In Anticipation: “The Expendables 2”

Welcome to another installment of In Anticipation. The blockbuster season is winding down, and what a season it has been. “The Avengers” got us off to an early start in the beginning of May, and since then we’ve seen films such as “Prometheus”, “The Amazing Spider-Man”, and just recently, Christopher Nolan’s epic finale, “The Dark Knight Rises”, reign supreme over the box office this summer. We will also see “The Bourne Legacy” open this Friday, and see if it can dethrone reigning champion “The Dark Knight Rises”. Now I’m not saying that it’s the best summer ever by any means, but it has certainly been a respectable one.

Which brings us to “The Expendables 2”, which I think would be safe to say is the last film of the summer that you could truly call a blockbuster. This is the second film in the action-ensemble franchise. Simon West (“Con Air”) is directing the film, taking over duties from Sylvester Stallone who helmed the first movie. Stallone will be writing the script along with Richard Wenk, and is based on a story by Ken Kaufman, David Agosto and Wenk. Nu Image and Millennium Films are in charge of production, with Lionsgate Entertainment in charge of distribution.

When I say this film is an action ensemble, I mean it. On second thought, I don’t like using the word ensemble. I think we need a more appropriate way to grasp all the legends that are gathered together for this film. This is more like The Dream Team of action stars. I mean just listen to these names: Sylvester Stallone, Arnold Schwarzenegger, Bruce Willis, Jean-Claude Van Damme, Chuck Norris, Jason Statham, Jet Li, and Dolph Lundgren. Now what makes me so much more excited for this film versus the first film, is obviously the edition of Van Damme and Norris, also Schwarzenegger and Willis will be more than just cameos like they were in the first film.

Hit the jump for more info.

When I first heard about the first film, it was like a major moment in my life. In fact, I can tell you exactly where I was when I found out. I was talking to fellow writer Andy Schopp while we were at an old job we had together (not actually doing our job of course) about how I couldn’t believe we never got that Stallone/Schwarzenegger team-up. Then he says, wait didn’t you hear, they’re actually doing that. That was enough for me to be as giddy as a child, but then when he told me that all of these other 80’s action icons would be in the film (granted, some of the names mentioned didn’t work out), I think I got so excited I blacked out. Okay, that last bit didn’t happen, at least I don’t think it did, it’s tough for me to remember. Still, it instantly became the most excited I had ever been for a film. It would be over a year until “The Expendables”, but it was like my ultimate movie dream scenario was coming true.

The closer we got to the movie though, the more I started seeing that the film probably wasn’t going to live up to my expectations. Two of the three names I was most anxious to see in the film, Schwarzenegger and Willis, would only have cameos in the film. Since I’ve never counted actors cameo roles as being part of the cast, the film didn’t have nearly as much star power as it originally stated. The movie itself was fairly underwhelming, not that it was bad but it certainly wasn’t the greatest film ever, which I fully intended it to be when I first heard about it. I mean, Terry Crewes had the most bad-ass moment in the movie, and that was a big problem for me.

While audiences still showed up to see the film, raking in 274 million worldwide, critics and audiences alike were left with a less than enthusiastic response to it.

So with the disappointment from the first film, I’ve gone into the second film pretty much dismissing the first one. I’ve given this franchise a mulligan so-to-speak. The reason I’m willing to do that is exactly for the reasons I stated above; Schwarzenegger and Willis have actual roles, and they added the likes of Van Damme and Norris.

One of the interesting stories that had surrounded this film a couple of months ago was whether the film would be rated PG-13 or R. The whole thing started when Chuck Norris said he wasn’t comfortable with all the cursing that was in the script, and that for him to be involved in the film, they would have to take it out. Terry Crewes was quoted as saying the PG-13 rating was for “the children’s sake”. Whether Norris was actually that against the cursing, I don’t know, but I think the real issue was the studio trying to pull in more money. In today’s day and age, PG-13 is the way to go if you want your film to pull in the big bucks. I get it, and 90 percent of the time I’m okay with it. Where I’m not okay with it though, is when your entire movie is centered around a bunch of guys who made their careers largely on R-rated films. That’s what all the fans of these guys have come to see, and frankly it would have been a slap in the face to bump the film down to PG-13. You put the restrictions of a PG-13 rating on the film and you would almost cripple its ability to be anything but another standard action film. Luckily though, after being bombarded with criticism from fans, and rightfully so, we got this quote from Stallone himself:
“After taking in all the odd rumors and hearsay, EXPENDABLES II is an R.”
So luckily we don’t have to worry about the film being dragged down by the PG-13 rating, and they can go as big, as violent, and drop as many glorious F-Bombs as they want.

Synopsis via Lionsgate:
“The Expendables are reunited when Mr. Church enlists them to take on a seemingly simple job. When things go wrong, the Expendables are compelled to seek revenge in hostile territory, where the odds are stacked against them. Hell-bent on payback, the crew cuts a swath of destruction through opposing forces, wreaking havoc and shutting down an unexpected threat in the nick of time - five tons of weapons-grade plutonium, more than enough to change the balance of power in the world. But that's nothing compared to the justice they serve against the villainous adversary they seek revenge from.”
Besides the main cast I listed at the beginning of this, others like Terry Crews, Randy Couture, and Charisma Carpenter are reprising their roles from the first film. The film has also added newcomers Liam Hemsworth, Scott Adkins, Yu Nan, Amanda Ooms, and Nikolette Noel.

My question is why isn’t there more big names in this movie. I can’t imagine that people like Wesley Snipes, Michael Biehn, John Travolta, Steven Segal, and Kurt Russell are so busy that they couldn’t have found time to be in this thing. I feel like they have an obligation to be in it, the same as how I think the best NBA players have an obligation to play for their country in the Olympics.

I’ve gotta say, seeing the trailers below with all those guys lined up next to each other guns blazing is a beautiful sight.

So now all that's left to do is wait and see if this film can leave us feeling like we all hoped we would before we saw the first film. Regardless, it will still be cool to see Arnold get back to real acting, along with a couple of the other guys being back in the spotlight again. The film gets released nationwide on August 17th.