Conan the Destroyer (1984)
Directed by Richard Fleischer
Starring Arnold Schwarzenegger, Grace Jones and Wilt Chamberlain
This “sword and sorcery” tale is the sequel to 1982’s Conan the Barbarian (directed by John Milius), which was quite a bit darker and violent than its successor. Destroyer had that “campy” feel that Ben usually talks about, but I never get what he’s talking about. “They didn’t go camping in this,” I would say.
Anyway, the story starts with Conan (Schwarzenegger) kicking some serious ass. In the first two scenes he’s already punched a horse and a camel! How could this be bad? An evil sorceress then tricks him into helping her niece go on a long and dangerous quest for a key (it’s actually a diamond) that opens a temple to a mystical horn. The horn is then used to wake up the ancient deity Dagoth. Oh, and there's fights with barbarians of every tribe along the way! It's totally barbaric!
The fighting scenes were pretty tame, although there was some decapitation. But nothing lived up to the dark, barbaric feel of the first movie. I kept thinking of The Neverending Story (1986) because Conan’s environment was just so clean and fantastical that he didn’t really seem to fit in. Destroyer was more dependent on magic and myth than the battles and brutality of the first film.
Schwarzenegger proved again that he could play the emotionless brute, even though it seemed a bit laid back. I mean I’m not looking for him to go a hateful rampage, but at least get a little angry. Chamberlain did well as the Princess’ bodyguard, but his personality is one-dimensional at best. There weren’t any real annoying dwarf characters (i.e. Masters of the Universe), but Conan’s sidekicks Malak and Akiro are portrayed as goofy and infantile.
Although violent to some extent, this movie was clearly produced for a middle school/high school audience. With the exception of Grace Jones’ bare buttocks (meh.), there was no nudity, or swearing, or gratuitous sex; pretty much all things that immediately come to mind when I think barbarian were absent from this film.
Now, I’m not one to just call a movie “terrible” or “bad” and move on. Destroyer accomplished everything it set out to do: a quest was started and completed, there were numerous battles with Conan kicking some butt, and I was thoroughly entertained. But the fact that it makes the movie seem like a story in a chain of movies pisses me off, cause they never make the sequels. The best they produced was Red Sonja and Kull the Conqueror, with the latter being the most similar to a sequel to Conan the Destroyer, only with Kull as the protagonist. In short, Destroyer felt more like an interlude to a bigger story that never happened, and for that, I was pretty disappointed. But for those who enjoy a good, “campy” action movie set in a "sword and sorcery" environment, check this out. Hey, if you watch it with me, we may just get some Italian ice afterward. Sound good?