There are currently 23 films running in the theatres where I live. This includes Conan the Barbarian, which is the one I’m least inclined to see. The only competition it has for the position as The Most Appalling Movie is Hangover II. And it’s not likely that I’m going to spend 15 dollars and two precious hours on either of them.
If we leave Hangover and stick to Conan, I’m not a big fan of excessive violence on the screen. It makes me feel sick and if you insist on using it, there needs to be a very good reason for it, apart from that “it looks cool”. The fact that the critics all hate Conan doesn’t make it more likable. I don’t always agree with what the critics say, but when they call the movie a pointless orgy of violence, in urgent need for a proper story, I can’t help taking some impression.
The “flop” label”
Obviously I’m not the only one to be suspicious about the qualities of Conan. As far as I understand it’s already considered a flop at the box offices.
The definition of what deserves the “flop label” could of course be discussed, as Alex Thompson over at Benefits of a Classical Education did in a recent post.
A movie doesn’t have to top the charts to be considered a success. A smaller production which manages to go even or with a small surplus, maintaining a high artistic standard can be as much of a winner. Alex argues that we shouldn’t toss the “flop” word too easily, and of course he’s right.
But as far as Conan comes I’m afraid that there is really no doubt about it. Even the people who made it have now spoken up, openly admitting the failure, sharing their views and feelings.
Or at least one of them has, Sean Hood, who is one of three screenwriters of the Conan movie to named at IMDB. (There could be others involved who remain anonymous. Listen to the episode of Q&A where Jeff Goldsmith interviews two commercial screenwriters and you’ll understand. I guarantee it will give you a new view on what movie production is like.)
A post of honesty
Anyway: Sean has written a post where he answers to the question: “What’s it like to have your film flop at the box office?”. Sean compares the process of launching a movie to a political campaign where it starts to dawn on you that your candidate might not win the election.
What makes the article such a good read is that it’s got the bittersweet smell of honesty. It takes a lot of courage to show your vulnerability, but Sean has it, and he makes it so clear that behind every box office failure there’s a real person. Just because you’re writing the script for Conan the Barbarian and not [insert unknown indie movie], it doesn’t mean that you haven’t worked as hard, or that you haven’t put your heart and soul into the project.
But while Sean is honest about how sucky it is to be him right now, he doesn’t lose his balance or dignity. He doesn’t play blame games and he doesn’t fall into a sink hole of self pity or bitterness. On the contrary, he shares a story about how his father handled failure as he faced it in his life as a musician and how he’d like to be like him.
Considering how well he writes, I don’t doubt for a second that Sean Hood will face a great future as a screenwriter. Obviously, judging from the post, he knows how to tell a story and the experiences from the Conan flop will only make him better.
The final word
I’ll give the final word to Sean, as he’s sipping his mug of coffee.
Sean, I don’t imagine you’ll ever read this, but if you did, I would offer you a comfortable armchair and a drink of your choice from the café bar and raise a glass for you.
You’re an inspiring example and if I had half of your attitude, perhaps I could get somewhere with my own dreams and ambitions. Thank you for sharing your experience of failure with us.
And who knows, maybe I should go and give Conan a shot after all? Somehow you managed to raise my curiosity. Can it really be THAT bad, and if it is, how did it end up like that?
So with my father’s example in mind, here I sit, coffee cup steaming in its mug and dog asleep at my feet, starting my work for the day, revising yet another script, working out yet another pitch, thinking of the future (the next project, the next election) because I’m a screenwriter, and that’s just what screenwriters do.
In the words of Ed Wood, “My next one will be BETTER!“