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The UnPopular Opinion: The Expendables

05.20.2015

THE UNPOPULAR OPINION is an ongoing column featuring different takes on films that either the writer HATED, but that the majority of film fans LOVED, or that the writer LOVED, but that most others LOATHED. We're hoping this column will promote constructive and geek fueled discussion. Enjoy!

****SOME SPOILERS ENSUE****

Like any child growing up in the 1980s, I have a soft spot for the action heroes of the era. I remember watching Sylvester Stallone, Arnold Schwarzenegger, Bruce Willis, Dolph Lundgren, Chuck Norris, Jean-Claude Van Damme, and Steven Seagal kick ass and take names with the best of them. I was into professional wrestling, Bruce Lee movies, and all sorts of violent action flicks. I was a typical, red-blooded American kid. So, when the news came that Stallone would be gathering a super-charged roster of action talent for 2010's THE EXPENDABLES, I was excited but cautious. Most of these actors had descended into a Redbox Hell where their movies were cookie cutter replicas of the one that came before it. Where most people loved THE EXPENDABLES and it's two sequels, I ended up feeling underwhelmed and disappointed beyond words. To put it bluntly, THE EXPENDABLES is f*cking awful.

Maybe it was my first mistake in hoping that THE EXPENDABLES would be good. In theory, this movie should have been a blast. There are few movies that have been able to put together an all-star team of action movie icons like this. But, it also comes twenty years too late. Sure, Jason Statham was still pretty popular when the movie came out but if you look at the roster for THE EXPENDABLES in hindsight, it was mainly guys clinging to hopes of a career outside of a movie set to debut on Netflix. Sylvester Stallone was riding a career renaissance thanks to the hit sequels ROCKY BALBOA and RAMBO, two films he wrote and directed. Both movies were better than the prior sequels in each franchise and rode waves of nostalgia to modest box office success. THE EXPENDABLES tried to replicate that nostalgia but ends up missing the mark entirely.

You would have thought THE EXPENDABLES could have been made for a pretty paltry sum considering most of the actors involved are able to knock out multiple movies a year for single digit budgets, but I was shocked when I learned it cost $80 million for this movie. Clearly that money went towards paying the actors as the results on screen look no better than if the movie had been made in the early 90s. I am all for practical effects and well shot action set-pieces, but THE EXPENDABLES feels like it was directed by someone who didn't know what they were doing. Having seen Sylvester Stallone's SATURDAY NIGHT FEVER sequel STAYING ALIVE, I expected better than this. The fun of seeing these guys on screen wears thin after the opening act of the movie and never regains any sort of momentum thanks to a truly terrible script.

When Quentin Tarantino and Robert Rodriguez made GRINDHOUSE, they did so as an homage to an era of bad movies they loved. THE EXPENDABLES should have been the 1980s equivalent of that horror film. Instead, this is just a movie with an 80s sensibility set in a contemporary time with no regard for sense or narrative. Stallone, as a writer, has proven his skill with the original ROCKY and FIRST BLOOD. But, for some reason, he relies on mild racism (Jet Li's character is named Yin Yang) and shitty puns (Terry Crews as Hale Caesar) and practically nothing but one-liners and cliches for the 103 minute running time of the film. There was an opportunity to do something truly spectacular with THE EXPENDABLES but it was wasted on what winds up being worth no more than the sum of the trailer.

What made movies like COMMANDO, PREDATOR, COBRA, and pretty much every other iconic 1980s action movie so good was the pacing, tone, style, and direction of those films. They felt unique, insipred, and stood above the countless forgotten action films of the decade. In the 1990s, fans followed action movies to a different place and these movies were relegated to the shelves of video stores since none could recapture the magic of the era. THE EXPENDABLES feels less like it has any connection to those movies and more like a forced death march for every actor involved. The over $200 million box office for THE EXPENDABLES owes less to the quality of the film but the hope for what it could have been from fans around the world.

There is, in fact, only one aspect of THE EXPENDABLES that makes it worth watching at all. Mickey Rourke is phenomenal in his small role as Tool. He delivers a speech about his past that is actually quite stirring and well written by Stallone (or was it original screenwriter David Callaham?). Of course, Rourke is one of the actors who did not return for either of the sequels when he would have been a great addition to the actual action sequences in the films. Instead, most of the marquee characters we want to see (Bruce Willis, Arnold Schwarzenegger. and Rourke) are relegated to cameos when they should have been in the spotlight.

I have tried mightily to like the movies in this franchise and while the direction improved slightly with the second film, the trilogy still falls short of what it has the potential to be. With an ever-growing roster of talent, THE EXPENDABLES films should be pulp fiction writ large with explosions, action, and memorable characters. Instead, the sequels are carbon copies of the first film's failure to capitalize on a sure thing. Maybe if Stallone had pulled in some writers or directors known for their 1980s films, THE EXPENDABLES could have been what the posters and trailers hinted it was going to be: a roller coaster ride back to a decade of excess when men had muscles, machine guns, and no regrets. Maybe there is still hope; I hear John McTiernan is looking for work.

Oh, and if you have any suggestions for The UnPopular Opinion I’m always happy to hear them. You can send along an email to alexmaidy@joblo.com, spell it out below, slap it up on my wall in Movie Fan Central, or send me a private message via Movie Fan Central. Provide me with as many movie suggestions as you like, with any reasoning you'd care to share, and if I agree then you may one day see it featured in this very column!

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8:26AM on 05/22/2015
The first one was passable. Certainly not as good as it could have been but I thought it came the closest to delivering on the promise of what such a film should be. The gore was fun, some of the action solid, and to some extent it delivered on what you would want in such a film (Lundgren and Lee fighting, an villian you want to see get it, fun cameos). The sequels were awful with Stallone throwing out any attempt at making a good film. Clearly he's not even trying with the story and dialogue
The first one was passable. Certainly not as good as it could have been but I thought it came the closest to delivering on the promise of what such a film should be. The gore was fun, some of the action solid, and to some extent it delivered on what you would want in such a film (Lundgren and Lee fighting, an villian you want to see get it, fun cameos). The sequels were awful with Stallone throwing out any attempt at making a good film. Clearly he's not even trying with the story and dialogue in parts 2 and 3. However 3 is redeemed in part by the presence of Mel Gibson who plays the first truly fun charecter in the series and hints at a great bad guy. That is before we get the unbearably stupid third act.

I've felt that part of the proublem with these (aside from the lack of any effort). Is that not only do they not feel like good action movies thye don't feel like 80's movies as much as shitty noch-offs. So many classic films hold a timeless appeal but they had actual stories, charecters that were fun, good dialogue, and that classic pro USA vide you just don't seem to get anymore. I can flip on Commando, a Die Hard, or even a Rocky any day of the week and instantly bemoan the loss of such old school action. The Expendables series doesn't come close to capturing it.
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+1
2:44PM on 05/21/2015
The third Expendables is bad, but I love the first two films. Simon West's Expendables 2 has become one of my favorite action movies of all time.
The third Expendables is bad, but I love the first two films. Simon West's Expendables 2 has become one of my favorite action movies of all time.
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12:15PM on 05/21/2015

Saying It Since The First One

Having genuinely loved both "Rambo" and "Rocky Balboa", and being impressed with their energetic directing, the first "Expendables" film was something I was greatly looking forward to. Upon my theatrical viewing of the movie ending, I immediately considered it one of the worst action films ever, and still do.

The biggest issue throughout are all the weird plot holes, that make no sense at all- Lundgren turns bad, and then at the end is good again? No punishment for his misdeeds at all =
Having genuinely loved both "Rambo" and "Rocky Balboa", and being impressed with their energetic directing, the first "Expendables" film was something I was greatly looking forward to. Upon my theatrical viewing of the movie ending, I immediately considered it one of the worst action films ever, and still do.

The biggest issue throughout are all the weird plot holes, that make no sense at all- Lundgren turns bad, and then at the end is good again? No punishment for his misdeeds at all = complete fucking bullshit. The opening title sequence, with folks on motorcycles riding them through the night makes no sense, as we are never shown who they are, and given how little motorcycles play a part in our main group's day to day actions, I presume its not them either (I realize it is meant to be, but it is such a piss poor and idiotic way to not introduced shadowed figured that it pisses me off), with Stallone's character having doing this kind of thing for so long, has he honestly never met anyone that has fought back aside from the main lady on the island? Speaking of, said lady is shown to draw/ paint/ etc., an act that the main bad guy (a general) is shown doing, but when he discovers that the lady does it, he states "So it begins"- what begins? How does a drawing begin it? WTF?

So yeah, the script is shambling and dumber than elephant shit (the dialogue is just as inane as the story), but the other major issue os that so many of the Expendables really are just that, as far as the movie is concerned- Terry Crews gets two scenes, Randy Couture and his god awful acting get one to explain his cauliflower ear and do literally nothing else. Write these assholes out, and give actual characterization to the ones that do some shit! Fuck I hate this movie!

And there is Mickey Rourke. And while I think he delivers a good performance, his character's monologue just slows the momentum down to a halt, and he more or less never comes back. Pointless and useless, entirely.

Finally, the thing that could have saved this sad piece of shit- the action- is terrible. Most fights are either too edited to properly follow or enjoy, too dark to see, or too bland with awkward CGI blood to be fun. Everything about this movie fails, hard at that, and that anyone enjoys it is confusing as fuck to me.
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10:50AM on 05/21/2015
Upon a few re-watches I have come to the conclusion this was one of those cases of me wanting to like a movie more than actually liking it. This movie does not hold up well on re-watches. I gave it a 6/10 when I reviewed it a few months ago and really I'm almost wondering if that was too high.
Upon a few re-watches I have come to the conclusion this was one of those cases of me wanting to like a movie more than actually liking it. This movie does not hold up well on re-watches. I gave it a 6/10 when I reviewed it a few months ago and really I'm almost wondering if that was too high.
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10:48AM on 05/21/2015
The directors cut was better.
The directors cut was better.
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10:47AM on 05/21/2015
First one was alright (the director's cut that this), 2nd one was promising but the humor made it grating. I haven't bothered with 3.
First one was alright (the director's cut that this), 2nd one was promising but the humor made it grating. I haven't bothered with 3.
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10:26AM on 05/21/2015

I thought is was widely accepted that these were crap

What exactly is unpopular about this opinion?
What exactly is unpopular about this opinion?
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11:51AM on 05/21/2015
Well, the first movie, not so much the sequels, was not only a commercial success, but for its intended audience, was quite loved and considered to be good (not necessarily great though). Even nowadays, when I discuss my hatred for the first film, my other movie buff friends act like I wrenched their hearts out. So yeah, this is the unpopular opinion.
Well, the first movie, not so much the sequels, was not only a commercial success, but for its intended audience, was quite loved and considered to be good (not necessarily great though). Even nowadays, when I discuss my hatred for the first film, my other movie buff friends act like I wrenched their hearts out. So yeah, this is the unpopular opinion.
-2
10:24AM on 05/21/2015
Yeah I had such high hopes for these movies. But the main problem for me was that Stallone took up 98% of the screen time and made the movies about himself, not the ensemble cast that everyone wanted to see. Paying to see all my favorite action stars and getting terry crews and randy couture instead was a massive disappointment.
Yeah I had such high hopes for these movies. But the main problem for me was that Stallone took up 98% of the screen time and made the movies about himself, not the ensemble cast that everyone wanted to see. Paying to see all my favorite action stars and getting terry crews and randy couture instead was a massive disappointment.
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+0
9:46AM on 05/21/2015
The first felt like a disappointment but the second was incredibly fun. It's a stupid, over the top, cheesy out of time action movie with some entertaining quips and full of dirty action. The second one hit the mark I think most were expecting from these films.
The first felt like a disappointment but the second was incredibly fun. It's a stupid, over the top, cheesy out of time action movie with some entertaining quips and full of dirty action. The second one hit the mark I think most were expecting from these films.
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-3
9:43AM on 05/21/2015

4/10. Here's why:

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6:24AM on 05/21/2015
It's definitely not as good as I expected it to be but all three Expendables films are mindless popcorn fun. Just not as fun as they suppose to be.
It's definitely not as good as I expected it to be but all three Expendables films are mindless popcorn fun. Just not as fun as they suppose to be.
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11:52AM on 05/21/2015
And that is the problem. The action is poorly filmed, with a lot of the finale being almost too dark to properly see, and everything is super serious to the point of boredom.
And that is the problem. The action is poorly filmed, with a lot of the finale being almost too dark to properly see, and everything is super serious to the point of boredom.
5:39AM on 05/21/2015
Yeah I have to agree with "The Expendables is fucking awful." Like you I was looking forward to this movie, but when the first trailer was released, I couldn't get over how bad it looked. I was shocked. I thought the movie was going to be good but the trailer showed me how wrong I was. The Expendables is terrible. It took me a long time before I actually watched it. I didn't watch the first one until the second was out on dvd.
Yeah I have to agree with "The Expendables is fucking awful." Like you I was looking forward to this movie, but when the first trailer was released, I couldn't get over how bad it looked. I was shocked. I thought the movie was going to be good but the trailer showed me how wrong I was. The Expendables is terrible. It took me a long time before I actually watched it. I didn't watch the first one until the second was out on dvd.
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4:41AM on 05/21/2015
Unpopular opinion? As far as I can tell, this is the popular opinion of the movie. It did terribly critically and it didn't fare much better at the Box Office. Only the hardcore fans liked the film, but I've heard little in the way of positive opinion of it. Personally, I thought it had it's moments. But no, I don't think this is the unpopular opinion of it. Hype from the loudest of fans played it up.
Unpopular opinion? As far as I can tell, this is the popular opinion of the movie. It did terribly critically and it didn't fare much better at the Box Office. Only the hardcore fans liked the film, but I've heard little in the way of positive opinion of it. Personally, I thought it had it's moments. But no, I don't think this is the unpopular opinion of it. Hype from the loudest of fans played it up.
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9:54AM on 05/21/2015
box office? it did well enough to spawn two wide release sequels.
box office? it did well enough to spawn two wide release sequels.
11:54AM on 05/21/2015
It did well enough to become a franchise and upon the initial release of the first movie, tons of fanboys claimed it as the best (or one of) action film of the year.
It did well enough to become a franchise and upon the initial release of the first movie, tons of fanboys claimed it as the best (or one of) action film of the year.
2:44AM on 05/21/2015

What's unpopular about bashing the Expendables

Randy Couture's acting killed the whole movie for me in the opening scene. Great UFC fighter, terrible, terrible actor.
Randy Couture's acting killed the whole movie for me in the opening scene. Great UFC fighter, terrible, terrible actor.
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2:13AM on 05/21/2015
I enjoy them all, but am fully aware they aren't actually good, or anywhere near the level of quality that they should be. The first plays like a straight to DVD release, the second I believe is actually a genuinely entertaining almost parody of the genre/stars, and managed to capture the stars charisma (especially Dolph) and the action was handled well as an over the top homage (you can actually see actors laughing through the gunfire and dialogue), the third again misses the point in trying
I enjoy them all, but am fully aware they aren't actually good, or anywhere near the level of quality that they should be. The first plays like a straight to DVD release, the second I believe is actually a genuinely entertaining almost parody of the genre/stars, and managed to capture the stars charisma (especially Dolph) and the action was handled well as an over the top homage (you can actually see actors laughing through the gunfire and dialogue), the third again misses the point in trying to "pass the buck" to a bunch of charismatic no-names that nobody has any interest in seeing. Luckily it had Gibson, Banderas and Snipes to keep me awake.

I think there's a genuinely great action movie in this series somewhere, but it feels like Stallone is forcing these instead of being a natural character to write like Rocky/Rambo. IF he could write these without having to think about schedules and could instead focus on character, and there was a genuinely strong director involved..
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1:45AM on 05/21/2015
Agree with everything said about the Expendables but not when you wrote "(...)ROCKY BALBOA and RAMBO, two films he wrote and directed. Both movies were better than the prior sequels in each franchise"?! Sure, Rocky V sucks ass but Rambo III is an absolute blast!!!
Agree with everything said about the Expendables but not when you wrote "(...)ROCKY BALBOA and RAMBO, two films he wrote and directed. Both movies were better than the prior sequels in each franchise"?! Sure, Rocky V sucks ass but Rambo III is an absolute blast!!!
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1:55AM on 05/21/2015
this scene alone is better than rambo 3 as a whole (Despite it being a blast)

[link]
this scene alone is better than rambo 3 as a whole (Despite it being a blast)

[link]
2:06AM on 05/21/2015
Nope, sorry, the opening alone with the stick fight or even the cave sequence in Rambo III beats that one in all departments but gore any day of the week.
Nope, sorry, the opening alone with the stick fight or even the cave sequence in Rambo III beats that one in all departments but gore any day of the week.
1:15AM on 05/21/2015

No argument here

I thought THE EXPENDABLES was a major disappointment, especially the editing. Obviously those guys don't move the way they used to, but the quick cutting made the fight scenes unwatchable. The biggest victim was the Dolph Lundgren/Jet Li scrap, which should have been a fight for the ages.
I thought THE EXPENDABLES was a major disappointment, especially the editing. Obviously those guys don't move the way they used to, but the quick cutting made the fight scenes unwatchable. The biggest victim was the Dolph Lundgren/Jet Li scrap, which should have been a fight for the ages.
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12:27AM on 05/21/2015
I'll admit that these movies never seemed to reach their full potential, but they're not as bad as some make them out to be. They're fun and a nice throw back to older action films, compared to most of those today which involve a lot of CGI and special effects. There's a lot of franchises out their that I don't get the appeal for or have overstayed their welcome, but I consider these to be guilty pleasures.
I'll admit that these movies never seemed to reach their full potential, but they're not as bad as some make them out to be. They're fun and a nice throw back to older action films, compared to most of those today which involve a lot of CGI and special effects. There's a lot of franchises out their that I don't get the appeal for or have overstayed their welcome, but I consider these to be guilty pleasures.
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1:28AM on 05/21/2015
Agreed. While they haven't reached their potential, they are definitely guilty pleasures and give a GREAT time at the movie theatres.
Agreed. While they haven't reached their potential, they are definitely guilty pleasures and give a GREAT time at the movie theatres.
12:05AM on 05/21/2015
All three films were absolutely horrible. Should have been much better considering all of the iconic action starts it had in them in all three films.
All three films were absolutely horrible. Should have been much better considering all of the iconic action starts it had in them in all three films.
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1:28AM on 05/21/2015
how old are u? genuine curiosity
how old are u? genuine curiosity
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