I think the negative word-of-mouth and reviews hurt a lot. But of course, the WOM and reviews would have been better if there had been a reasonably decent story and characterization. I think that all comes back to the wretched script, and possibly poor direction. (If I'm reading Al and others correctly, Nispel may have sacrificed parts of the script that actually helped make sense, in pursuit of nonstop action. Me, I can't really separate script and direction, it's all just story and character development, and this lacked both. [So then how could I like it? That's why I called it a "thrill ride" -- I enjoyed it in the same way one enjoys a roller-coaster ride or a tilt-a-whirl, just mindless thrills and then when it's over you've got nothing, really.])
The release date and R rating didn't help. It came on the heels of a number of other summer comic-book movies, and right after the release of the Ape movie, which was a howling success critically. (Probably because it had, um, story and character development.) I went to a matinee on a Saturday at a cineplex adjacent to a major shopping center, and there were only fifteen people in the theater. On the day after opening?
I personally don't think the lack of major stars had much to do with it -- many movies have been quite successful without major stars.
I think when you get right down to it, the single biggest reason it tanked is that the story stank and the script didn't give the actors a chance to develop their characters, and therefore the critics hated it and gave it really awful reviews, and the word of mouth did nothing to alter that, since even the most glowing of the reviews (like mine and Mark's) still basically said the story was imbecilic.
Possibly Nispel's direction is as much at fault as Donnelly and Oppenheimer's script, but I still maintain that if you took those exact same actors and the cinematographers and sfx people etc etc, and gave them a script that was faithful to REH's character (and, I suppose, a director who would film the script), they could do it.
This. And more this... and more this.
Glad to see that some sense has made it into this thread to outshine the other absurdity that this movie tanked because of lack of star power or lack of pre-release marketing (not to be confused with poor quality marketing as in the trailers, or post-release marketing as in viral). Conan (and every other movie) has been dominated the last two weeks by "The Help", a movie with no star power and virtually no marketing.
Bottom line, if you have a good story, and you have a major release in theaters, more often than not, people will go see it.
What Avi Lerner meant when he said that Conan didn't have the "brand equity" that they thought it did, is that he thought he could put a steaming pile of crap with the Conan name on it in front of an audience and they would eat it up happily. I'm glad the general population has held him accountable for this. I'm also of the opinion that Malmberg should apologize for this too. Whether he thought it was solid or not, he's at least partially responsible for allowing this to happen.
Edited by Croms Bones, 30 August 2011 - 10:09 PM.