Expendables and PG-13: Dancing With Inevitability

My God... it's full of stars!

Look at that banner image.  Would you just look at it?  Damn.  These movies are going to have to seriously start culling some of the cast or their just going to be a series of walk-on cameos with a soundtrack of gunshots, explosions, and stock punching and kicking sounds.  But examining that picture, one gets the feeling of something akin to seeing an attendance photo from a family reunion.  Everyone’s having a blast.  Then you look at Stallone, in the center of it all.  He’s having a smoke.  This isn’t just some good time for him, it’s a victory lap.

And why not?  A quick glance at the box office receipts shows the following:

The Expendables:      $274,470,394

The Expendables 2:   $305,428,192

From a numbers trajectory, it would seem the next movie is on track for somewhere approaching $350,000,000.  That ain’t chump change for an adult-oriented American Action movie series.  Not in the comic book movie era.  Not in the Marvel Era.  But murmurs of a PG-13 rating are (once again) abound, with Sly even admitting to it (again?) and fans are up in arms.  Now, I am speaking here as a film lover and as a fan of both of the previous Expendables films.  These are deeply flawed movies, but I still love them.  They have questionable plots, terrible dialog, poor effects, and direction that seems to teeter-totter between lazy and acceptable.  In other words, they’re sort of like the Action movies of the 80s that inspired them.  But would a PG-13 rating really wreck that?

Don't Expect Much Of That Red Stuff

Look, I was going to write about how much Action movies have meant to me.  How much the rating, in fact, doesn’t really matter.  How much much, if they could just focus on stunts, brilliant fight scenes, good humor and bold direction, they could still have a winner.  Sure, Action movies are violent.  That’s never been in doubt.  But the level of violence doesn’t have to be excessive to be great.  We’ll always have our violent movies from the past and our violent movies of the now.  If Sylvester Stallone, Avi Lerner, and whoever else is in charge over at Nu Image and Millennium Films think that a PG-13 Expendables is the way to go out, I was going to say let them.  If you want blood and gore in your Action movies, we have The Raid films, the Universal Soldier movies made by John Hyams, and many others to go to.  But it doesn’t matter, what i was going to say.

Yesterday, a “dvd-quality” copy of The Expendables 3 was leaked onto the internet.  Any money the studios thought they were going to make by toning down the film will almost certainly be lost by the mostly younger generation of media pirates.  This is a lose-lose situation for them.  The older generation, who helped sweep these movies into blockbuster territory, were likely going to pass on a kid-friendly version of this franchise, but can now find the movie for free.  It’s funny, in a way.  At Cannes, Stallone spoke of making the movie accessible for the younger audience, saying “I think we owe it to the next generation.” I wonder, after all these members of the “next generation” pirate the ever-loving shit out of The Expendables 3, if Sly will still feel he owes it to them.  I’d like to think Sly and the rest just wanted to start up some new blood for the current generation, who sadly seem to lack a quantity of Action stars where older generations had plenty.  Sure, they’ve got Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson, Vin Diesel (if you think he counts), and Gina Carano (if she keeps making movies).  But are they Chuck Norris, Van Damme, Stallone, or Schwarzenegger?  Maybe they will be.  I don’t know.  I hope so.

The Expendables was supposed to be counter-programming to today’s version of an Action film.  I find it ironic that it finally became one of them.