When The Expendables was first announced it seemed a brilliant idea, an over the top action film bringing together the greatest film hard men of all time. The fact that it wasn’t very good wasn’t really an issue, the movie was fun enough that it got away with it. The second followed on in much the same vein and now here we are with Expendables 3, featuring a whole new cast of young up and comers joining our heroes… and Frazier Crane.
There are moments of this movie that are brilliantly good fun. The big closing action scene is as ridiculous as you might hope, as our 10 guys go head to head with an entire army and slowly dismember them in a variety of creative ways. While all of that is going on, you can’t help but enjoy yourself. It’s big, dumb and stupid, but considering the premise of this geriaction movie (I can’t lay claim to that one sadly) its what we all want. However, this only covers about a third of the film and there is something very wrong with the rest of it. Somewhere down the line Sly Stallone started taking this shit seriously and in doing so he took out all the campness and fun that made these guys stars in the first place.
The central plot of this film is that Sly Stallone ditches his old team, of Jason Statham, Dolph Lundgrem and Randy Conture, because their too old and he doesn’t want them to die or something like that, his motivations are vague at best. The problem with this is that it leads to Sly having to act. Now at times Stallone has been a genius, but at this point in his life he should be staying as far away from serious introspection as he can. The fun is sapped from the screen and everything that made this franchise interesting is gone.
This isn’t an issue that is unique to The Expendables, but one that Hollywood as a whole has struggled with in recent years. The starting point for this can be pinpointed to Christopher Nolan’s Batman trilogy, films that reveled in the dark past of their central characters. That worked within that movie, but it’s success seems to have lead to every character produced by Hollywood needing a dark history, that fuels them in the current day. Quite frankly I don’t care why Sly and Dolph want to shoot stuff, I just want to see them do it and laugh at the crap quips they deliver afterwards. (This films final quip is so incredibly awful it may be one of the best yet).
This Nolanisation of Hollywood has led to a lot of good things. It proved that you don’t have to be bright and airy to make a fortune, but can be serious and have an emotional core that is intelligent and at times unsettling. However, much like she is prone to doing, Hollywood has taken it too far. Every year movies come out that, while often enjoyable such as the most recent Godzilla, could have been even better if they had embraced the silliness at their core.