It's been well-documented (on my twitter page) that I am an earnest and sincere fan of the new Conan the Barbarian. (My review at Twitchfilm.) I didn't enjoy it "ironically" or as any sort of guilty pleasure (a term I hate), but as a simple, well-constructed, and admirably straight-faced matinee-style adventure movie with lots of action, gore, and colorful weirdness. Some of my colleagues agreed; many others did not. (The flick presently holds a 24% approval rating at Rotten Tomatoes.)
But regardless of what I thought, when a $90 million movie makes only $10 million in its first three days, you're bound to find some seriously unhappy filmmakers. One such person is screenwriter Sean Hood, who takes to his Quora page in a very frank, heartfelt manner to explain how it feels to watch a project you sincerely like fall apart at the box office.
"You are glued to your computer, clicking wildly over websites, chatting nonstop with peers, and calling anyone and everyone to find out what they've heard. Have any numbers come back yet? That's when your stomach starts to drop."
Mr. Hood spends a lot of his article concerned over the film's financial success, but he also pauses to address the film critics:
"Reviewers, even when they were positive, mocked Conan The Barbarian for its lack of story, lack of characterization, and lack of wit. This doesn't speak well of the screenwriting - and any filmmaker who tells you s/he "doesn't read reviews" just doesn't want to admit how much they sting."
All told, the entry is a surprisingly honest and refreshingly insightful breakdown of what filmmakers go through every single weekend, and I thank the man for being so forthcoming about his unpleasant experiences. But since I don't have any money in this race, I can assert that there are MANY ways to judge a film's "success." Conan the Barbarian may have stumbled out of the gate, theatrically speaking, but movies live a nice, long life on cable and DVD and those new-fangled streamy things.
I consider Conan the Barbarian a success because I found it legitimately entertaining. That might not pay Mr. Hood's electricity bills, but I think it's important to never let the almighty box office become the only arbiter of success. Still, I do hope Sean Hood's next film turns out to be a blockbuster smash. The guy has more than paid his dues on the battlefield of quickie horror sequels, so either way Conan represents a well-earned step in the right direction.
Lastly, kudos to Mr. Hood for this interview he did for FEARnet. He not only explains his specific role as a script doctor, but also gives fair credit to co-writers Tom Donnelly and Josh Oppenhimer -- AND he cites uncredited writer Andrew Lobel for his contributions as well. Say what you like about Conan, but this Hood guy is a class act.