Director: Richard Fleischer
Starring: Arnold Schwarzenegger, Grace Jones, Wilt Chamberlain, Mako, Tracey Walter, Olivia d’Abo, Pat Roach
Kaboom Review Action Movie Rating: 28
Conan unwittingly gets embroiled in a plot to bring the god Dagoth to life.
Conan the Destroyer is a flat, plodding, uninspiring movie that has the distinction of killing off the Conan film series for nearly a quarter century.
The first Conan movie, Conan the Barbarian (1982), started the series off with a distinct thud. Conan the Destroyer, released two years after the original, was a desperate attempt to get the series on track. Unfortunately, it failed miserably. In many ways, Conan the Destroyer is worse than the crappy original movie.
On almost every level, Conan the Destroyer flops as an action movie. The most glaring problem with this movie is the acting, which is clunky, unconvincing, and at times downright painful. Physically, Arnold Schwarzenegger makes for a perfect Conan. Emotionally, he never gets into a comfort zone with his character. The Conan of Robert E. Howard’s novels is crafty, intelligent, and quick-witted. Schwarzenegger, however, plays Conan like a stereotypical dumb jock. Gone is the energy, charisma, and hard intelligence of the novel’s character. This would be fine if the movie’s interpretation of Conan improved on the original, but it doesn’t. In every sense this interpretation of Conan lessens the character and makes it hard to empathize. It’s like trying to care about a rhino.
Schwarzennegger gets abysmal help in the movie, which only makes things worse. Tracey Walter, as Conan’s sidekick thief Malak, deserves particular mention as the worst supporting actor. His twangy voice is annoying and his comical cowardice is anything but funny. The rest of the cast doesn’t reach to Walter’s lows, but they are still mechanical and somnolent. Basketball star Wilt Chamberlain, in his one and only film role, is brutally robotic. Mako, as the sorcerer Akiro, sounds like he’s taking a dump every time he casts a spell. His weak role as the film’s occasional narrator is equally bland. Olivia d’Abo, who gets some points for having a last name that starts with a lowercase letter, is uninspiring as Princess Jehnna. Pat Roach, who plays the villainous sorcerer Thoth Amon, comes across more like a lecherous drunk than he does an evil wizard. The only exception to this mess is perhaps Grace Jones, who plays the warrior Zula. Although she randomly screams war cries for much of the movie, she brings an athletic vitality and badly need energy to the cast.
The script, pacing, and story don’t help the cast much help either. Good action can often obscure a poor script, but the script in Conan the Destroyer is so bad that it grates on you. It is instantly forgettable. The story, which is faithful to the Robert Jordan Conan novel of the same name, fares a bit better, as does the movie’s ability to stick to the premise. Also, the movie does move along at a decent pace. These modest accomplishments can’t rescue the film however.
The decent action in the first Conan movie saved it to a degree. In Conan the Destroyer, however, the action further weakens the movie. The fight scenes have little zip and little variety. The visual effects are cheesy, even for a film made in 1984. Nowhere is the cheesy nature of this action more apparent than in Conan’s battles with the man-ape Thoth Amon and the god Dagoth. I have Halloween costumes that look more realistic than the man-ape. The combat in this scene is more reminiscent of professional wrestling than it is of two combatants fighting to the death. With the final battle against the god Dagoth, I felt like I was watching an old Godzilla scene from the 1960’s. Yes, these scenes are that bad.
Sadly, Conan the Destroyer’s one saving grace is that it’s so bad that it becomes quite comical at times. I caught myself laughing out loud during the fight scenes with the monsters and during some of the wonderfully absurd dialogs. Watching characters simulate bowel movements to cast spells is good for a few chuckles too. This movie comes very close to being so bad that it’s good.
You’d think that a Conan movie could get a lot of Babe and Hunk points, but Conan the Destroyer largely misses the mark here as well. Babe-wise, scantily clad Grace Jones is a compelling physical specimen, but I find her a bit manly for my tastes. Olivia d’Abo is pleasant enough, but it’s hard to get past her insipid acting. From a hunk perspective, we’ve got Arnold flexing and Wilt Chamberlain having a bad hair day. Arnold is in a good spot in his career from a physical standpoint; he helps the hunk rating considerably.
In the end, Conan the Destroyer is a viewing experience with little punch. This film is a flat, plodding, uninspiring movie that has the distinction of killing off the Conan movie line for nearly a quarter century.
For her dismal role as Princess Jehnna, Olivia d’Abo got a Razzie Award for “Worst New Star of 1984”.
Conan the Barbarian
Consistent Premise: 77
Body Count: 23
Time to First Dead Body: 4 minutes, 53 seconds
Special Effects: 12
Overall: 28 (So bad it can occasionally be funny)
[tags]Conan the Destroyer, movie review, action movie, film, Arnold Schwarzenegger, Grace Jones, Wilt Chamberlain, Mako, Olivia d’Abo, Robert E. Howard, Tracey Walter[/tags]