So this weekend's freshly oiled Conan The Barbarian film failed to pillage moviegoers' wallets and Jason Momoa's gently undulating pectorals didn't hypnotize critics. This shouldn't have entirely come as a surprise, seeing as how the Conan moving-picture franchise has been in dire straits for decades now.
Indeed, we can use the historical trajectory of Conan films as a stand-in for the Kübler-Ross model of the five stages of grief. This parallel becomes abundantly apparent when you watch the Conan films in rapid succession. Join us as we appropriate psychiatry in the name of Crom.
1.) DENIAL is James Earl Jones turning into a giant snake
As much as it pains me to admit it, 1982's Conan The Barbarian is not a perfect movie. Sure, it starts with the world's most deranged training montage and quickly graduates to camel-punching, but the film does not keep up its raucous pace. That which begins as a movie about 1980s Arnold Schwarzenegger getting paid to act like himself begins to gently sputter in its final scenes. The biggest "aw shucks" moment is when Thulsa Doom (James Earl Jones) turns into a snake and does absolutely nothing.
Sure, the man who once played Jack Johnson looks pretty snazzy polymorphing into a boa constrictor, but all he does is hide in a cubby. No constricting, no snake puppet soliloquies, no nothing! It's a minor letdown, but a letdown nonetheless. At this point, the audience will deny that a Conan film could be anything other than wackadoo pristine beefcake.
2.) ANGER is The Man Ape
When you watch Conan the Destroyer, it's apparent from the start that this movie is an unapologetic train wreck. The first 30 minutes are devoted to recycling the camel-punching joke from the first movie, making fun of Wilt Chamberlain's character's libido, and watching Grace Jones scream for the other 20 minutes (these are the best minutes). Everything looks dusty and washed out and PG-rated. By the time you hit the amateurish battle with the nipples-exposed Man Ape, you are angry to be subjected to this dross.
3.) BARGAINING is The Andre The Giant Monster
Remember how Conan The Barbarian ended without a massive monster brawl? Well, Destroyer did, and it featured the most famous wrestler ever to share an automobile with Samuel Beckett in a crappy kaiju suit. This scene gives the audience a fugitive hope future Conan films will return to their former fratboy zeniths. The viewer is bargaining the next film will not be unwatchable.
4.) DEPRESSION is Red Sonja
For all intents and purposes, this is a Conan film — Arnold Schwarzenegger and Sandahl Bergman are in it, it takes place in the Hyborian Age, and Dino De Laurentiis was involved. But what is this shit? Arnold as someone who's not Conan? That annoying kung-fu munchkin prince? The most anti-climactic battle with a mechanical serpent ever filmed? The dreadful realization that nobody can act? It's true, 1985's Red Sonja is damn depressing. Incredibly, the film is too inept to properly make fun of.
5.) ACCEPTANCE is Everything Else Since Red Sonja
Post-Red Sonja, you learn that you can never go back to Hyboria. That 1997 low-budget Conan The Adventurer series starring Ralf Möller? Sure. The 1992 cartoon show whose theme song sounded like Rammstein: The Musical? Whatever, man. The audience has seen what is best in life and must accept that Conan no longer throttles dromedaries or freelances as a pimp.