccurate:

“Can I have your name?”

Conan and Tamara are seen resting by a fire in the petrified forest location. I think those are actual petrified trees on location, and not fibreglass props (though I could be mistaken.) Conan has converted his red kilt into a shawl to warm his upper body, and has prepared two roasted animals (birds?), which are cooking over the fire. Tamara is reclining surprisingly comfortably against a rock. A third figure can be seen further from the warmth: he’s bloodied and battered, and appears to be bound. A closer look suggests this could be Milton Davies’ Remo: in the script, Conan uses Remo as an unorthodox messenger to Khalar Zym. Combined with other behind-the-scenes shots such as in the recent Empire article, it would appear this plot element is intact in the final film.

(Now, bear with me on this… According to the drafts, Tamara’s full name is Tamara Amelia Karushan. This has obviously been altered slightly, so I’m going to give it a crack.)

“Tamara Amalia (Dorothy?) Karushan.”

Conan seems nonplussed, and I just wanted to add this little sequence:

“And yours?”

“Conan.”

“That’s it?”

“How many names do I need?”

A guitar chord tears through the silence, and we see Khalar Zym in his green armour cutting down some poor soul. It could be perceived as a mercy, though, since this gentleman also appears to be on fire.

I want to make special notice of that mysterious horseman visible in the background, wearing a savage horned helm. Who in blazes is that dude? Is he one of Khalar’s generals? A Vanir warrior? A cameo from Frazetta’s iconic Death Dealer? Damn, that fellow is badass. Why isn’t he the bad guy?

During a black screen, we hear a new voice, one that’ll be familiar to those who’ve been watching Sons of Anarchy, Hellboy or Beauty & the Beast reruns:

“When a cimmerian feels thirst…

Cutting to a shot of the battle at Conan’s village, and the Cimmerians really seem to be putting up far more of a fight than the peasants of the 1982 film.

Here’s Ron Perlman’s Corin, who’s sliced open the neck of one of Khalar’s soldiers, with dozens of extras battling in the background.

Corin concludes that thought:

“… it is the thirst for blood.”

A cynic would say this was trying to play to the vampire teenybopper crowd, though I don’t think even they would think the Cimmerians are vampires. Right?

Anyway, we get our first really clear look at Corin, and I think he actually makes a pretty solid Cimmerian visually: in fact, I could see him as being pretty damned solid as Conan’s adventuring grandfather. The blond/ginger hair irks, but because he’s a senior Cimmerian, I can pretend it’s merely grey. That’s my line and I’m sticking to it. Let’s just hope young Corin from the prologue doesn’t ruin that particular rationalization… We also see a few other Cimmerians in the background.

Here’s that shot of Khalar’s acolyte, possibly-Cheren, Remo, Khalar, young Marique, Ukafa, Akhun and possibly-Lucius. That’s a lot of villains for Conan to wade through.

During the overhead shot of young Conan among the dead Picts, Perlman continues:

“When he feels cold…”

Which are followed by two shots of Leo Howard’s young Conan slaying one of Khalar’s men. Markedly more Howardian than the frightened child of the 1982 film, and I don’t doubt Leo will be convincing in the role.

I don’t want to make a big thing of this, but although I appreciate the intent of the blood and gore in the battle scenes, the implementation vaguely annoys me. Now, I have no illusions that battle is a bloody and gutwrenching experience: first-hand accounts of medieval battles speak of the sheer volume of carnage. That said, there are ways to do copious bloodshed in a way that’s realistic and powerful, and ways that make it look cartoonish. Cutting or stabbing someone near a major artery – the carotid, subclavian, branchial, femoral – and leaving a deep wound will result in gushing spurts of blood: decapitation, dismemberment and other grievous injuries will do the same. However, clipping someone on the shoulder or raking a blade across their belly will not result in anything like the amounts of blood we see in the trailer. Not to mention that much of these deadly blows are landed not on the weak spots of armour, but on the chest, abdomen and back – precisely where the armour is strongest. When your armour is being torn open like paper by relatively light blows, one has to wonder what on earth the point of all that armour is.

Don’t get me wrong, I appreciate a frank and brutal depiction of violence in a Conan film. I’d certainly prefer it over sanitized bloodless combat that dilutes the harsh, unpleasant reality of combat. I just wish Nispel had done it in a way that’s realistic. It’s all the more frustrating since there are examples of more realistic bloodletting in this very trailer, leading me to wonder why the examples like a soldier spurting out a pint of blood from a five-inch long, inch-deep cut on his belly were used in the first place.

OK, enough of that.

“… it is the cold edge of steel.”

Conan holding his Faddah’s Sowahd. No sign of Conan’s blue eyes, sadly.

Now, here’s a strange shot, as we see Conan’s sword fly towards him, which he catches. But… Khalar doesn’t seem to have thrown it. He’s holding his hands together, tensing them, almost as if he’s concentrating. Is he… is he levitating the sword towards Conan? Using the force, Khalar? Intriguing. There are a few Howardian sorcerers who utilized telekinesis: Xaltotun and the Master of Yimsha, for example. So this is fairly in line with Howard, though hopefully people won’t immediately assume it’s a Darth Vader steal.

We’ll end this chapter with one of the more brutal and violent shots: Conan is savaging an unfortunate extra at the slave market set. This final flourish is a bit more realistic than previous examples, in that the victim is unarmoured: it’s easier to slice open someone’s guts if there isn’t a layer of steel protecting it. While there’s still a bit too much blood in relation to the wound, it’s remedied by the fact we can clearly see it splash on Conan’s body, fairly drenching his right flank. If this is CGI blood, it’s very good.

I think – or rather, suspect – that this final shot is another juxtaposition of an unrelated scene for the purposes of the trailer. Why? No blood: neither on Conan’s blade, nor is there a spurt as Conan draws it upwards, and most tellingly, his right chest and arm is completely dry. It’s either two separate scenes cut together, or it’s a pretty flagrant continuity error where the FX guys forgot to add the blood stains. I’m guessing the former, though: there are a lot of these juxtapositions in the trailer.

That’s the first thirty-five seconds of the Red Band Trailer: we’ll be back for the rest soon.