From the Archive – Conan the Destroyer (1984)

Destroyer

 

Directed by Richard Fleischer
Starring Arnold Schwarzenneger, Mako and Grace Jones, plus the big guy from Auf Wiedersein Pet as some kind of freakin’ wizard.

Conan and new best friend Malak (Tracey Walter), a weasely thief, are randomly attacked by men in spiky black masks with big fishing nets, who rode all through the credits to reach them. Then their leader, Queen Taramis (Sarah Douglas) tells Conan this was a test and offers him a job. She’s a sexy brunette in a series of increasingly outlandish outfits – mostly black – who thinks that sacrificing half-a-dozen men in the name of a job interview is OK, so you know she’s up to no good.

Taramis wants Conan to escort her wimpy niece (Olivia d’Abo) on a quest for a jewelled horn that will raise their sexy magic god from slumber, after which she promises to raise Valeria from the dead. She also sends the captain of the Royal Guard, Bombatta (Wilt Chamberlain, a very big man) with orders to kill Conan once his part in this is done. Unusually, this is not because she is evil – although she is – but because she’s hiring a thief to steal a priceless treasure for her and quite reasonably suspects he might work out that the whole treasure is a bigger take than a commission.

A series of set pieces, including a fight in a chamber of mirrors, follow, until at last Conan and his allies – Malak, the wizard (Mako again) and a random Amazon (Grace Jones) – rescue the princess from the – as it turns out – big and hideous god, and set all to rights through the slaughter of all things bad.

What’s wrong with it?

The plot is over-complicated, and yet utterly unsubtle. The acting is rather more universally bollocks than in the first movie, and a decision was plainly taken to move the film more towards a lighter, more comedic tone, with disastrous consequences. There are rubber monsters, and even more rubber characters. The irritating sidekick presages the ultimate irritating sidekick, Jar-Jar Binks, and is only slightly less annoying.

What’s right with it?

Well, there’s another kick-ass score, some decent fights, and it’s quite neat that the ‘sleeping god’, turns out to be a big ol’ monster rather than the advertised bronzed Adonis type. Other than that…

Oh, I quite like that they considered the practicality of Arnold wielding a mighty broadsword indoors, and every time they enter an enclosed area he takes the sword off his shoulder and straps it around his waist instead.

How bad is it really?

If Conan the Barbarian is a case study in how to make a sword and sorcery movie, Conan the Destroyer is a dire warning of how not to. It is an excruciatingly bad film, and in parts becomes actively unwatchable (usually when the drippy princess is hitting on Conan in her sickeningly naïf – I think they were aiming for winsome – manner). Make no mistakes; Conan the Destroyer is a very bad film.

Best bit (if such there is)?

The Wizard goes all magic duel with another magician, struggling over a door which the Wizard is holding closed. After a supreme effort, the magician collapses with smoke coming out of his nose.

What’s up with…?

  • This business of hiring Conan to protect the princess, then sending the royal guard to kill him? If the royal guard were good enough to take him, why hire Conan? As it is, this cunning stratagem merely results in the loss of a large number of perfectly good henchlings.
  • Grace Jones? Just in general.

Ratings

Production Values – Somewhat down on the first movie. The big monsters all look pretty plastic (as do most of the cast), and the costumes are even camper than in the original, and include the ridiculous spiky helmets sported by all the evil dudes. 14

Dialogue and Performances – Hoohoo-hoooo! Man they’re bad, with the: “Conan and friends try to explain sex to the naive princess without using the word ‘sex'” scene rating as an outstanding example of the art of cringemaking. The actors seem to be making slightly less effort than the horses in emotional terms. 16

Plot and Execution – There is no plot, only Zool. I mean, there’s a McGuffin, but a McGuffin on its own does not a plot make. What there is, is all in the intro, and in the final confrontation. Everything else is just random encounters and dungeon crawling. 15

Randomness – Pretty much the whole film is unexplained, not to mention inexcusable. the plot is fairly linear, but most of the film is pretty much of a sketch show. 12

Waste of Potential – Given Conan the Barbarian to live up to, we could have expected a little more from Dino deLaurentis on this one. 17

Overall 74%

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