The words “Based on the New Hit Film!” blare out at the reader from the bottom left front cover of Conan the Barbarian: The Mask of Acheron. Hopefully, the word “Loosely” was left out of this phrase accidentally for Conan the Barbarian (2011) moviegoers’ sake. While there has been much speculation as to how good or bad the new film, starring Jason Momoa (Game of Thrones) as the Hyborian Age adventurer and hero, will be, most of the images that have been made available through movie posters, trailers, and stills haven’t been all that bad. The upcoming film looks to be about as good a film as we’re going to get as concerns our favorite barbarian. Whether it lives up to the original Conan the Barbarian (1982) film story wise and directorially remains to be seen, but with Momoa in the titular role there will definitely be some better acting at least.
Briefly, the story in Conan the Barbarian: The Mask of Acheron is weak, predictable, and barely even focuses on Conan himself. Instead it spends the majority of its panel time on Hyborean warlord Khalar Zym and Marique, his daughter and sorceress in training, as they quest for the mythical Mask of Acheron, a magic mask from an age gone by, that will resurrect Zym’s beloved wife and Marique’s mother, who was a powerful sorceress herself. While it is very important for a protagonist’s surrounding cast to be strong and well developed, there should be at least some development of the main character, even if he is a very well known one. Aside from one scene early in the comic book depicting the death of Conan’s father, Conan’s character development is virtually nil. He’s one dimensional in most aspects. Conan as a character isn’t necessarily presented as multidimensionally complex most of the time, but he can be in the hands of a capable writer. In Conan the Barbarian: The Mast of Acheron, he is a pretty dull clod. Out of all of the characters in the story, Marique is the best developed, though even her actions are pretty predictable.
Usually when these type of stories, especially ones starring a hack and slash, sword wielding barbarian like Conan, go bad story wise, the action at least makes up for the lack of story. Again this, unfortunately, and hopefully not truly representative of the upcoming film’s merits, is not the case. There’s only two major battle scenes involving Conan and they both only last a few pages. The battle at the beginning, when Conan is a child and his village is being wiped out, isn’t even shown.
When looking through the stills, trailers, promo videos, and movie posters depicting scenes and characters from the upcoming film on imdb.com and other places around the web, I noticed that there are several aspects of the film that are not even depicted in this adaptation. Some of these scenes, stills, etc. look pretty promising as far as the action quotient and character development in and of this film goes. This makes the film look significantly better as a finished product as compared to what we’re shown in this weak adaptation. Perhaps adapter Stuart Moore and company were pressed for time, commanded to make the adaptation PG worthy, or kept in the dark about some of the film’s longer sequences and story aspects. In some of the trailers and stills, Conan is depicted on horseback, battling a strange tentacled monster, and wearing a variety of different armors and outfits. This is not the case in The Mask of Acheron, so much of the story and several scenes are missing from the adaptation.
Even artist Gabriel Guzman’s art looks hurried. It lacks any real detail and is reminiscent of the type of work one would see in a Saturday morning or early afternoon cartoon, albeit a good deal more developed. It’s stock backgrounds and scenes show none of the detail that is present in the film’s promo videos and trailers.
Besides a the essay “Acheron: The Nightmare inside the Age Undreamed Of” by Dale E. Rippke included after the adaptation proper ends, along with the full color map of Hyboria, which both go a long way to explaining and developing the fictional historical setting, Conan the Barbarian: The Mask of Acheron is a waste of its hefty $6.99 cover price. Do yourself a favor, save your $6.99 and put it towards the price of an admission ticket when the film opens.