Thursday, 28 January 2010

Conan the Destroyer

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Dir: Richard Fleischer (Red Sonja, Soylent Green)
Based on the stories by Robert E. Howard
Cast: Arnold Schwarzenegger, Mako, Grace Jones, Olivia d'Abo, Wilt Chamberlain, Tracey Walter, Sarah Douglas
USA, 1984

Revisited: January 27, 2010

Reason to Watch & Review: For the Sword & Sandal Marathon*

The general consensus on the Conan films seems to be that Conan the Barbarian is awesome, and Conan the Destroyer sucks, which means it's not all that fair that I watched the films back to back. But, I knew I liked Conan the Destroyer more than most and there are certain scenes and characters that will always shine through for me.

While watching, I kept wondering to myself "What is it that makes people not like this film?", and then it became abundantly clear. The effects. Oh boy. I'm willing to give films the benefit of the doubt, acknowledge the time period and limitations, but not here. It's a mere 2 years after Conan the Barbarian yet the effects are so much worse, and in part it's the choices they made of when and where to use them because have to say that they were not great choices. This is one challenge that all fantasy/historical films that have a magical element face - how will you show something that doesn't exist in reality, be it a creature, a place or an occurrence. In Conan the Destroyer all the times they used effects I had to contain laughter. It also moved the sorcery element from feeling powerful and mythical to more sideshow and goofy. Add to that some of the fighting feels straight up an 80's WWF wrestling match, and I was dumbfounded.

It's also seemed to reverse good choice that were made in the first film - instead of little dialogue, we get a fair amount of dialogue. Instead of just a few comedic moments (mostly unintentional) we have a whole character dedicated to comic relief which actually wasn't so bad. Instead of working with beautiful locations, we get created sets and effects. Play to the strengths, not the other way around!

That being said I can forgive the film a lot simply for Grace Jones' character Zula, a fierce warrior who fights with unmatched energy and vigour. What I love about that character is she never gives up, never complains, is extremely capable and goes for what she wants - it's awesome. Of course the film tempers by having a Princess Jehnna, played by Olivia d'Abo, who is part of a prophecy and I was worried that that would get a little Temple of Doom-like with her being whiny, but that isn't really the case although her isolation of the world in general leads to lots of awkward comedy about men and women which provided more comic relief that really didn't feel necessary.

Overall, it's true that it's no where near as good as Conan the Barbarian, but there is enough in there for it to be an enjoyable and fun watch.

Shannon's Overall View:
I didn't love it but I love the things that I love about it
I own it
I'd recommend it as a light/fun adventure film

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© Shannon Ridler, 2010

* The Sword & Sandal Marathon is a 13 week marathon exploring sword & sandal films in anticipation of the 2010 release of Clash of the Titans (2010)

3 comments:

The Film Connoisseur said...

I think the main difference between the two is that one is a serious fantasy film, very dark in tone, very adult like. The levels of violence and gore on Conan are fairly high. That scene in the orgy hall where they spill a giant cauldron and it was fool of human body parts that had been chopped up!! Graphic! Daring!

But the sequel, though fun it is, went too much into comic book territory. Treating the character like a super hero, it had corny dialog, story, the performances weren't up to par either. I mean, that little princess...shes so fake, so superficial! I always laugh when I see her 80s make up and hair do!

But, the film is fun non the less, I mean I love all that cheesy sword and sorcery! That scene with the green monster in the mirror room looked like a wrestling match because I think they used a real life wrestler to play that creature!

The magic is cartoony, that scene where the two magicians are facing of with hand gestures to open and close a chamber door...the faces they make and the noises, hilarious.

So I guess the big difference is really the tone. One is dead serious, the other is goofy and comic book like. Im guessing they were going more for the Marvel Comics version of Conan that existed at one point. I mean, Conan comes from the novels, but Conan was also a very successful comic book for years as well.

Shannon the Movie Moxie said...

You are so right - the 2nd one is very much comic book territory. It's funny how the dialogue in both is funny, but for different reason.

I expected to really hate the Princess this time but in all honesty, she wasn't that bad or whiny or anything. All the hair is pretty funny though, actually some of the bad guys in the first film totally look like an 80s hair band.

Buy Viagra said...

Excellent,it's my favorite movie, I could die for him. By the way... I've been following all about Fleischer's works. He's one of the best in this category and his movies are special.

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