Top 10 Ways to Fix The Expendables series!
As we all know by now; The Expendables 3 tanked at the box-office. Why? Probably a mix of everything. Franchise fatigue (Part 2 had already taken in less at the box-office than Part 1), the PG-13 which alienated some of the core audience (who decided to wait for the unrated Blu-Ray) and the internet leak which most likely nixed out lots of the young demographic they were trying to nab in theaters - the kids downloaded it and saw it for free. Just my theory. Now I'm very much aware that unless EX3 KILLS IT overseas and via its home release - it may mark the end of the franchise (sniffles). But hey; I didn't hear no bell! The fight ain't over till it's over! So if there is to be a Part 4; I think they need to go back to the basics for it to work. So here are the 10 things I would do to make way for a sure to be badass The Expendables 4. Agree? Disagree? Spit your comments below!
I loved Mickey Rourke's role of Tool in the first film. He came off as Barney Ross' Yoda. He was sorely missed in Part 2 and Part 3. I would bring him back for Part 4 (if Mickey Rourke is down of course - I have a feeling he is not). He brought humanity, the token Rourke charisma and some organic levity to the first film. Part 4 could benefit from his vibe as well.
The Expendables 4 needs an old school director IMO, somebody that fully "gets" the subgenre he's tackling. And that man should be John McTiernan. Why? Predator, Die Hard, The Hunt for Red October, Last Action Hero and Die Hard: With a Vengeance. That's why! The man knows how to handle old school action and old school action stars. Although he's had his stinkers; I think he would knock this one out of the park! Ironically enough, McTiernan is in pre-prod right now for Red Squad which is about "mercenaries sent by the DEA to take out a Mexican drug cartel." If that's not a good warm up for an Expendables movie, I don't know what is!
How do you keep adding new names without hurting the story or overcrowding the film, hence diluting everybody's screen time? Easy. You always need new villains, so they can be the new names. Or you kill one Expendable then replace him with a new one or you can have an ally kick in; maybe one that is connected to the country they wind up in. With that, I think the franchise should hang back when it comes to packing its sequels with new names. I'm there first and foremost to see Stallone, Lundgren, Arnie and Statham kick that ass in one movie together. You got GOLD right there! So no need to try so damn hard. Focus on and milk what you have. Quality over quantity! As per Part 3 - over-packing the film backfired.
The original The Expendables had like 3 mano y mano end fights going on at the same time. Part 2 had Statham versus Adkins and Stallone versus Van Damme. Now the latter fisticuffs felt too short for me at the time; but I got to appreciate it more after witnessing the throwaway Stallone Vs. Gibson man dance in EX3. What a bummer that was! So yeah, the end mano y mano fight(s) NEED to be up to par in a "let out some steam, Bennett" kind of way! It's one of the highlights of these kind of films - you don't half-ass it.
Compare the shot above to the CGI helicopters in EX3. Exactly! There is no contest! Practical always wins over CGI. Now, the CGI blood splats in Expendables 2 were out of hand, but they were genius compared to them tinker toy CGI helicopters in Expendables 3. I almost whipped out my Atari joystick in the theater when those popped up onscreen. You can't afford a chopper? Don't write in a chopper scene. I'll take a cost effective man to man fight or a close quarter and minimalist shoot-out over a HUGE spectacle of computer generated effects any day. Back to to basics boy! If we want CG overload, we'll go see the umpteen superhero movie. This is supposed to be old school action, so give us just that. Bigger is not always better.
You watch the old school action films: Rambo, Commando, Invasion USA, The Perfect Weapon etc. one thing was a constant; all of the action heroes took themselves seriously. Sure they spit out one liners here and there like Cobra's "Go ahead. I don't shop here", Dutch's "Stick around" or Rambo's "I'm your worst nightmare" but they still took their characters seriously. I watched The Expendables Director's Cut over the weekend and they got the tone right. The Expendables 2 went too far with the "self referential/deprecating" humor and if there's one thing The Expendables 3 did right it was to go back to a more grounded tone than part 2. If there is to be a Part 4, I would stay on that path. Take it seriously while having fun with it i.e. the same way they did it in the 80's.
No disrespect meant to Kellan Lutz, Victor Ortiz, Glen Powell and Ronda Rousey who did their best; but when I go see an Expendables movie I'm there for the old dogs or the newer breed (like Statham) that earned their "celluloid action" stripes. Now that I think of it, the young-blood idea in EX3 wasn't AWFUL, but the casting was all wrong. This new lot did not have what it took to be in Part 3 (in terms of on camera gravitas and action clout), let alone take over the franchise down the road (unless they go straight to disc with it). So yeah, I would pretend they never existed in Expendables 4. Kind of like what Rocky Balboa did in relation to Rocky V.
The first two Expendables movies had a truckload of impressive and visceral hand to hand fights. Whether it was Stallone Vs. Stone Cold and Jet Li Vs Dolph Lundgren in Part 1 or Statham Vs. Scott Adkins in Part 2; they gave us our money's worth and them some! In Part 3 they toned down the hand-to-hand fights in terms of the core Expendables cast and I thought that was a big mistake. A solid fight scene by action masters is as satisfying if not more than a potent shoot-out or a big kaboom! I'm there to see the KINGS OF ACTION throw down - not Victor Ortiz. COME ON!
The initial novelty of The Expendables franchise was to have all of these action titans from the 80's in one film. Part 3 kind of went off track with the Kiddie Expendables who didn't deserve to be there IMO and Kelsey Grammer (whom I love but had no business there, either). Jeff Speakman, Michael Pare, Michael Dudikoff or Steven Seagal (I know he and Avi Lerner don't get along, but we're all grown ups here, no?) are the kind of names that should be in The Expendables. You want guys a bit younger, but who can carry their weight. like Statham and Crews did in Part 1? Then hit up Michael Jai White, Dwayne Johnson, Frank Grillo, Vin Diesel, Scott Adkins (I know he died in Part 2, but who cares, give him another role; he's today's top action guy) or even George St. Pierre (who whooped it with skill in Captain America 2). The hell you doing tossing a Glen Powell in EX3 when you have unused tough guys like these gents around?! Shame on ya!
I was the first guy to complain about too much CGI blood in the first two films (specially Part 2) but after watching the bloodless PG-13 The Expendables 3, I retract my bitch/moan. I'll take CG blood squibs and CG peeps being blown in half over nothing at all any day! At least there's still a pay-off with CG gore. BTW; you don't have John Rambo, John Matrix, The Transporter etc. in the same film and make it a PG-13 movie! You just DON'T DO IT. You're betraying your core audience while trying to appeal to an audience that pretty much doesn't give a rat's ass about your ass. Stick to the R, for better and for worse! NOTE: I really hope The Expendables 3 Blu-Ray is R-rated.
Barney Ross (Stallone), Lee Christmas (Statham), Yin Yang (Li), Gunner Jensen (Lundgren), Hale Caesar (Crews), Toll Road (Couture) and to a lesser degree Trench Mauser (Schwarzenegger) are The Expendables and that is who I am paying to see when I tap one of these movies. For example; I don't want 5 minutes of Dolph Lundgren, to then have him vanish for the whole of the film and come back for the wam-bam finale. I want him to be an integral part of the story throughout. By trying to top itself in the amount of "names" they can fit in one movie, the series has crumbled under its own weight. Time to put a stop to it, scale it back and refocus the series on the actual Expendables! That's why we're here man!