Movie of the Week: Conan the Destroyer

Queen Taramis, of Shadizar, longs to resurrect the god Dagoth.  Lucky for her, her virgin niece, Princess Jehnna, is the one prophesied to do so.  Jehnna must retrieve a mystical jewel from the wizard Thoth-Amon.  The jewel, a large diamond, will reveal the location of Dagoth’s lost gem-encrusted horn.  The horn, once replaced on the statue of the reposing god, will wake him.

The best way to ensure Jehnna succeeds in obtaining the diamond from the malicious wizard is to employ the talents of a masterful thief.  Queen Tamaris makes Conan, of Cimmeria, an offer he can’t refuse:  if he accompanies Jehnna on her quest, Tamaris will resurrect Conan’s lost love, Valeria (she died in the previous film, 1982’s Conan the Barbarian).

Conan readily agrees, enlisting his friend Malak, a thief; Akiro, a wizard; and Zula, a female warrior.  Jehnna’s bodyguard, Bombaata, is also along for the journey, but with an ulterior motive.  He’s to make sure Jehnna is not harmed and to kill Conan once Dagoth’s lost horn is in hand.  Those plans begin to fall apart once Akiro learns that Jehnna is to be sacrificed to the dreaming god in order for him to be controlled.

Conan the Destroyer has been misconstrued as the lesser of Arnold Schwarzenegger’s Conan films.  It’s lightweight compared to its predecessor, Conan the Barbarian.  Well, that was the intention all along, it’s the aim of the movie.  The producers wanted the sex, violence, and rivers of blood restrained to attract a wider audience and make more money at the box office.  Much like Queen Tamaris’ scheme, it didn’t quite pan out as planned.

The movie didn’t earn the buff financial returns of the first film by casting a net at multiple demographics, but the parties involved did make a Conan movie seven-year-old me could safely watch without fear of my mother seeing a naked woman rolling in the hay with a barbarian and thus confiscating the VHS cassette and preaching to me the values of the moral majority.  Grace Jones’ Zula outfit did make her tsk-tsk, though.

True, this doesn’t have the grit, or naked flesh, of the first movie, yet it still feels like a Conan movie, fully possessed of the spirit of Robert E. Howard, especially of the early Hyborian stories.  Barbarian‘s shades are more reminiscent of Howard’s latter Conan tales.  Of the two films, this one is more fun.   And I think we can all pretty much stand on the common ground that it’s better than the 2011 movie (that one tried; I honestly think they tried to make a great Conan movie).

Think nothing of the  PG rating.  Although lighter in tone, with dashes of humor, Destroyer packs in plenty of adventure.  The action is still here, with a couple of near-slapstick beheadings thrown in for good measure.  Conan’s sword not only feasts on palace guards, but also hungry cannibals, weird mirror monsters, and the sleeping god who turns real ugly real fast.  Our favorite son of Cimmeria also punches a camel.