Sometimes in the marketing of a film, things go awry. Obviously, you want a big audience, but you also want to target the right audience. Sylvester Stallone and his fellow cast of slightly past-their-prime action heroes in [The Expendables 3](movie:388705) are aware that the movie wasn't as big of a hit as they had hoped, for a few reasons. It vastly underperformed in comparison to the first two films. The always-outspoken Sly Stallone, who penned the script and starred in the movie, was very open about one of the main reasons he felt it didn't do well:
The movie should've been Rated R. Not PG-13.
I wholeheartedly agree with this assessment made by Sylvester Stallone about the film being rated PG-13 and not R (like the first two movies). He told CraveOnline,
"I believe it was a horrible miscalculation on everyone’s part in trying to reach a wider audience, but in doing such, diminish the violence that the audience expects. I’m quite certain it won’t happen again"
Insane action sequences can only be so insane when they are tailored to a PG-13 audience. I maintain that the main appeal of this franchise is the fact that it stars washed-up action heroes who still kick serious amounts of ass. The movie even jokes about this fact in promotional materials, trailers, etc. However, that teenage crowd that they tried to pick up with this rating doesn't know who Sly Stallone is... or almost anyone else from the expansive cast, for that matter.
So, what else went wrong?
They lost Bruce Willy (Key and Peele reference)
Bruce Willis alone, by no means, would've made the movie a success. However, I think the fact that he wouldn't agree to the terms negotiated in his contract should have been a tell-tale sign that the wheels may have been coming off a bit, no pun intended.
He wanted $4 million for 4 days of work! They were willing to give him 3. The fact that Willis wouldn't take that was just a bad sign for things to come.
The entire movie leaked in high-resolution
It's obviously never a good thing when a theater-ready version of your movie leaks early. It obviously affected the numbers on the movie, which weren't great, since people saw it at home and felt they didn't need to go to the theater. But even more importantly, it also created early negative buzz before anyone was even given a chance to buy a ticket.
'Expendables 3' had stiff competition in the box office
[Guardians of the Galaxy](movie:424073), [Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles](movie:323027), [Let's Be Cops](movie:885786), [Into the Storm](movie:333178) and others were out at the time. In my opinion, the timing argument is always semi-weak, but it's worth considering.
The star power may have faded
Sadly, these guys may just not be as big of a draw as they used to be. It's a sad fact of life that even our heroes can age out of being our heroes. And after 3 movies with this cast, maybe audiences just have had enough. Maybe we collectively "get it."
I'm not sure how the fourth movie will do, or if it even will happen. I'm hoping they can right the ship.