Why 'The Legend of Conan' Could be the Last Great Movie Arnold Schwarzenegger Makes

By Gerald Lynch on at

Gizmodo UK reader, what is best in life? If you answer that with "a sequel to an action franchise classic that lets you hear the lamentations of its naysayers", then the news of a new Conan the Barbarian film starring the original muscle bound warrior himself, Arnold Schwarzenegger, will have you on your knees, praising the good lord Crom.

Over the weekend, producers at Hollywood studio Universal announced that The Legend of Conan will begin filming this year with Schwarzenegger in tow. A direct sequel to 1982's brutal John Milius original (thankfully bypassing 1984's kid-friendly Conan the Destroyer and pretending 2011's reboot never happened), it's sticking true to the roots of the franchise that made Schwarzenegger a household name.

"Our tone is a logical extension of the character established in the ’82 film… but 30 years later," Chris Morgan, the new film's producer, told fansite TheArnoldFans.

"When we meet him again, Conan has been many things over the course of his life - a thief, a warrior, a pirate, a king, a legend - and is now an older man. Think Unforgiven… with a sword-wielding barbarian."

"John Milius was a visionary," he continued. "And a hero of mine. He established a milieu that is stunning and violent and clear — incomparable. The goal, the dream, is to live up to his world. To make it worthy. And to expand on it in a truthful way that audiences will embrace. We’re very lucky that the architects of this new film — the writer, the producers, the studio and most of all, Arnold — who is Conan — are all first-generation fans who either worked on the film or who came along for the ride, cheering from their theater seats opening night."

"Brutal... primal..." and "politically incorrect" according to the film's other producer Fredrik Malmberg, on paper it has the makings of a great sequel.

And it could make for a fitting swansong to Schwarzenegger's illustrious career.

There had never been an action movie star like Schwarzenegger before, and there likely never will be again. His body-building physique and unusual accent made him seem otherworldly, and while his acting chops weren't always up to scratch, his intimidating onscreen presence has always made him a marvel to watch.

Of course, time waits for no man, and as Schwarzenegger advances in years, his ability to convincingly play the type of roles he's best known for diminishes. After returning to the silver screen following his term as California's senator, Arnie has starred in a string of films that, while harking back to his glory years as an action star, have been mediocre at best, both in terms of his physical performance and the quality of the films in general. Sabotage, Escape Plan, The Last Stand -- all failed to resonate with audiences raised on Commando and Predator.

This summer's Terminator: Genisys seems equally ill-conceived. Regardless of the plot-changing time travel storyline and ludicrously cliched trailer, it's shoehorning Schwarzenegger into a role that he's long been too old for. There's nothing intimidating about a killing machine that looks like it's powered by dust and Werther's Originals.

If Arnie really has been back too many times now, I think The Legend of Conan would actually be the perfect role for him to retire from the action genre with. Unlike the Terminator franchise, Conan was always set up to finally have the aged warrior sitting on his throne as king (the picture at the top is from the end of the 80s flick). As an elderly ruler in a universe at least partially grounded in reality, there'd be less need for Schwarzenegger to pull off elaborate stunts, other than to convincingly swing a sword in the same way he probably now spends half his time swinging golf clubs. Conan was never the chatty type either, so Arnie won't have to go all Shakespearean on us, and there have been plenty of great Conan tales with the barbarian cast as an older gent so there'd be plenty of source material to mine.

Perhaps The Legend of Conan's greatest strength however could be in the fairly transparent parallels between the character's life and that of Schwarzenegger's (otherwise known as "The Mickey Rourke in The Wrestler Effect"). Both Conan and Schwarzenegger once ruled over their respective domains (Hyboria and Hollywood, respectively), but as the rigours of old age kick in, each now battles one last time to reclaim the glory and respect of those that once worshipped them. King Conan may be wearing the head jewels, but The Legend of Conan, if approached correctly, could be the crowning achievement in the twilight of Schwarzenegger's career.