I probably should just bow out of this discussion since the general consensus seems to be that, as a movie critic, I'm a pretty good book editor. But I'll try to answer a few direct questions put to me, I guess.
It is similar to science in many respects that the consensus can be viewed as a fact when actually it is just the best of our understanding to date.
Well, no, that seems a bit garbled to me. A "scientific consensus" can emerge regarding a given theory as the best eplanation to date of certain observable facts, but the consensus itself is not a substitute for the facts. How many "experts" might agree on something is perfectly irrelevant. Look at how many scientific and critical ideas emerged from obscurity to eventually displace once widely held consensuses. It turned out the world was not flat, no matter how many people, including distinguished "scientists," believed it.
I certainly disagree with this statement as an artist/illustrator. For instance a teacher might say "you rendered the subject matter well but your composition is bad and the perspective lines are not well done." Art can and is judged objectively all the time then afterwards ones' opinion subjectively influences the final judging.
Art can never be judged objectively, only subjectively.
When your teacher says your composition is bad, he's stating an opinion, a subjective judgment. His judgment may indeed be shared by 99.9% of the world's artists and art teachers (probably not, but let's allow it for the sake of argument) -- but it's still a subjective opinion, not a statement based on a universal, observably true rule. Art has changed over the years, and artists keep reworking the rules. The rules under which the sun operates, or grass grows, have not changed. Any two science teachers, widely separated not only in locale but also in temperament and belief systems, will still describe the process of solar combustion or of mitosis in plant growth in the same way, because these are objectively observable facts. But you can have two art teachers in rooms next door to each other who will offer very different descriptions of what makes for "good composition."
This seems to be the heart of our disagreement as I would assume that if one says this is a good movie then one would also be wondering why it did not do well, why it was not liked by the critics and general public, etc.
And I do wonder at the vehemence of the criticism of Conan2011, which I did not think was as bad as all that. As I say, it is evident that I am well out of the mainstream of critical thought, though apparently am joined in my tasteless opinion by at least some others.
Now I had one question that I wanted you to answer that you seem to have glossed over:
When does it become so unlike Conan that it should not have been given the title at all? Steve Perry pastiche novels come to mind as well as the Conan the Destroyer film. Since this is entirely subjective I would like your opinion on the matter. I feel that the current film should have just been a generic barbarian movie instead of a Conan film because as you and mark have both stated well in your reviews this was not Howard's Conan.
At one time, I probably would have said that if it wasn't Robert E. Howard's Conan, it shouldn't carry the name. But the question does get murky when you leave the printed words of REH, doesn't it? Just how closely must an adaptation into another medium match Howard's words, before you say it's too far away? The Roy Thomas Marvel Comics are okay, but the Michael Fleisher aren't? CtB1982 was okay, but Conan the Destroyer wasn't? Steve Fabian's illustrations, in which he pays close attention to the details of scene and costume that REH actually described, are okay, but those of Frank Frazetta, who preferred to divest Conan of garments as much as possible, aren't? Which is best: the Thriller episode of "Pigeons from Hell," or Scott Hampton's graphic novel adaptation, or the Joe Lansdale/Nathan Fox comic miniseries? Me, I liked them all, at least after I got over the initial shock of how much liberty Joe had taken in creating a new story from the bare bones of REH's.
Someone in the thread (apologies for not being able to keep everything straight from a quick casual lookover) asks how I (and others) can have made such a fuss about the Milius movie and then comment positively on this one? I think it is that over time, my outrage over the '82 movie subsided; a number of people (such as David Smith, who wrote a very lengthy and detailed critique of that film) convinced me that, as a film
, it was better than I was giving it credit for (I still think it had a lot of real flaws); and -- this probably shouldn't have a bearing on the question but it does -- I saw that the movie had brought hundreds, possibly thousands, of new Howard fans into the fold over the years, so I began to view it a bit more charitably due to that.
The most important thing, though, is that at some point I became able to separate Robert E. Howard's Conan from all the other "pop culture Conans" floating around out there. I became a "purist" in this sense -- only the Conan expressed through the actual words of Robert E. Howard is the real Conan of Cimmeria. Those stories are now collected into "pure REH" editions, so the Conan Canon is now fixed. Anything that is not in those books is not the real Conan, but simply someone else's interpretation of Conan.
Some interpretations strike me as pretty close to Howard, some not. Even some of those that are pretty far from REH (in my subjective opinion) are pretty good for what they are trying to be
Would I have liked Conan2011 better if it had been closer to REH, even an adaptation of an REH story? Damn right I would have. Given how much I liked Momoa in the role, I think a truer-to-REH film would have been killer. But I knew, from all the years of rumors, the leaked screen treatments, etc., that the movie wasn't going to be the one we'd all been hoping for. So I readjusted my expectations. To be honest, if the trailer I saw in Cross Plains, and the excerpted early scene on the internet, had not piqued my interest, I wouldn't even have bothered to go to the movie, just as I've neglected to watch the Kull movie all these years, and am not particularly dying to see Solomon Kane. But they did pique my interest just enough to get me to go. Shelly and I both had a good time, and like I say, she's not easy to please with this kind of movie. I could have just quietly enjoyed it and left the criticism to others, but I saw it was getting a lot of bad knocks, many of which I thought not well deserved. In particular, I thought Momoa did a very good job as Conan, and didn't deserve all the "well, he's no Arnold Schwarzennegger" remarks. So I took my enjoyment of the film public, with, I thought, quite a lot of plainly stated qualifiers.
Was it a good Robert E. Howard movie? No, not even close. But was it a good Conan the Barbarian, of comic-book and movie and action figure and trading card and RPG and etc etc etc fame, movie? Yes, I thought it was. You quite obviously did not. It's hardly the first time in the history of Howard fandom we've found large numbers of us disagreeing with one another. I do have to wonder if, in time, the harshness of your views on this movie will mellow, as mine did for the 1982 film.