For the sake of argument, let's presume that Conan the Destroyer is better than Conan the Barbarian. Now, why would anyone say something as crazy as that, what can compare to the riddle of steel? After all, what kind of a fantasy movie can stand up to Milius' quintessential sword and sorcery epic?
A very, very stupid one.
After the end of the first movie, Barbarian extraordinaire Conan (Arnold Schwarzenegger) and his new thief friend Malak (Tracey Walter) are hanging around a stone bed inside some random quarry, doing nothing in particular, when suddenly a band of marauders appears and tries to kidnap them. Conan and his friend dispatch them with ease, when the marauder's leader, queen Taramis (Sarah Douglas) steps forward and reveals her intentions with the duo. She needs them to escort her niece, princess Jehnna (Olivia d Abo) on a quest for a mystical item that will resurrect her imprisoned god. Spurred on by Jehnna's promise to revive Conan's lover Valeria, he embarks on an adventure filled quest that has him questing alongside Jehnna's sworn protector Bombaata (Wilt Chamberlain), the badass Amazonian warrior Zula (Grace Jones) and Conan's chronicler, the wizard Akiro (Mako).
Let's be frank, the storytelling in this movie isn't exactly profound as it is more focused on delivering a satisfying fantasy experience. The main goal instead is to instill a sense of adventure by having the characters move through a series of situations straight out of a pen and paper role-playing game. And what a group of characters it is, Wilt Chamberlain's character is an excellent foil for Conan especially considering the fact that he makes Schwazenegger's mountain of muscles seem tiny when compared to this towering Harlem Globetrotter. Conan's friend Malak has the spurious distinction of delivering some of the most cringe inducing lines in any fantasy movie. A couple of the jokes halfway hit the mark, and while the rest of them are generally painful there is humor to be had. While comedies generally have scores of writers forging the perfect jokes , Conan the Destroyer has an obliviousness to how to world works, a kind of savant naivety that makes it feel earnest rather than just plain dumb.
Elsewhere, Grace Jones' manic portrayal of Zula is one of the more intense parts of the movie. The idea of having a supermodel act in a trashy fantasy film might seem oddball, but Jones' ferocious energy and striking appearance make her a suitable part of this merry band. Olivia d Abo's Jehhna serves as something of an emotional anchor to this world filled with weirdos, and she remains a sweet if ineffective romantic counterpart. Mako's Akiro is destined to be your stoner friend's favorite character, because Hey! He is the goddamn wizard, dude! He does cool spells and knows stuff about the world! He also saves the day in a deus ex machina kind of way!
It's genuinely hard to get a census on what the definitive Schwarzenegger movie is, but you can't say that the Conan movies are one of the Austrian behemoth's finest movies. And I stress movies over acting here as, let's face it, Scharzenegger isn't exactly the greatest actor. Sure, he is an avatar, an idea of a brawny ubermensch that people strive to. But these movies understand what it takes to effectively sell that idea. Stick Arnold in a loincloth, have him speak as little as possible, have him lift one of those styrofoam rocks you see in fantasy movies, get a beautiful woman to swoon over him, have him fight room-sized rubber monstrosities, add in the occasional sword battle and bada-bing! Instant classic.
Another noteworthy part of the movie is the exceptional set and environmental design. You simply don't get this kind of attention to detail, even with high tech CGI. The interiors of castles and dungeons are delightfully stylized, ancient tombs are well realized and foreboding and the move lets the viewer sink in all of the impressive minutia. Sure, it's plexiglass and styrofoam, but it does it's best to sell a rich fantasy world. But the unquestionably finest part of Conan the Destroyer is Basil Poledouris' majestic score. Reusing elements from Conan the Barbarian and adding a number of new themes, this soundtrack effectively brings this fantasy to reality. Choppy editing and corny dialogue fail to kill the impact certain scenes have the moment the score kicks in. At times dreamlike, at others thundering, the music provides this film with a drive far beyond the one found in the screenplay or the acting.
To go back to the initial idea about Destroyer being better than Barbarian, let's compare it negatively as well. Firstly, Barbarian has a far stronger introduction, one that sets up the movie's basic themes and conflicts extremely efficiently. The iconic beginning might be that movie's finest part, and Destroyer's does measly little in that regard except establish that this ride will be more relaxed. Overall, Barbarian is noticeably more serious, and there are fans that far prefer that kind of tone for a fantasy movie, this one on the other hand is more fanciful and spontaneous in its depiction of Conan's world. Both Barbarian and Destroyer are structured in almost episodic way, and while Barbarian seems to linger on these vignettes a little too long with inconsistent payoff, Destroyer at least delivers a fascinating new locale, or a dynamic action scene or at the very worst, innuendo-laden dialogue. One thing that Destroyer absolutely lacks , is a villain. Barbarian has James Earl Jones' magnificent portrayal of Thulsa Doom, a truly epic villain, brimming with memorable lines. Destroyer's gallery of rogues fails to come anywhere near.
To enjoy Conan the Destroyer, you need to see it with a child's eye of wonder. Have a drink, call in your friends, spark a little doobage and let yourself be drawn into this often silly, occasionally inspired and always bat-poop crazy world.
Conan the Destroyer
Action / Adventure / Fantasy
Conan the Destroyer
Action / Adventure / Fantasy
The wandering barbarian, Conan, alongside his goofy rogue pal, Malak, are tasked with escorting Queen Taramis' virgin niece, Princess Jehnna and her bodyguard, Bombaata, to a mystical island fortress. They must retrieve a magical crystal that will help them procure the horn that legends say can awaken the god of dreams, Dagoth. Along the way, Conan reunites with the wise wizard, Akiro and befriends the fierce female fighter, Zula. Together the heroes face ancient traps, powerful Wizards, plots of betrayal, and even the dream god, Dagoth, himself!
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March 07, 2016 at 07:39 PM