Conan

Author: Thomas Dean Donnelly & Joshua Oppenheimer and Sean Hood
Genre: Action/Fantasy
Storyline: 6
Dialogue: 6
Characterization: 7
Writer’s Potential: 6

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Logline:

A warrior in some sort of fantastical world seeks vengeance against the man who killed his people.

Synopsis:

CONAN is born in the midst of a bloody battle, with father CORIN literally cutting him out of mother ISLENE’s belly. She dies so that he can live. Years later, boys — including a young Conan — play when they discover savages preparing to attack. One of Conan’s friends is killed, so Conan kills a group of them. Corin chastises Conan for killing when he is not yet a warrior. At age 12, Corin teaches Conan how to temper swords. Corin mentions he’s been chosen to go south to trade, which angers Conan because others his age have made that journey. Conan wants to see the outside world. Corin insists Conan is not ready. While sleeping, Corin drops a sword at Conan’s feet and leaves. Conan takes it and accompanies his father on the journey. At a bar, Conan sneaks off with a courtesan who’s in league with thieves. Conan kills them, and Corin is angered, and they head home to Cimmeria.

At a library, KHALAR SINGH has killed a bunch of scribes, leaving only one ELDERLY SCRIBE to help him. He is trying to learn about Cimmeria, trying to find their land and their people. The Elderly Scribe can’t see why Singh wants to find the Cimmerians, so Singh produces a black worm with a fluorescent glow, dangles it to threaten the Scribe. He gives up all the information that he knows, but Singh kills him anyway. Singh leaves the library and meets with his associates, UKAFA and LUCIUS, who inform him Cimmerians have just left the town. Singh commands SHADOW SCOUTS — shapeshifters — to track the Cimmerians back to their home. Conan, Corin, and the others arrive back in Cimmeria, where everyone helps them unload wheat. They are confronted by Singh and his army of soldiers. The entire village is slaughtered — except Conan. Conan swears vengeance on their funeral pyre.

Years later, Conan has grown into a huge man. He gets drunk at a bar, passes out, and is dragged by some guards to a prison, with a charge of public drunkenness. Once inside the prison, Conan is suddenly sober. He kills an interrogating LIEUTENANT and some guards, until he finds Lucius, the guards’ captain. Conan demands to know where Singh is, but Lucius refuses to tell. Conan threatens and pounds until Lucius makes a deal to spare his life in exchange for the information. Conan says he won’t kill him, Lucius says that Singh is in a distant land called Khoraja. Conan shoves a small key down Lucius’ throat, then takes some larger keys to open the prison cells. The prisoners demand to know where the key to their shackles is; Conan tells them it’s in Lucius’ belly. Lucius balks, but Conan reminds him that he said he wouldn’t kill Lucius. Then he leaves.

Singh, looking older and worse for wear, trudges through a desert sandstorm with Ukafa and his legions. Ukafa pleads with him to turn back, but Singh won’t — and suddenly the storm stops, revealing a gorgeous oasis where monks wander peacefully. They catch sight of the invaders, but before anything can be done, shadow scouts are upon them. TAMARA, 22, awakens — this was all her nightmare. She’s in the monastery and explains to monks FASSIR, JASIM, and SIMURA what she saw. Nobody believes her until ARIJ rings a bell and declares that an army is attacking from all sides. An explosion follows, and Fassir declares that they have finally found them. Tamara questions what he wants, but Fassir won’t explain. They make plans to disappear. Fassir gets swept up in the battle as Tamara and the others run away. Tamara declares vengeance on the attackers. She locks eyes with Singh, and suddenly his horse rears, throwing him and almost impaling him on his own sword. Tamara blinks, baffled. She and the others run away.

Conan walks through a Khorajan village, where cavalrymen are shaking everyone up, looking for an escaped female prisoner. Conan walks into a tent and stumbles across Tamara. She walks out and and sees a string of dead soldiers in his wake. He asks what Singh wants with her; she doesn’t know. She’s horrified, but she introduces herself. At a mysterious prison, a mammoth JAILER guards the cells while Singh and some mystical priests torment one of the oasis monks by dipping her into a pit of the black worms seen earlier. The priests chant, but to no avail. Singh declares that he wants the power of Acheron, and the monk tells him that only sacrificing the queen will get him what he wants. Singh tells Ukafa to double the forces searching for Tamara. Tamara, meanwhile, has a nightmare about herself being sacrificed in the land of Acheron, except there are multiple women bearing her face. She wakes up, screaming. She finds Conan interrogating REMO, an agent of Singh, who tells Conan he can profit by trading the girl — she is what Singh wants, and he’s been searching for her for 20 years. Conan realizes that Tamara is the direct reason Singh killed the Cimmerians. Conan writes out a ransom note and pins it to Remo — with a huge dagger.

In Khor Kalba, Singh’s stronghold, a huge boulder is tossed over the outer wall, landing near Ukafa. Remo’s body, with the note, is tied to it. Singh looks at the ransom note; he’s so desperate for Tamara that he’s willing to pay three times the demand, although he tells Ukafa to be ready to attack. Conan tosses Tamara a rabbit carcass and tells her to eat. Tamara asks if the blood on his hands bothers him. Conan accuses Tamara of having blood on her own hands because she’s the reason his people are dead. Singh meets Conan in a field of boulders with a bag filled with gold coins. Tamara fears betrayal, but Conan insists he’s merely luring Singh to his own death. When Singh demands to see the girl, Conan’s horrified to find that she’s gone. Nonetheless, he attempts to attack Singh, but he botches it and is forced to flee. Singh sends archers to attack, and a poison arrow hits Conan’s leg as he runs. He runs into Tamara, and the two join reluctant forces to get away from Singh. They get into some tall grass, and Tamara knows the poison. Singh sends demonic dogs after them, which Tamara kills — with her mind. More dogs come, which Conan manages to pound unconscious with his fists. They tie flaming grass to the dogs and send them back through the woods, setting the whole place ablaze. Tamara and Conan make their escape.

Conan dreams of seeing Corin, who tells him he will gain strength through suffering. He awakes to find his wounds bandage by Simura. They are on a ship heading away from Singh. Simura says Tamara has learned of her true heritage and is with her own people. Singh interrogates BAEL, a servant from the monastery, who warns that now that she’s left, her “true nature” will show itself. He says she’s fled with pirates, on a ship. Singh sends Ukafa to go after the pirates, while he returns to Khor Kalba. Tamara apologizes to Conan, and Conan introduces her to the taste of mead — then wakes with a start. She hears a thumping against the ship walls. She goes to the deck to find the river choked with bodies. She screams — and wakes again. Conan and Simura are with her. Simura explains the history of Acheron’s dark magic and that it is now imbued in Tamara, which is why Singh wants her. If he sacrifices her, he will gain all the secret power of Acheron. They’re interrupted by an attack from another ship. Conan grabs the wheel and aims their ship at the one that approaches. As a mast nearly crushes Tamara, her power crackles to life and keeps it floating, then sets it ablaze. Simura is aghast and tries to impale her with a spear. Conan pushes her out of the way of it and the mast, which drops. They swim to shore.

Singh enlists Arij’s aid in seeking Conan, whom he now believes he must destroy in order to get to Tamara. Tamara confesses to Conan that she’s afraid of herself, of her power. Conan says people make their own destiny, and she should not live in fear. She must identify what she wants and let nothing stand in her way. Tamara doesn’t know if she can. She and Conan make love. Arij imbues Singh with the spirit of the demon Xaren. Conan has another dream of his father — this time he’s dead, and when Conan pulls the sword out, Corin’s eyes open and he groans, “Vengeance.” He wakes with a start, leaves his hut — and sees Singh waiting. They fight, and Singh is winning handily when Tamara comes out and uses her powers to do some damage to him. She and Conan escape, with Ukafa and Singh’s soldiers hot on their trails. They enter Khor Kalba, and Conan finds the Thieves’ Guild. He asks them to construct a plan to bust into Singh’s fortress.

They hide inside a large mead barrel, which they bust out of like an egg when it’s in the midst of soldiers. Soldiers and archers surround them. Conan begins setting oil barrels on fire, creating huge explosions. They use this to sneak away, into the dungeon, where Tamara finds all of her friends from the monastery. They also find the huge Jailer, whom Conan annihilates. Tamara and Conan find Fassir’s cell. She helps him out and intends to flee. Conan goes after Singh, while Fassir chains Tamara up. Conan finds Singh and impales him on his sword — but it turns out it’s a shapeshifting glammer, and he’s actually killed one of Tamara’s monk friends. Bael chastises Conan, and then Ukafa shows up. Ukafa and Conan fight; Conan wins. Conan forces Bael to help him. Fassir brings Tamara to Singh, who slices her hand. A single drop of blood makes fog swirl around them, surrounding the cliffs — revealing Acheron, where the cliffs and hills are now replaced with a glorious ancient city. Bael explains to Conan that the power of Acheron will transfer to Singh. Conan says it won’t if he kills him; Bael says he would actually need to kill Tamara.

Fassir explains his betrayal: he’s dying, and only Tamara’s power could save him, but he knew she’d never sacrifice others by unleashing the power, so he allied with Singh. Bael gazes lovingly at the city, so Conan throws him off a cliff. Singh has his priests begin incantations to transfer the power, but Conan crushes through the soldiers until he reaches the man himself. Conan demands that Singh release Tamara. Singh drops one of the black worms on Conan. It burrows into his skin, eating him from the inside out. Conan begins stabbing himself to get at the worm, mortally wounding himself. Tamara makes Fassir burst into flames, while Conan finally slices Singh’s throat. He cuts Tamara loose of her chains, and the fog turns into flames, burning the city and its people. Conan has no choice — he impales her on a spear, which rids her of the evil spirits. He holds the dying Tamara, who asks Conan what he will do now. Conan says, “Live.” They share one last kiss before she dies.

Comments:

For mindless action, this script is pretty good. The action set-pieces are thorough and well-written. The story is serviceable but uninteresting, only disappointing during the plethora of unnecessary twists in the third act. These wouldn’t be so bad if the characters didn’t stop all the momentum to explain, in detail, why the characters chose to betray one another.

As a character, Conan isn’t exactly what you’d call likable, but this may not matter much. He harkens backs to the action heroes of the 1980s: a ruthless, single-minded killer who shows no mercy to anyone for any reason. Most of these villains are bad guys, but it’s still a little unsettling to see the guy we’re rooting for do things like, say, make a guy ingest a key with the certainty that a bunch of enraged prisoners will tear the man apart. His unpleasant nature also makes the love story a bit forced and extraneous. However, the writers do a decent job of giving the stoic, taciturn action hero a little bit of depth, via dream sequences that suggest internal struggles he’d never mention aloud.

The plot, which starts out pretty simplistic, ends up becoming too convoluted. Aside from the pointless twists and betrayals in the third act, the whole idea of Tamara’s blood unlocking the ancient black magic of a hidden city… It’s not that it doesn’t make sense; it just adds needless complications to a simple, effective revenge story. It strains for an “epic” quality but falls short of the mark. If the writers embraced the ridiculous, over-the-top action aspects of it and dialed down the wannabe-epic tendencies, the story would have much more focus and efficiency in delivering the goods; however, the Acheron sequences will allow for impressive special effects, eye candy that will likely appeal to action fans as much as people getting imapled on swords.

With good buzz, fans of the original movies and comics will line up in droves. General action and fantasy fans, with no familiarity with the source material, will also check it out. It’s not very female-friendly, however.

Posted by D. B. Bates on October 18, 2008 1:35 PM