Tuesday, May 31, 2016

Conan The Destroyer


   Conan The Destroyer is half the movie I had wanted Conan The Barbarian to be when I was younger. It's faster, it's more action packed, the plot is much more straightforward, and admittedly the movie is a lot of fun. So what's the problem? The problem is that it doesn't feel like a sequel to it's predecessor at all. A lot of people blame the PG rating, but the problem is deeper than that. Even deeper than the studio interference- though no doubt that did make it worse. The problem here is that this movie is the exact opposite of everything the first one was.

   The first one, for the most part, was a somber and introspective fantasy tale. Sure, it had it's silly moments, but that didn't derail the tone or the atmosphere of the movie. Conan The Destroyer seems content to re-do only the action and silliness from the first movie, and then do it bigger. Drunk Conan was funny in the first movie, so why is it so cringe-y in this one? There's hardly ever a straightfaced moment in the movie, and at best it comes across like a Conan knock-off. But, here's the beauty of this movie... it's a Conan rip-off... starring Arnold Schwarzenegger as Conan. Thus, I submit that the biggest problem with this movie is simply that it's a sequel to Conan The Barbarian.

   The two movies are so fundamentally difference it's almost criminal to compare them. Yet, the movie constantly invites comparison. I insist that you resist, because this is actually a fine movie. It's only marginally a lesser offering than Conan The Barbarian because it doesn't take itself so seriously, but then neither should it's audience. This is paperback sword & sorcery! Rescue the princess, find the magical macguffin, slay some monsters, and save the world! It might be everything the first movie refused to be, but that doesn't mean it doesn't do what it does very well. Every time Conan does something heroic, the catchiest hero-theme flairs to life as if he was James Bond or Indiana Jones.

   It's only a shame he never got to enjoy as many on-screen adventures. Sure, family-friendly Conan was probably a bad idea, but it shouldn't have been enough to hang future prospects. In fact, this movie is a fair bit bloodier than I was led to believe. Sure, it doesn't have the graphic goriness of the first movie. But each sword fight is bloody and heads do roll. I mean, when Conan slashes at a guy with his big sword... bright red blood does gush out. And, this is a PG. Go figure. But what the movie lacks in nudity and raw violence it makes up for with sex appeal and action. It's only the overall tone of the movie that's offsetting to people.

   It's still full of impressively big sets, one of the catchiest theme tunes every and beautiful scenic landscape shots. It's still high adventure in a fantastical land. It's just lacking the lore and the nuance that the first movie had. Yes, I admit, this is a bad sequel, but it's not a bad movie. It's a middle of the road fantasy adventure, but it's so much fun regardless. If I wanted to enjoy Schwarzenegger's barbarian around my little brothers, I wouldn't hesitate to pop this movie on. Maybe when they're older I could teach them to appreciate the first one as well. But, if nothing else, Conan The Destroyer is almost the Masters of the Universe movie we never had. That's worth something right?

   Conan The Destroyer is junk food fluff, not gritty in the slightest. Yet it's story is like a tour of every big budget fantasy trope you could possibly hope for- and I mean that as a sincere compliment. Conan sets off on a quest with a bunch of sidekicks, and there's tons of special effects and action packed shenanigans along the way. Monsters, wizards, sorcerers, magic castles, illusions, and mysterious chambers. It's a futile and useless exercise being mad about Conan The Destroyer. It's not a bad movie, just a lighthearted one. It's not awful, just kinda silly. If you care enough to watch it, try and tap into your inner child who still delights at the prospect of watching Jason and the Argonauts or The Golden Voyage of Sinbad. Your inner child will appreciate Conan The Destroyer all the same.

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