Conan the Destroyer

PLOT (spoiler alert!!!):

While praying at an altar with his traveling companion and fellow thief Malak (Tracey Walter), Conan (Arnold Schwarzenegger) is confronted by Queen Taramis (Sarah Douglas) of Shadizar, who tests the pair in combat with several of her guards. She tells him that she has a quest for him, but he initially refuses her. The Queen uses her power to learn his greatest desire, and promises to resurrect Conan’s beloved Valeria. Conan agrees to the quest. The Queen states that her niece, Jehnna (Olivia d’Abo), is destined to find a special jewel that can be used to obtain an artifact that will awaken the dreaming god, Dagoth. She tasks Conan and Malak to protect Jehnna on this journey, to be accompanied by the captain of the Queen’s guard, Bombaata (Wilt Chamberlain). Secretly, the Queen has instructed Bombaata to kill Conan once the task is complete so they can sacrifice Jehnna to the god.

Because the gem is secured in the fortress of a powerful wizard, Conan seeks the help of his friend, the wizard Akiro (Mako). Akiro must first be rescued from a tribe of cannibals who plan to eat him to absorb his magic. Afterwards they meet Zula (Grace Jones), a powerful warrior and bandit, whom Jehnna and Conan rescue from vengeful villagers; considering herself indebted to Conan for saving her life, she offers to join their quest. They reach the wizard Toth-Amon’s (Pat Roach) icy castle upon a lake, and make camp for the night. While they sleep, the wizard transforms into a bird of smoke and kidnaps Jehnna. The company assault the castle and Conan is able to defeat the wizard, but in doing so he disrupts the magic binding the castle together forcing their hasty retreat. With the jewel now in hand they travel to the place where the horn is hidden. Jehnna expresses romantic interest in Conan, but he drunkenly rebuffs her and declares his devotion to Valeria.

They reach an ancient temple, and Jehnna uses the power of the jewel to find and obtain the horn. Guardians of the horn overwhelm the group, but they manage to find a secret exit passage. Bombaata blocks their exit and seizes Jehnna. The others escape his deathtrap and make their way back to Shadizar. There, they use a secret route known to Malak (through his “Cousin’s sister’s brother”, basically his first cousin) to reach the throne room and confront Bombaata. Conan kills him in combat.

Meanwhile, Jehnna has been drugged and prepared for the sacrifice. The horn is placed upon the head of the Dagoth statue. Upon its first signs of life, they attempt to sacrifice Jehnna, but Zula intervenes and kills the Grand Vizier (Jeff Corey) first. Having received an improper sacrifice, the statue becomes angry and begins to twist and distort into the demonic version of Dagoth (André the Giant) as Akiro had feared. Queen Taramis is killed and Conan battles the Dagoth, eventually killing it by removing the horn from its head.

After the battle, the newly crowned Queen Jehnna offers each of her companions a place in her new court. Zula becomes the new captain of the guard replacing the recently deceased Bombatta, because Jehnna does not see any reason why a woman cannot do as good a job as any man. Akiro becomes her new wiseman and advisor, and Malak’s buffoonery qualifies him for the position of court jester. She offers Conan her hand and the opportunity to rule the kingdom together, but he declines, having been promised a kingdom already. He departs on his own for further adventures and to find his own place in the world.

REVIEW:

Arnold Schwarzenegger returns as the muscle-bound hero Conan in Conan the Destroyer. Originally, this was meant to be part of a trilogy, but the third film was retooled and turned into Krull the Conqueror. Why, you may ask? Quite simple, this film did not do as well with fans and critics. One has to wonder what went wrong, though.

What is this about?

While on a quest to retrieve a magical gem, muscleman Conan vanquishes mortal and supernatural adversaries with help from his ham-fisted sidekick, a wacky wizard, a fierce woman warrior and a gigantic bodyguard. But there’s a traitor among the ranks.

What did I like?

Conan. A man of few words, but much action, Conan was the perfect role for a young Schwarzenegger to take on. If you can believe it, I read that he was actually asked to put on more muscle. Now, this is a guy that isn’t too far removed from winning a Mr. World title, which is a bodybuilding completion, and they asked him to get even bigger! Not much can be said about his acting, other than comparing this to the latest film I saw him in, The Last Stand, you can really tell he has come along way, even if he doesn’t have the imposing physique anymore.

Quest. In the early 80s, there seemed to have been a slew of sci-fi films involving quests and children that would go on to be or that already were ruling the kingdom. You would think this would get to be a bit tired, but for some reason, it felt like a fresh idea with Princess Jehnna not being a total brat. Something that as the years have passed, we see less and less of in on-screen children, if you’d notice. The quest for the dagger leads to some adventures and is the main focal point of the film, also it is not just a recycled version of Conan the Barbarian. It is always a plus when you have fresh material.

Sidekick. A good comedic sidekick can go a long way, especially is they can do more than crack jokes, but be useful in accomplishing the task at hand. Malak may be a bit of an idiot, but he works in contrast to the serious nature of all the other characters. His obsession with Zula, played by Grace Jones is particularly interesting to watch. Through all his bumbling, his dagger skills are particularly impressive.

What didn’t I like?

PG. For some reason, the powers that be at the studio decided that this film would make more money if they toned down the violence so that it could appeal to a broader family base, not to mention garner a PG rating. This is actually a practice still being used today, mostly in the horror genre. Why else do you think films that could be total bloodbaths end up so sanitized? Studios think they’ll make more money by toning it down so the younger fanbase can come out and see it. When a flick is meant to have a certain level of violence and what not and it doesn’t…well, that is a red flag that hangs over the entire picture.

Laker nation. Wilt Chamberlain makes his big screen debut as the princess’ bodyguard, or whatever his official title was. He doesn’t do a bad job, but one has to wonder why they cast a retired (I think he was at this time) NBA player. For that matter, has anyone noticed that all the basketball players that go on to movie careers are Lakers: Chamberlain, Kareem Abdul-Jabar, Shaquille O’Neal, etc? What’s up with that?

Dagoth. The whole point of this film is to awaken the dreaming god, Dagoth. As you can imagine something goes wrong, and Dagoth turns on everyone. I’m not going to raise a fuss about that, but rather the design and execution of the creature. It seems to me that he would’ve been the perfect opportunity for stop-motion animation, rather than a guy in a suit. Also, the fight, at least for me, could have been better. It is the climax of the film, after all. All bets should have been off!

My expectations for Conan the Destroyer weren’t exactly high, but I did expect a decent film. What I ended up watching was a flick that the studio got their greasy mitts on and ruined everything good about. There is no doubt in my mind that this would have been a far superior film before that happened, not to mention a worthy successor to the original film. If you’re a fan of early 80s fantasy films or Schwarzenegger in his early days, then this is something you probably shouldn’t miss. Otherwise, it is a film that you happen to glance over and maybe decide to check out when all the other options have been exhausted.

3 1/2 out of 5 stars

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