Conan the Destroyer is a better movie than its predecessor, Conan the Barbarian, for three reasons. The first is that there is weight behind the action scenes; it feels as if sword actually hits flesh when we see it on-screen. The second is how much more comfortable Arnold Schwarzenegger seemed in his role as the titular character. The final reason is that there’s no back story to Conan. What we see here is what we get — it’s like his past doesn’t exist.
This time around, Conan (Arnold Schwarzenegger) begins sitting in a field. A queen named Taramis (Sarah Douglas) finds him and tells him that his assistance is required. Her niece, Jehnna (Olivia d’Abo) is prophesied to go on a quest to get a MacGuffin because, well, that’s the purpose of a MacGuffin, isn’t it? So Conan embarks on a journey to make sure that Jehnna accomplishes her task, under the promise that the Queen will bring back his dead lover, Valeria. However, what he doesn’t see, but we do, is that the Queen plans to sacrifice her niece and kill Conan after the MacGuffin is retrieved.
Along the way, other people join them on the journey. Wilt Chamberlain (yes, the basketball player) is another one of Jehnna’s bodyguards, and along the way, a tribal warrior named Zoula (Grace Jones) joins them. It’s an interesting cast, doing menial tasks that follow exactly the story that is described off the bat. There are absolutely no twists scattered throughout, which is too bad, because it wouldn’t have felt as formulaic. Everything that the Queen describes at the beginning happens, all the way up to the ending, which is where I’ll stop describing. You probably won’t be surprised by how it ends though.
As I said earlier, the action scenes are much better this time around, and they’re also more plentiful. The plot is mostly just an excuse to have Conan going around killing people, but since they’re entertaining, that’s fine with me. Unlike in Conan the Barbarian, it actually looked like people were getting hit by the swords. The fight choreography, while still not great, is at least somewhat inventive, even if it does often feel like a wrestling match with swords involved.
I actually liked Arnold Schwarzenegger in the role of Conan. He didn’t seem like he felt lost this time around, which is really helpful the production. He didn’t appear to have as much difficulty swinging a sword in a believable way, nor did he have as much trouble delivering his lines, even if he isn’t given much to say. He is a barbarian after all.
Conan the Destroyer is a much more light-hearted movie than its predecessor as well. It embraces how cheesy it is, and has a bunch of comedic moments. For example, before the first 30 minutes are over, Conan has already punched two animals. If for no other reason than this, it’s more enjoyable than the first Conan because it doesn’t take itself too seriously.
Just like Conan the Barbarian, this is far too long a movie to maintain complete attention. There are a bunch of times when I felt like I was nodding off, especially after the fight with the most ridiculous monster ever. After this part, it felt like Conan the Destroyer was coming unhinged, and it lost focus of what it was trying to do.
Speaking of a ridiculous monster, this one was incredibly silly because of its weakness. The wizard living there summons it, and despite looking pretty silly when we first see it, we learn that swords cannot damage it. So Conan has to try to discover how to kill it. The weakness ends up being the surrounding mirrors. Destroying them ends up harming the monster. I’m not making this up, and it was at this point when I stopped caring about or believing in this production.
It still never completely stops being entertaining though, which is something that Conan the Barbarian couldn’t say. Even if there are a few moments where this film drags, it still manages to have something going on that will hold your interest. The plot certainly can’t do that, and action scenes that are limited to sword fights end up boring after a while. I think it’s the world that this film inhabits, and the interesting secondary characters, that keep your attention.
I can’t believe I’m saying this, but I liked how there wasn’t any depth to the characters, especially with the one of Conan. He’s a man who just wants to kill people and get his dead lover back, and that’s all I need to know. Anything else would be redundant information, and I’m glad it wasn’t included. We don’t need him to grow or have a deep back story, and we don’t get that. Secondary characters don’t grow either, but they’re more interesting than Conan to begin with, despite being less prominently featured.
Even though I found Conan the Destroyer to be better than its predecessor, it still wasn’t a great movie. It was too predictable and often too uninteresting to be worthwhile, but there’s also some fun to be had. The action scenes actually feel like people are hitting one another, Schwarzenegger was a less awkward actor, while not having Conan be anything more than a hunk with a wish to kill others was a good decision. It just wasn’t great. It was a better movie than Conan the Barbarian though, although that’s not necessarily saying much.