With Conan the Barbarian being a success, it was inevitable that a sequel would follow. And while Conan the Destroyer has its good moments, it doesn’t quite compare with its predecessor.
The warrior that is Conan(Arnold Schwarzenegger) is still alive and mourning the death of his lover Valeria. He is now joined by clumsy Malak(Tracey Walter), a thief who can’t help but get himself in trouble because of his magpie like love of jewels. He comes across the mysterious Queen Taramis(Sarah Douglas)who offers him a deal. She will using her magical powers being back the love of his life on one condition. Conan must escort her niece, the naive and virginal Princess Jehnna(Olivia d’Abo) , to retrieve a magical gem that will lead the way to the horn of an ancient God. Jehnna must do this as it is her destiny and Queen Taramis insists on it. What no one realises is that the ruthless and sly Taramis is in fact plotting to sacrifice Jehnna in order to use the power of the horn for nefarious purposes. She assigns her trusted Captain of the guard Bombaata(Wilt Chamberlain) to join the quest, but kill Conan once the jewel is obtained. So Conan, Malak and the rest of the venturing group begin their journey to find the fabled jewel. Along the way, Conan frees a fighter called Zula; who he finds being tormented and forced to scrap in chains with brutal villagers. As thanks for setting her free, the feral Zula joins Conan’s quest and proves to be a vital ally. The quest is perilous and fraught with danger, especially when Conan uncovers the deceit at the heart of it. Now it’s a battle to stop the evil power of Taramis from taking over.
In the directors seat this time is Richard Fleischer, who at least manages to make this film watchable and reasonably entertaining. Although the tonal shifts are all over the place, Fleischer is at his best with the action scenes and danger, which does help in the long run. While no one would consider the first Conan movie high art, it at least had some form of grit to it. I’m fine with incorporating humour into films but it feels a bit much in Conan the Destroyer. It starts pretty well with humour and action benefiting each other. Then things go south as idiotic occurrences happen and mount up. The first film had some humour but it was controlled and it felt a little more brutal than your average fantasy outing. It wasn’t deadbeat drama throughout, but it at least had some sense of stakes being high. Conan the Destroyer seems to forget this and just chuck things at us in ridiculously rapid speed. Yes I did say that the first film was overstretched with its runtime, but this sequel is too quick and rushed. And events feel a bit watered down and not as brutal as before, which does hamper events in this movie as it feels a bit too light and humorous. I believe behind the scenes there was a conscious decision to tone down the gore in order to increase box office takings, I think they still could have been successful even with more bloodshed and brutality on show. Now things aren’t all bad in Conan the Destroyer, there are actually moments of greatness to be discovered. I’ll admit sometimes the goofy atmosphere is fun and once again the set pieces are rather fantastic. One in a hall of mirrors is very well executed, thanks to sterling production design and action present. This movie is most enjoyable when it’s serving up action and fantasy, instead of trying to make the film more child friendly.The score doesn’t let the audience down, providing boundless adventure and majesty to the film courtesy of Basil Poledouris. It’s again a highlight for how it immerses us in this fantasy world.
Arnold Schwarzenegger is once again an imposing presence as the titular fighter on another quest. He gets the and when the humour lands , he succeeds while still casting a long shadow of skill in the fighting department. Though it is very strange to hear Schwarzenegger talk as much as he does. Previously, he only speaks a number of lines which adds to his impact as we are more focused on his actions. Though this is a niggle, Schwarzenegger is still an amazing Conan and delivers the goods you want. Grace Jones, of striking bone structure, agile yet rippling physique and high top fade hairstyle, acts as a great asset to Conan and the movie. Her very stare projects a menace and aggression of a warrior, complete with the fact that she’s always on the prowl. Jones lends her unique look, wild abandon and electric being to Conan the Destroyer and lights up the screen every time she’s on it. Wilt Chamberlain, who was a basketball player of immense height, has the physical goods to deliver a slippery turn as the wavering Captain who you just know is going to stab you in the back if you’re not careful. Tracey Walter is passable enough as Conan’s latest sidekick, though his clumsy antics get a bit repetitive as the film continues. More effective is Mako, returning as the wise and all seeing wizard who balances seriousness with some levity. However Olivia d’Abo is pretty grating and irritating as the innocent princess, mainly because she’s so naive and the character is pretty bland to begin with. This isn’t helped by her delivery of lines which is stilted and without resonance. I get that she’s supposed to be sheltered and immature, but she mainly comes off as a pain. Sarah Douglas does villain shtick very well while being darkly seductive at the same time.
Conan the Destroyer has bright spots to it and has a fun, goofy quality, it just feels rather redundant and watered down when it could have been better