Reviews, Vault Reviews — January 15, 2013 at 3:00 am

VAULT REVIEW: CONAN THE DESTROYER

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conandestroyer-posterHe’s back! Arnold Schwarzenegger, although back in the acting game for the past couple of years in The Expendables franchise, has his first official lead role. Granted, a film released in the dregs of January if a far cry from a summer tentpole, but a Schwarzenegger vehicle is sure to draw out the hardcore fans. In his new movie, Arnold is a sheriff who teams up with a band of rag tag deputies to fend off a drug cartel. Although, the bulk of Arnold’s films feature him as a one man army and not the leader of a bunch of yahoos, this reminded me it’s about time I watch the second installment in his would-be Conan trilogy.

Conan (Arnold Schwarzenegger) and his companion, the thief Malak (Tracey Walter), are minding their own business when Queen Taramis (Sarah Douglas) and her guards attack. A test of his legendary combat ability, the Queen has sought Conan to escort her niece Jehnna (Olivia d’Abo) on a quest to retrieve the Horn of Dagoth. In return, Queen Taramis offers to resurrect Conan’s love Valeria. Enticed, Conan and Malak join Princess Jehnna and her bodyguard Bombaata (Wilt Chamberlain). Along the way, Conan enlists the help of his wizard friend Akiro (Mako) and the warrior-thief Zula (Grace Jones) joins them after Conan rescues her upon the Princess’s request. Seemingly well-equipped for the journey ahead, Conan and his crew may not be prepared to handle the Queen’s secret plans.

Though I’ve never seen Conan the Destroyer before now, it brought back so many memories. I’d forgotten how huge Arnold was in his prime, especially since he put on an extra ten pounds to reprise his role as Conan. Tracey Walter, a.k.a. Bob the Goon, plays the hell out of the foolish sidekick and I must dig up more of his old movies. Seeing the doe-eyed, fifteen-year-old Olivia d’Abo reminded me of the crush I had on little Kevin Arnold’s older sister. Most of all, Conan the Destroyer reminded me how friggin’ awesome Grace Jones was in movies of the 80′s and 90′s.

Conan the Destroyer settles into a pretty familiar rhythm right from the start; a threat appears and Conan stands toe-to-toe with said threat and whoops its ass. Conan versus the Queen’s guard, Conan versus Thoth-Amon (Pat Roach), Conan versus giant doors, Conan versus a snotty camel, and Conan versus the god Dagoth (Andre the Giant) are separated by tidbits of plot, humor and the Princess’s googly eyes. His cohorts aid him; Akiro works his mystical mojo, Malak back stabs any who overlook him, and Grace Jones unleashes a wild-eyed, fierce beating on anyone within reach of her staff.

Though it has a lot of action, some fight sequences are very corny and overly staged. This may be due to producer Dino de Laurentiis instructing director Robert Fleischer to reduce the violence of Conan the Destroyer in order to receive a PG rating, rather an R like its predecessor. The result is a movie that would have garnered a PG-13 rating were it a more widely used rating at the time. It also results in a movie that is uneven and sluggish. It’s the antics, not the action, of Conan and his crew that’ll goad you to multiple viewings of Conan the Destroyer.

♥♥♥

4 Comments

  • Conan against giant doors! I still remember seeing this in the theaters as an eight-year-old kid and being maybe a little too young for some of it. I agree that it’s very silly and corny, but there’s still a bit of the menace from the original in there. I haven’t watched it all the way through since, and I’m guessing it wouldn’t hold up really well.

    • From what I read, the new director tried to capture the feel of the original, but it was the producers who wanted a more family friendly film. That’s why there’s this strange mix of silliness and menace.

      It’s effects, choreography and acting definitely don’t hold up to the fantastic spectacle of adventure films like Lord of the Rings, but it deserves credit for bringing an epic story in under two hours while still keeping it interesting.

  • I never saw this one, but I finished watching the original (for the first time!) just last week. I can’t imagine it being tolerable as a PG-rated flick (or even PG-13). The scant few instances of gore and/or random nudity were about all that kept me going through it. It’s not just slowly-paced…it’s glacial. Though James Earl Jones was always entertaining to see, even (or especially) when he was randomly turning into a snake.

    So…I probably won’t be watching the sequel any time soon. Unless I desperately need to see Arnie look tiny compared to Andre or Wilt. Maybe if you’d given this 4 or 5 hearts…

    • Glacial… excellent word choice.

      Yeah, I had a tough time getting through the original the first time through when I watched it last year (my first time too). This one is neat to compare Arnie to Wilt, but I’d skip it unless you’re just looking to round out a Grace Jones marathon weekend.

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