Showdown! Conan vs. Jerry Dandridge in the Battle of the ’80s Movie Remakes!

Last Friday I bore witness to quite a majestic event: two big-budget Hollywood remakes released on the same day in a box office battle for cinematic supremacy! Not since Hulk Hogan vs. Randy “Macho Man” Savage (R.I.P.) at WrestleMania V have we seen such a skirmish. In one corner, we have newcomer Jason Momoa in the role of Conan, and in the other Colin Farrell as the new Jerry Dandridge in Fright Night. Both actors are somewhat viewed as dark horse candidates for their respective roles, so I jumped into the fray to see who delivered.

Here’s the tale of the tape.

My double feature started at 10:30 a.m. with a 3D showing of Conan the Barbarian. With its expansive set pieces and scenery, Conan is visually a D&D player’s wet dream, even without the 3D. The fact that it was shown but not shot in 3D to me is a ripoff. I feel like I am being forced into paying five extra dollars to see the occasional tentacle pop off the screen. I am not impressed. That being said, the movie does a great job immersing you in the world of Hyboria and from the opening scene makes it abundantly clear that no punches will be pulled with the carnage. You get gratuitous nudity, limited exposition and, according to Blastr, we are treated to no less than 113 deaths in 112 minutes – and that run time includes the credits, which to me is exactly what you should expect out of a Conan movie. Jason Momoa does a great job making the character his own, and for those worried that he does the Christian Bale “watered-down Clint Eastwood voice” for the entire movie, rest assured those scenes are only in the trailer. Conan the Barbarian was a blast and definitely earns its ‘R’ rating.

I was back at the multiplex at 7:30 p.m. for an early evening showing of Fright Night (also in 3D). This film is more of a reimagining than a remake. Not to be upstaged by Jason Momoa’s portrayal of Conan, Colin Farrell came out swinging as the new Jerry Dandridge. I thought Farrell would be the weakest casting in the film, but he ended up being one of my favorite characters by playing the role more like Henry Rollins and less like Chris Sarandon. David Tennant also shone as Peter Vincent. No longer the quirky old late-night horror host, he is now a Midori-swilling Las Vegas magician á la Chris Angel. It was kind of jarring at first to hear Dr. Who dropping F-bombs, but it was enough to take one’s mind off his slightly convoluted backstory.

In many ways, the movie is only loosely based on the original film. The characters’ names and a lot of the plot points are the same, but the movie doesn’t wallow in nostalgia and to me that’s what made it a good film. The world the original Fright Night existed in is long gone and was a completely different one than the world we live in now. Technology is so advanced that Charlie Brewster can Google “how to pick a lock” on his phone. Twenty-six years ago in 1985 when Fright Night first appeared, you’d either had to have done a stint in juvie to know how to do that or just smash the window in with a brick. The times have truly changed.

After a slobberknocker of a day at the movies, I would have to say both competitors fought admirably and seemingly to a draw. Both men went in as heels but emerged as crowd favorites. What Conan lacked in having any need whatsoever to be in 3D it made up for in action, solid pacing and buckets of blood. Fright Night needed about four more minutes of a first act but was otherwise well-paced, fun and made better use of its 3D.

This would have been your classic bout that ended up with no competitor actually winning – that is, if not for a run-in with The Help.

Like a juiced-up tag team charging into the ring with chairs to bust up a three-count, Emma Stone’s latest chick flick dominated the box office this weekend, taking in $20 million dollars, with Conan and Fright Night earning a meager $10 million and $8.11 million, respectively. Numbers like these don’t really cry out for a rematch, but I know I’ll be in the stands hoping that Conan and Fright Night get one and that it doesn’t go straight to video.

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@johnmiserable would pay to see David Tennant in just about any role. Follow him on Twitter to find out why.

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John McGuire, Movies, Review
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