I wrote this article for my website visualizeasian.com and have made a few slight adjustments to place it on to my moviepilot profile too - Please be aware there are spoilers in this article. I hope you enjoy it and leave comments...
THE EXPENDABLES - The Past..
Back in the early part of this century and well before Quentin Tarantino had created ‘Inglorious Basterds’ there were rumours that Quentin wanted a whole host of stars including Sylvester Stalloner, Arnold Schwarzenegger, Eddie Murphy, Adam Sandler and Bruce Willis to be in his World War 2 epic. These rumours however were just plain rumours and were also associated previously with the DC Comics movie ‘SGT Rock’ which Arnold, Sly and Bruce had also been associated with briefly but which never came to fruition. This further fuelled the fire for an action movie involving an ensemble cast of stars.
Often in interviews Arnold mentioned his wish to make a ‘Dirty Dozen’ type movie with Sly, Bruce and many other action stars, he also mentioned actors such as Nicolas Cage. Mel Gibson also expressed an interest in making an official remake of The A Team series where he would play Hannibal with a whole host of stars involved with him.
The A-Team and Inglorious Basterds came and went, without the huge 80s movie star cast that some fans were speculating. In 2010 Sly completed the first The Expendables movie and it was a major hit at the box office.
THE EXPENDABLES (2010)
Screenplay by Sylvester Stallone and David Calaham
Directed by Sylvester Stallone
The Expendables details the story of a group of mercenaries called The Expendables hired by the CIA to hunt down a Hispanic dictator on the fictional island of Vilena.
It stars Sylvester Stallone, Jason Statham, Jet Li and Dolph Lundgren to name a few of the stars and was a big hit worldwide and has made over $300 Million at the box office so far. The movie was very popular and it even generated a line of toys and comic books - A sequel was guaranteed.
If I were to pick a fault with The Expendables movie it would be that two of it's biggest stars Arnold Schwarzenegger (Trench) and Bruce Willis (Church) had scenes that were merely a few minutes long. However that issue would be resolved in the sequel. When I saw the extended directors cut of The Expendables I realised the true vision of this movie which pays tribute to classics like The Musketeers, The A Team TV Series and The Dirty Dozen.
THE EXPENDABLES 2 (2012)
Screenplay by Sylvester Stallone and Richard Wenk
Directed by Simon West
The Expendables 2 actually starts off in the middle of a great big action sequence with a packed military camp in Nepal where the team are on a rescue mission to find a captured Chinese diplomat. The Expendables 2 also explores the themes of youth and fathering and features a new young expendable ‘Billy’ a sniper, played by Liam Hemsworth. Stallone's ‘Barney Ross’ takes a fatherly liking to 'Billy' and there are some scenes where this mentoring and nurturing aspect is explored further.
For me the characterisations of the movie such as the scenes between Billy and Barney are what makes The Expendables 2 even more worthwhile and dramatic than the first movie, because when the young Billy is brutally killed by Jean Vilain (A devilish performance by Jean Claude Van Damme.) who then steals lethal plutonium and threatens world peace, the expendables’ journey becomes as much about revenge as it does about saving the world and is made all the more reasonable, dramatic and thrilling as you care for the characters more.
Bruce Willis and Arnold Schwarzenegger reprise their roles of 'Church' and 'Trench' and have much bigger roles in the action as well as welcome new addition of Chuck Norris as the ‘Lone Wolf’ who brings with him his own brand of style and humour and provides some of the series’ coolest dialogue and action scenes yet. We also have for the first time a lady join in on the action with The Expendables in the form of the very beautiful (and tough) Chinese actress Nan Yu.
In the 1980s and 1990s the idea of Chuck Norris, Sylvester Stallone, Arnold Schwarzenegger, Jean Claude Van Damme, Dolph Lundgren and Bruce Willis starring in the same action movie, would probably be greeted with a giggle as it would be an expensive clash of egos which studios couldn't afford.
However this is what The Expendables 2 delivered; it was a thrilling movie with probably the greatest ensemble cast of action stars ever, which has delivered on a premise that was promised by the first movie. It was so popular there was even a PLAYSTATION Network game adaptation which was set between the events of The Expendables and The Expendables 2.
The Expendables 2 movie for me was a sequel that improved on the original and I really enjoyed the movie so much that I went to see it again.
The Expendables 2 movie made over $300 million at the box office and there was already talk of a sequel… The Expendables 3.
So how do you top The Expendables 2?
Planning for The Expendables 3 had already begun... Websites and blogs were full of fans putting up wish lists of who they wanted to see starring in the movie and there were even plot guessing and rumours about what it would be about. Director Simon West even mentioned in interviews that he wanted to bring Sean Connery and Clint Eastwood to the franchise (although that didn’t happen) Clint Eastwood declined by saying it was a movie he would more likely direct than star in and Sean Connery is still enjoying his retirement.
Stallone was sending out all sorts of fun rumours. There were also rumours of the franchise going into the realms of science fiction or horror by featuring zombies or aliens.
Stallone also mentioned that he would like Sigourney Weaver to play his wife (and an Expendable) and she could lead a female group of mercenaries called The Expendabelles. This further created all sorts of rumours about a possible side-story movie.
EXPENDABLES 3 (2014)
Due for release in 2 months at the time of writing this article.
Screenplay by Sylvester Stallone and Creighton Rothenberger
Directed by Patrick Hughes
While Patrick Hughes came on-board as director, there had already been serious talk of getting the greatest action star of them all. The producers had been chasing Harrison Ford to be a part of The Expendables franchise ever since the first The Expendables movie.
Why? Because Harrison Ford is easily the highest grossing box office action star ever (People will say its Tom Hanks or Eddie Murphy but that’s wrong, its Harrison Ford.), almost all of his movies are mega blockbusters and many of them have a cult followings i.e. Indiana Jones series, Star Wars and The Jack Ryan series of movies etc. And as Sylvester Stallone himself pointed out in an interview:
“Harrison has brought a certain kind of elegance and class…”
As soon as news of Harrison Ford coming onto The Expendables franchise was made public, rumours persisted that he was a replacement for Bruce Willis – However this was not true at all.
The Expendables producers were intent on getting Harrison Ford whether Bruce Willis was in the movie or not. The rumour was triggered by an ill-timed tweet from Sly himself which simply stated the following:
“WILLIS OUT... HARRISON FORD IN !!!! GREAT NEWS !!!!! Been waiting years for this!!!!”
Or was this a clever marketing ploy on the events that had unfolded? This tweet did generate conversation and marketing for The Expendables 3.
There were rumours that Bruce Willis had left because he wanted $1 million dollars a day for a 4 day work schedule on The Expendables 3.
However we don’t know what really happened. You have to take into account that Willis has other interests and is also involved in another competing ensemble action movie series ‘RED’ and the reason for Bruce Willis leaving could have been as much to do with that as it was to do with money.
We know Sly was not too happy about it, his tweet suggests that below:
“GREEDY AND LAZY ...... A SURE FORMULA FOR CAREER FAILURE,”
There were also repeated rumours of Nicolas Cage being in the franchise – however Nicolas Cage went onto clarify this in an interview when he stated he had not even been approached to star in the movie.
Wesley Snipes, Antonio Banderas and Mel Gibson have now also become welcome additions to The Expendables franchise.
When Antonio Banderas was given the script for The Expendables 3 he was allowed to make some creative changes for his character – Antonio Banderas has a theatrical acting background and so does Sylvester Stallone so I can understand the nature and temptation these two actors shared to allow for improvisation in the characters and scenes.
Improvisation would bring the characters and scenes to life. Below is a segment of something Antonio said in an interview when he explains how Stallone gave him the script…
” So I took it and read it, and I definitely did some changes. I changed even the name of character. And so, I started sending things that I wrote and he accepted them, and I said, “Okay.”
Antonio’s character ‘Galgo’ seems the most improvised and fun from what I have seen in the trailer so far.
Wesley Snipes who is always a strong performing actor in everything he does, is seen in the latest trailer running across a speeding train. He plays a knife expert who is broken out of a war prison by the expendables. His scenes look like they will really stand out.
Mel Gibson like Harrison Ford is an iconic movie legend – Whenever his name is attached to a project you know it’s going to be great. His movie CV includes great classics like Tim, the Mad Max series, the Lethal Weapon series, Braveheart, The Man without a Face, Apocalypto, The Patriot and The Passion.
Mel Gibson will play the main villain ‘Conrad Stonebanks’ in The Expendables 3, and his character is also one of the founding fathers of The Expendables team with Stallone’s ‘Barney Ross’. Most of Mel Gibson’s scenes have been filmed in top secret but also his interviews related to this movie and regarding his performance have been kept under tabs.
This could mean there is a plot twist or there is something very special waiting for us in the movie. We know Mel Gibson likes to take charge of his scenes, whether he is directing or not and he likes to be faultless in his work.
This will also bring The Expendables story full circle, and the series could be called the Star Wars trilogy of action movies because of it's scale, big stars and colourful characters.
Possible twists: Some articles on the web are suggesting that Harrison Ford’s character Max Drummer and Stallone’s ‘Barney Ross’ have some dark history in the story. One piece of information suggested that Ronda Rousey’s who plays a lovely new expendable is also playing Barney's wife in the movie.
Arnold also gave some plot information away almost unthinkingly when in an interview talking about something related to how he copes with action movies at his age, he said the following:
"When Sly was hitting me in the face, he was taking it easy. When Harrison Ford was shooting me with a gun he didn't use live ammo."
This is a major spoiler – In which film has Harrison Ford shot Arnold Schwarzenegger with a gun? There hasn’t been one yet! Arnold was talking about The Expendables 3 – A major plot give away and could mean that Ford is playing an even darker character than we think in this movie.
Harrison Ford is no stranger to playing dark roles, check out his chilling performance in 'What Lies Beneath'. Although personally I would hate to see Ford wasted in The Expendables as a villain – That intense heroic look he gives in a lot of his performances was truly made for a good guy.
The production and marketing of The Expendables 3 was the biggest of the trilogy and the crew even visited Cannes 2014 to promote the movie in what was a huge marketing ploy. The Expendables 3 cast arrived in an armoured convoy of vehicles to the cheering crowds of fans that awaited them at Cannes.
The trailers for The Expendables 3 suggest that it’s the last one - However there has been talk of a 4th one.
I personally don’t see how you can get any bigger and iconic than Harrison Ford and Mel Gibson - So The Expendables 4 is presented with a problem - which stars will it bring to the franchise now?
If I were to make The Expendables 4 I would literally get the most iconic stars of action cinema ever.
For example when you think of westerns you think of John Wayne – So why not get John Wayne?
When you think of martial arts movies you think of Bruce Lee – so why not get Bruce Lee?
Imagine an action movie where a young John Wayne is teamed with a young Bruce Lee? It would be extraordinary and brilliant!
With the current visual effects technology as seen in films such as AVATAR which can completely re-map the face and the body of an actor, the possibility of getting iconic actors from the past is increasing and endless.
Imagine if John Wayne and Bruce Lee could digitally join The Expendables in the fourth or fifth movie? It would be awesome.
We could even see an expendables prequel with younger versions of the cast members using this technology. Imagine a cold war prequel set during the Vietnam war which shows how Barney and Conrad formed The Expendables and we can have stars like Bruce Lee, John Wayne, Steve McQueen and Carey Grant in their young forms playing the founding fathers and team members of The Expendables. As for the existing Expendables actors you wouldn't need to recast any of them to play their younger selves, because they could just have their faces re-mapped (AVATAR style) to show younger versions of themselves.
With the technology introduced in AVATAR this could be done and with the right publicity and marketing, the film could possibly be the biggest smash it ever and if Sylvester Stallone writes and directs it - It would be awesome.
Article written by Suchet Budon