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Conan the Destroyer(1984)
Conan, the swashbuckler, is promised that his dead love will be revived if he procures a magic crystal from a magic fortress. He gathers a fighter, a wizard and a thief to help him as he overcomes the perils on the way.
For more about Conan the Destroyer and the Conan the Destroyer Blu-ray release, see Conan the Destroyer Blu-ray Review published by Kenneth Brown on July 30, 2011 where this Blu-ray release scored 3.0 out of 5.
Starring: Arnold Schwarzenegger, Grace Jones, Olivia D'Abo, Sarah Douglas, Wilt Chamberlain, Mako
Director: Richard Fleischer
» See full cast & crew
Conan the Destroyer Blu-ray Review
"Maybe they want to capture us, and torture us to death."
Reviewed by Kenneth Brown, July 30, 2011
How exactly does one earn a promotion from Barbarian to Destroyer? Aside from, well, destroying everything in sight? If Conan the Destroyer is any indication, it's easier than you might think. You just need a sketchier script, sillier dialogue, campier performances, nuttier action, stockier stuntwork, a trailer packed with leather and loincloths, an NBA legend, a toothy supermodel, a Kryptonian ice queen, everyone's favorite Austrian bodybuilder and, perhaps most ironically, a shift from hard-R Frank Frazetta fantasy to tame, PG-rated flights of fancy. (That's right, Destroyer is rated PG.) Yet, awful as all that might sound, it's these things -- things that have caused many a movie buff to completely dismiss Conan the Barbarian's 1984 sequel -- that make Conan the Destroyer such a deliciously cheesy '80s treat. That doesn't mean it's a good film, not by any means, or that it's misunderstood, under-appreciated or, really, anything more than a big, dumb, tasty slice of Big Dumb Fun. But it certainly helps. And sometimes that's enough, no matter how bad or how misguided a movie may be.
Somewhere, deep inside the mysterious Phantom City lies the fiery Temple of Jade. Concealed within its ancient chambers is the supreme instrument of life and death, the mystic Horn of Dagoth. Only one man - Conan - has the power to recover it. But first, Conan and his band of warriors must battle hostile armies, cross treacherous kingdoms and challenge the sorcery of an evil queen. It is Conan's greatest challenge. For if he cannot capture the Horn in time... the world will be plunged into eternal darkness.
With Conan the Barbarian filmmaker John Milius shooting Red Dawn in New Mexico, the reigns to the franchise were passed to Tora! Tora! Tora! director Richard Fleischer and Firestarter screenwriter Stanley Mann. It seemed the fabled Cimmerian was in good hands. But Conan the Destroyer bears little resemblance to Conan the Barbarian, and even less resemblance to Robert E. Howard's titular character. And not just because its initially R-rated disposition was whittled down to a more box-office-friendly PG. Conan (Arnold Schwarzenegger), now an untethered wanderer, is a sad, almost sappy shell of the haunted, vengeance-obsessed warrior he was in 1982, and the extra muscle he's packing doesn't exactly work in his favor. He swings slowly and deliberately, relies too heavily on his companions' skills, isn't forced to contend with many inner demons, and isn't any closer to being crowned king when the credits roll on Destroyer than he was at the end of Barbarian. Instead, he's given a second-stringer's quest that ultimately has little bearing on his character, his pursuit of power or his journey as a future-king. Even the quest itself is unceremoniously dull (minus three terrific showdowns: one against a skilled weapon master, one against a turncoat, and one with a massive demon god). Queen Taramis of Shadazar (Sarah Douglas, Superman II) asks Conan to help her young niece, Princess Jehnna (Olivia D'Abo, The Wonder Years), acquire a magic gem and an unobtainable relic. In return for his service, Taramis promises to resurrect Conan's greatest love, Valeria (Sandahl Bergman). It comes as little surprise that the queen is up to no good, at least to us -- everything about the woman screams "don't trust a word I say!" -- but, for whatever reason, Conan the Cinematic has always been slow on the uptake compared to his original serial, novel and comicbook incarnations.
What follows isn't a thrilling fantasy epic, nor is it the harrowing tale of the deadliest Cimmerian of the Hyborian Age. It's more akin to a 4am game of '80s-era Dungeons & Dragons that drags on well after its early-morning, caffeine-addled freaks and geeks have started rubbing their basement-dilated eyes and stealing glances at their Swatch Watches. Conan inevitably invites others to join him along the way -- the wizard Akiro (Mako, Conan the Barbarian), the jester-turned-thief Malak (Tracey Walter, Batman), the wild raider Zula (Grace Jones, A View to Kill) and Jehnna's hulking bodyguard, Bombaata (Wilt Chamberlain) -- and soon faces a legion of sword-swinging red-shirts, evil sorcerers, vicious creatures, power-mad rulers and ageless gods. It reads like a surefire fantasy cocktail, right? But, time and time again, the world's champion of the North is either saved by his friends' quick-thinking or lucks into victory while swinging his blade or grappling with his latest foe. The best battles are those fought one-on-one; group scuffles boil down to Conan wading through his enemies until he clashes swords with a main baddie. Fleischer and Mann's Conan doesn't come across as being very extraordinary at all, in spite of the film's focus on action over adventure. Alas, he's a thick-witted brute who has a knack for coming out on top, but only because fate has granted him bulbous biceps and declared him invincible; not because he has the wherewithal to survive on his own accord.
The "dumb" in Big Dumb Fun is a term of endearment. Conan the Destroyer verges on stupid, though, and that isn't so endearing. Fortunately, Fleischer, Schwarzenegger and the rest of the cast seem to have a grand adventure of their own, traipsing from enormous sand dunes to Mexican volcanoes to ornately dressed sets with the wide-eyed, endless-grin enthusiasm of costumed trick-or-treaters. They seem to be having a blast, which, truth be told, makes it that much easier to switch off the lights, shelve your brain for 100 minutes, and relish Destroyer in all its leather-strapped, rubber-masked, musclebound mediocrity. Like other godawful fantasy flicks of the '80s -- Yor, the Hunter from the Future, Deathstalker, Warrior & The Sorceress, Dragonslayer and Iron Warrior, just to name a few staples of my childhood -- Fleischer's Conan amounts to chewy, chunky goodness when consumed properly. It takes a special breed of filmfan to unearth the treasures buried in Destroyer; a self-effacing genre junkie who isn't bound and determined to take every trip through the Mines of Memory so seriously. If you're one of those cinephiles, if the mere mention of a film like Gor ignites warm-fuzzies and inspires a loud, hearty yawp, then Conan the Destroyer will be as amusing a diversion as it was on VHS and Laserdisc.
Conan the Destroyer Blu-ray, Video Quality
Conan the Destroyer's 1080p/AVC-encoded transfer is about as close to a revelation as Cimmerian zealots could hope for. The film doesn't look as if it were shot yesterday -- softness descends like a diffuse fog on several scenes, the sorcerer's ice castle and the heroes' reward ceremony chief among them, and black levels aren't always as rich as they are at their best -- but for a twenty-seven-year old, third-tier '80s fantasy flick, it doesn't get much better than this. Colors are bight and vibrant, skintones are warm and nicely saturated, and contrast, despite some inherent inconsistencies tied to Jack Cardiff's original photography, is quite striking. Detail steals the show, though. Fine textures are notably resolved, object definition is sharp and satisfying, grain is intact and unobtrusive, and the presentation doesn't exhibit the intermittent digital manipulation, moderate edge enhancement or obvious ringing that brought Conan the Barbarian's transfer down a full notch. (Faint halos and extremely minimal DNR are evident, but are rarely a distraction.) Closeups are impressive on the whole, as are the vast majority of mid-range and establishing shots. Again, most every shortcoming traces back to the source, not Universal's efforts (or lack thereof). Moreover, significant artifacting, banding, crush and other digital anomalies are nowhere to be found, and scratches, nicks and other print issues are kept to a bare minimum. (Don't panic when the film begins; the prevailing print damage that accompanies the opening titles quickly disappears once the movie gets underway.) I imagine most fans will be ecstatic, especially those who were already more smitten with Universal's Conan the Barbarian transfer than I was.
Conan the Destroyer Blu-ray, Audio Quality
Conan the Destroyer may look better than its Blu-Barbarian brother, but its DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 surround track isn't as remarkable. It's serviceable, involving even. It just lacks the sort of fullness and fidelity that might leave a more lasting impression. Dialogue is intelligible and reasonably well-prioritized, but a number of lines are thin and feeble, while others are bulky and burdensome. LFE output is strong and able-bodied, yet lacks the discernment, polish and authority of the best Universal catalog remixes. And the rear speakers, though certainly active, don't unleash the most convincing ambience or directional effects. All that being said, the track isn't a disappointment. If anything, it simply isn't as reliable (or memorable) as it could be. Basil Poledouris' score is every bit as brash and bold as its Barbarian counterpart, clashing swords and crackling magic rarely falter (even though they have the distinct tone of '80s fantasy effects) and dynamics are quite good (albeit less than ideal). Ultimately, "hit or miss" is an accurate description of the mix. Thankfully, the hits outweigh the misses.
Conan the Destroyer Blu-ray, Special Features and Extras
The Blu-ray edition of Conan the Destroyer only includes one extra: a standard definition theatrical trailer.
Conan the Destroyer Blu-ray, Overall Score and Recommendation
Conan the Destroyer is a much lighter, flimsier fantasy than Conan the Barbarian, and the differences don't stop there. It's fun -- or rather it will be for '80s fantasy addicts -- but it isn't a very good film at all, and doesn't do justice to the character, Howard's original stories or Milius' 1982 Conan adventure. But Universal's Blu-ray release? So long as you aren't bothered by the lack of special features, you won't have much to complain about. The film's DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 surround track isn't ideal, but it's more than adequate, and its video transfer is excellent. Not quite top tier, mind you, but well worth its weight in filmic gold. Conan the Destroyer isn't for everyone, that much is sure. No matter. Sometimes nostalgia and cheesy fun are enough.
Conan the Destroyer Blu-ray, News and Updates
• Conan the Barbarian Blu-ray - May 12, 2011
Universal Studios Home Entertainment is set to bring John Milius' Conan the Barbarian to Blu-ray on August 2nd, two weeks before Marcus Nispel's adaptation of the same name descends on theaters. Milius' original film stars Arnold Schwarzenegger as Conan, a slave ...
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