This dark world got a little brighter last Friday when news emerged that Arnold Schwarzenegger had signed a deal to return to one of his most iconic characters in a new Conan film.
I've detailed at length in this space my lack of enthusiasm for the role choices Schwarzenegger has made since re-entering the world of acting following his foray into politics.
But now Arnie's legions of fans around the world, myself included, have a great reason to celebrate: The Legend of Conan is coming, and not a moment too soon.
As one of the producers of the new film reassuringly recognises in this brief interview, the prospect of a film featuring an aged, regal Conan has been a tantalising possibility ever since the iconic final shot of 1982's Conan The Barbarian showed the Cimmerian warrior tired and regal on a throne amongst blood-red swirling mists, clearly having lived a full life.
That film's dire 1984 quickie follow-up Conan The Destroyer (which didn't involve John Milius, the original's writer/director) displayed no interest in following this thread, and the sequel is not fondly remembered by anyone.
Then Arnie further muddied the waters by appearing as the Conan-esque character Kalidor in the even-worse-than-Destroyer 1985 film, Red Sonja.
As the '80s ploughed into the '90s and Arnie ascended to his peak popularity with more modern stories, faithful fans never let go of the idea of a proper Conan follow-up. Plenty of delicious rumours emerged about a project called King Conan, for which Milius had written a script. The feverish fanboy anticipation this caused was amplified when it appeared that none other than the Wachowskis might even helm Milius' script.
The complicated saga of this long-dead project is detailed in this blog piece from 2010.
With the obvious exception of Terminator 2: Judgement Day, Arnie was notoriously against appearing in sequels to his own movies in the '90s, declining to participate in planned follow-ups to '80s hits like Predator and Commando. It served as a shrewd filmmaking philosophy for a while, but many of the films he ended up making instead (like Junior, Eraser, Jingle All The Way, Batman & Robin, End of Days) hardly seemed to justify his sequel reticence in retrospect.
Then came the whole political thing, at which point most fans probably gave up hope of ever seeing another Schwarzenegger/Conan film. The character endured with a string of unworthy projects like the Hercules-inspired Conan TV show in 1997 and last year's poorly-received big screen reboot with Jason Momoa (Game of Thrones, Baywatch) in the lead.
Then Arnie failed to get the constitution changed to allow him to run for President of the United States of America, and he slunk back into a world he previously ruled as a big, bulging demi-god.
Maybe I carry too much blind reverence for the man, but Arnie's return to movies following his political sojourn appears to have been marked by a severe dearth of dignity. His groan-inducing extended cameo in The Expendables 2 felt cheap and rushed, and his upcoming film The Last Stand looks like something Clint Eastwood should be starring in. Although admittedly this new badass poster has upped my excitement levels for the picture.
His next film after The Last Stand is another pairing up with Sylvester Stallone: the prison action thriller The Tomb. The Arnie I grew up with would never share the spotlight with Stallone. The Arnie of now is doing it twice in two years. Then he has Ten, for which this insane photo has just been released. Is that a Pee-wee Herman haircut? When did Arnie join Linkin Park? John Matrix would've laughed at that girly boy.
So it was very gratifying when this Conan news hit. Arnie is finally getting back on track. I will attend all the above-mentioned movies with an open mind, but The Legend of Conan is the only upcoming Arnie project I'm really getting excited for. It's a pity John Milius and his script don't appear to be involved, but the controversial writer/director is not hugely popular in Hollywood these days. Still, anything could happen I suppose.
Just for the record, I would love to see a Commando sequel as well. With a grown-up Alyssa Milano and a back-from-the-dead Bennett. Lots of fans think Arnie should team up with James Cameron again for a True Lies sequel, but while it would be a treat to see Arnie back with his greatest ever director, the possibilities of a True Lies sequel do not excite me.
He's burned off a lot of Terminator goodwill, but I would accept him playing the man who inspired the T-800 design in a future film.
I can put the speculation on hold for a moment though - I'm going to feast on this Conan news for the time being.
* Would you like a Commando sequel? Are you amped for The Legend of Conan? Which other classic characters would you like to see Arnie revisit? Comment below!
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