Conan the Destroyer (1984)

conan the destroyer IMDb

This sequel to the awesome first instalment of Conan is a bit of a letdown, but after a second viewing, it is not as terrible as I always believed it to be. Arnold Schwarzenegger is not a huge fan of this film. In his biography, Schwarzenegger laments the fact that producers aimed for a PG-13 rating to attract more families. He was also disappointed that he was contractually obligated to be in this movie because of a ridiculous 10 picture deal he signed (and was later released from in exchange for making the terrible Red Sonja). The original Conan had made him a big star and he wanted to move on from Conan, not enter that world over and over again. As someone who enjoys his more contemporary or science fiction films (True Lies or Terminator), I can see where he was coming from.

This follow up is not as bad as people think, it is just so different from the original. Fan backlash can be a terrible thing, especially when they don’t get what they were expecting. Fans of the original would not have been expecting this more light-hearted tale that had much more of an emphasis on magic. There is also much less gore than the original. This is not an issue for me, but there are some fanboys out there who cannot deal with their hero being censored so the kids can enjoy it too. I don’t mind though, I understand that Hollywood is a business and making a film family friendly maximises your potential audience. The gore is not essential to the story of Conan, despite what some will tell you.

The plot of this sequel involves Conan (Schwarzenegger) being asked to protect princess Jehna (Kevin Arnold’s sister) on her journey to retrieve some mystical artefacts that only she can touch. Conan teams up with a rag tag group of warriors to complete this quest including a thief (Tracey Walter) and a female warrior called Zula (Grace Jones). Also along for the ride is the Jehna’s personal bodyguard, Bombaata, played by NBA superstar, and renowned lothario, Wilt Chamberlain. There is actually a very funny moment in this movie where Chamberlain’s character is asked by his queen to ensure Princess Jehna’s virginity remains intact. I found it very ironic that Wilt Chamberlain would be asked to guard someone’s virginity, given what has been rumoured about his lovemaking exploits. For those that don’t know, Wilt has claimed to have slept with over 20,000 women during his years as an NBA superstar. Whether this number is true or not is up for debate, but I’m sure the number is still very high.

This sequel is very campy compared to the original. It is obvious the producers were trying to attract a different audience with this film (kids). Conan the Destroyer is a step down from the original, but I didn’t hate it like so many have. I just thought it was ok. I’m glad Arnold was able to get out of his 10 picture deal with Dino De Laurentiis (he is Giada’s uncle) though as I much prefer Arnold’s later movies than the movies he made in this fantasy genre.

Rating: C

This movie is kind of a mess. A fun mess, but a mess all the same.

First piece of evidence: the movie poster. It includes about three full paragraphs of text setting up the plot of the movie. Why is this necessary? Is the storyline of this movie that hard to follow (it’s not)?

Second piece of evidence: Destroyer received a PG rating (would likely be PG-13 now), while Barbarian was rated R. The result is less violence and more humor. This strategy unfortunately doesn’t work well. The violent action sequences in the first were very entertaining and the overall tone fit the source material. Destroyer feels very much watered down, which was a main criticism of the movie when it was released.

Third piece of evidence: the cast is mostly good, with some notable exceptions. Arnie is back as an even bigger, more muscular Conan. He’s joined again by wizard Mako, who also returns as narrator. His narration is less annoying here, but his character in general isn’t given much to do (or he doesn’t really succeed when he is given an important task). The two pick up two new companions on their quest– Grace Jones as the fierce warrior Zula and a bumbling thief played by Tracey Walter. Grace Jones is great, mostly because she’s Grace Jones. Her character definitely holds her own against Conan, both in fighting skill and being comfortable spending the entire movie in little clothing. Walter is known for portraying sidekicks, and that’s basically all he is here. He’s basically been shoehorned in to provide comic relief.

This band of four is tasked with escorting a princess (Olivia d’Abo) and her bodyguard (Wilt Chamberlin) on a quest to recover a magical horn for the princess’ aunt to use in a weird ceremony where she also plans on sacrificing d’Abo because she’s a virgin. I thought the whole virgin sacrifice angle was a bit much, but now that I’ve read d’Abo was only 15 years old when she filmed it I just find it creepy. Actually, her entire wardrobe is creepy because there’s a lot of skin being shown considering she’s underage. Chamberlin is OK, I guess. He doesn’t have many lines so it’s hard to tell. I was mostly distracted by his lanky frame. The juxtaposition of 7’1″ and lanky Chamberlin standing next to 5’10” to 6’2″ and beefy Schwarzenegger is interesting (apparently there is a lot of debate about his height).

Rating: D

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