Friday, 25 November 2011

Novelisation of the Conan the Barbarian (2011) movie

After seeing the movie - a clear flop as a Conan movie, but a decent action flick in its own right - I wished to read the novelisation. I was perhaps driven to the novel by morbid curiosity, but I also wanted to see if it would fix at least some plot holes and failed characterisation that we saw in the movie. Stackpole was familiar to me from his previous Star Wars novels, so I hoped for more than I would have from a completely unknown name. The following may contain some spoilers to those who have not seen the movie yet.

Stackpole makes a valiant attempt to fix the unfixable by adding meat and logic around the script written for the Conan the Barbarian (2011) movie. As a result there are passages and sections in this novel that are very nice to read. These include, for example, Conan's reminiscing about his lost love, Belit, who was never mentioned in the movie.

In many places, Stackpole manages to bring logic to bridge the obvious gaps in story that we witnessed in theatres (such as why the pirate ship was suddenly waiting for Conan and Tamara under the cliffs when they jumped down and how the evil people managed to find Tamara later on to capture her) and downplays or rewrites the ridiculousness of some scenes (sand men fight, using a catapult to launch a man at Khalar Zym's land ship etc.).

Unfortunately, the main story itself is still as un-Conan as the one in the movie and it could not be fixed without coming up with an entirely different story. I cannot bring myself to blame Stackpole for this, however, as he was forced to follow and adapt the script, rather than write a decent new Conan story. Also, it is clear that this novel was rushed to the market. Especially the ending is very bare-bones and could have used with another rewrite or two, whereas the early part of the book seems pretty well honed.

It is a valiant effort, for sure, but not enough to make the story enjoyable. It would be interesting to see what Stackpole could do when he is not hindered by a bad script and strict time constraints.