Conan the Destroyer (1984)
Release Date: June 29th, 1984 MPAA Rating: PG
Director: Richard Fleischer Actors: Arnold Schwarzenegger, Grace Jones, Wilt Chamberlain, Mako, Tracey Walter, Sarah Douglas, Olivia D’Abo
he legendary conqueror Conan (Arnold Schwarzenegger), along with his timid thief partner Malak (Tracey Walter), are attacked by Queen Taramis’ (Sarah Douglas) soldiers. She requests that the bulky barbarian accompany her to her city for an important errand – and in return, she’ll bring back Conan’s dead lover Valeria (Sandahl Bergman). The queen insists that her virgin niece, Princess Jehnna (Olivia D’Abo), must embark on a predestined, perilous journey to retrieve a hidden key that leads to a jeweled horn that can awaken the dreaming god Dagoth.
Unbeknownst to Conan, upon Jehnna’s return she’ll be sacrificed – and the Cimmerian will be summarily executed. They’re accompanied by captain of the guard Bombaata (Wilt Chamberlain) and, along the way, pick up Akiro the Wizard (Mako, from the first film, still an astonishingly ineffective magician), being prepared as a feast for a tribe of cannibals, and Zula (Grace Jones), a skilled female bandit and fighter (also held captive, by vengeful townsfolk). When the group nears the key, the young girl is stolen away in the night by a dragon of smoke, turning the escorting assignment into a rescue mission. As they infiltrate the barriers of a castle in the middle of foggy waters, the powerful magus Toth-Amon (Pat Roach) plans a devious trap.
Mako returns to narrate this sequel to the critically bad-mouthed, publically praised “Conan the Barbarian” just two years later – hot off the financial successes. This time, the eponymous destroyer is actually called the “Cimmerian,” acknowledging author Robert E. Howard’s manufactured time period and heritages, which were largely neglected in the 1982 adaptation. Picking up random quests as he roams the land is also more faithful to the source materials. Conan gets to do battle with a grotesque man-ape, hordes of armored guards (some of which claim to have come in peace), evil wizards, anticipated treachery, and a mutant amphibious rhinoceros creature (out of place but slimy good fun), and must fend off romantic advances by the underage princess – all hoping to outdo the uneventfulness of the predecessor.
Schwarzenegger’s accent has diminished, comic relief seems to be the new additive to make the adventures intentionally light-hearted (plainly in the form of Malak), and the bloodshed has decreased to the point of a PG rating. Even Basil Poledouris’ score has become one of predominant jollity over thundering battle themes. The costumes are no longer principally Viking, the sets are more fantastical, and the running time has been cut down (though it could still be even more swiftly paced). And to further amplify the appeal, the action sequences have multiplied, with expanded swordplay and an exploration of mythological sets (like the kind frequented by Indiana Jones). But the special effects haven’t improved and the sincerity of the adventures have swung too far in the opposite direction, resulting in a sequel that is essentially just as flawed as the first – in a vastly different way.
– Mike Massie