Friday, February 18, 2011

Arnold Schwarzenegger Career Retrospective Part II

Welcome to the second part of the Blessed Are the Geek's Career Retrospective on Arnold Schwarzenegger. You can find Part I here, or continue on:

Total Recall (1990)
Based upon the short story by Philip K. Dick, Total Recall is a thoughtful, witty, clever, and intelligent science fiction film, that is also a ridiculously over the top action extravaganza. In other words, it's freakin' awesome! This is probably my pick for Arnold's best stand alone film. I mean, it's got a chick with three tits. How cool is that?

This is one of those rare Arnold Schwarzenegger movies that would've been just as brilliant had another actor appeared in the main role, since the script was so good, the concept was so clever, and the direction by Paul Verhoeven was so perfect. However, the fact that Arnold did star made it all the better, because we got a clever, smart science fiction movie filled with Arnold killing people while making one-liners. In my opinion, that would make every movie better. Arnold should've appeared at the end of Passion of the Christ and said something to Jesus like, "Why don't you hang around for a while?"

Anyway, great movie, and he does say "I'll be back."

Kindergarten Cop (1990)
Arnold's second attempt at comedy was a lot more successful than his first. Everybody loves this movie. Arnold was already world famous before this movie (or he would never been given the freedom to star in a movie like this in the first place), but this was the one that made all of our mothers, girlfriends, and nun love him as well. This was just a funny movie where Arnold was able to take his usual persona and poke fun at himself.

And he does say "I'll be back," but this line might be the most famous from the entire movie:

Great movie.

Terminator 2: Judgment Day (1991)
This isn't just Arnold's best film, but one of the finest films I've ever seen. This is the Citizen Kane of action films. The special effects pioneered CG effects two years before Jurassic Park, the script took the basic premise from the original Terminator and kicked things up to epic proportions, and it featured stellar performances from Linda Hamilton, Joe Morton, Robert Patrick, and Arnold himself.

Hell, I even liked Eddie Furlong.

This was the second collaboration between Arnold and James Cameron, and it remains the best thing either man has ever done, and that is saying a lot considering the other films in their separate oeuvres. James Cameron has taken a lot of crap (much of it from me!) for writing the dumb scripts to such films as Titanic and Avatar, but he will forever be a favorite of mine for T2. This movie is seriously in my top ten best films ever list.

And, of course, he says I'll be back. The Terminator always comes back.

Last Action Hero (1993)

This movie's not very good. It's not unwatchable and it has some neat ideas and tries something new, but at the end of the day it just sort of sucks. It's an action-comedy that isn't funny enough nor is the action exciting enough, so it just fails on both fronts. It was intended as some sort of meta-comedy poking fun at the action films in which Arnold usually stars, but they forgot that Arnold's films have always been tongue in cheek and very self-deprecating already. You can't make a movie poking fun at Arnold when he has always poked fun at himself in every movie already.

Some of the action sequences are ok, and a few of the jokes do work (like the bit about Arnold's character starring in an action version of Hamlet. I would totally pay money to see that), but it's too long, too bloated, and just plain forgettable. And Arnold doesn't just say "I'll be back," but they make a joke about how his character within the film always says that in his films within the film. Not funny.

Skip it.

True Lies (1994)
Arnold followed up his boring, unfunny action-comedy with another action-comedy, but this time around it's hysterically funny and the action sequences are off the hook! This was Arnold's third (and so far last) collaboration with James Cameron, and it's totally freakin' awesome. This was their only collaboration that wasn't a part of the Terminator franchise.

True Lies succeeded where Last Action Hero failed because it wasn't making much of an attempt at meta humor, it was just trying to be funny on its own. Just to be clear: meta humor is never funny beyond a first viewing where somebody might think, "Oh, I get it... they're making a joke about the medium itself. Anyway, what else is on...?" This movie has lots of jokes being read by such funny, charming people as Arnold, Jamie Lee Curtis, Tom Arnold, and Bill Paxton.

It also has a chase scene with Arnold on a horse, jets shooting missiles through downtown L.A., and Jamie Lee Curtis doing a strip tease. Long story short, this movie is totally, one hundred percent, bad ass.

After this, Arnold makes a few really good movies, but this was his last great one, in my opinion.

Junior (1994)
Another screwball, high concept comedy starring Arnold opposite Danny DeVito and directed by Ivan Reitman. Reitman also directed Twins and Kindergarten Cop, making him tied with James Cameron as Arnold's most frequent collaborator. If you loved Twins and Kindergarten Cop, chances are good you'll love this one as well. I merely tolerated Twins while I love Kindergarten Cop, so I don't really have much affection for this one.

If you love the idea of watching a man get pregnant, however, check it out. I also recommend checking out the 1978 film Rabbit Test starring Billy Crystal (and directed by Joan Rivers!) or that one episode of the Cosby Show. If you're like most people, however, and find the entire premise to be repugnant, skip this one and just rewatch Kindergarten Cop.

Eraser (1996)
Finally Arnold makes his triumphant return to straight up action movies, and it's a good one. It's not a great one, but it's good fun and features tons of awesome action sequences and some funny one liners.

I don't have a whole lot to say about this film beyond the fact that it's clever and really entertaining. This is the kind of action film that would be another star's best work, but the fact that Arnold has so many other films in his oeuvre that are classics make it easy to overlook. But check it out.

Jingle All the Way (1996)
Arnold just can't leave well enough alone. Another comedy? And while I tolerate Twins and Junior, this one is just a total piece of shit. Then again, I might not be the target audience since it's mostly a kids movie. But still... it's pretty awful.

I don't want to give Schwarzenegger too much guff for making all of these comedies, since he was almost fifty when he starred in this one so he must've realized he couldn't keep making action movies for the rest of his career. And maybe he wanted to reach a wider audience and start making films that could be enjoyed by people who don't normally see his films. Or maybe he just always wanted to work with Sinbad. I can't blame him for that. But whatever the reason... ughh.

It's almost worth watching for the funny performances by Sinbad and the late Phil Hartman, but... no. You know what? I'm not even going to say anything else. Just watch this:

Oh, and he says "I'll be back," but who cares?

Batman and Robin (1997)
Ah god dammit.

As much as I hated Jingle All the Way, Junior, and Last Action Hero, this movie was Arnold's only real disaster. Even Hercules in New York was better than this, if only because it was his first film and it had no budget at all. This movie was the worst entry in a film franchise that had long since jumped the shark. Hell, the Batman film franchise hadn't just jumped the shark, but it had jumped a shark that was jumping another shark that was shitting on another shark.

All things considering, Arnold made it through this movie with some of his dignity still intact, which is a lot more than you can say for George Clooney, Chris O'Donnell, Alicia Silverstone, or Uma Thurman. At least Arnold seemed to be having a lot of fun and his Mr. Freeze suit was kind of neat looking. That's about the best thing I can say about this movie and about his performance in it.

He's still the man who starred in Terminator and Conan. I respect him enough to simply forget about this movie and move on.

End of Days (1999)
This one wasn't very good either, but it was like Citizen Kane compared to the back to back failures of Jingle All the Way and Batman and Robin. Still, these three films comprise the worst stretch in Arnold's entire career.

This movie is about Arnold fighting the devil... or something. Remember back in the late 90s when Hollywood made a bunch of movies about the devil? What was that about? This one wasn't the worst, and at least it had the pretty fun casting of Gabriel Byrne as the man himself, but it was mostly forgettable, dumb, and mediocre. I respect Arnold for wanting to do something dark after his previous few movies, but this wouldn't been a time to do the third Terminator or another Conan film instead.

Skip it.

The 6th Day (2000)
Arnold followed up the End of Days with The 6th Day, which shouldn't be confused with The Sixth Man which stared A Different World's Dwayne Wayne as a ghost who plays basketball in the NCAA. And, no I'm not making that up.

Anyway, Schwarzenegger brought in the 2000s with another action/sci-fi film, and it's a pretty good one. It's akin to Total Recall, only not quite as clever or as action-packed. Even the movie poster seems reminiscent of that earlier film from a decade previous. This movie is ok, has some clever ideas, and a dual performance by Arnold as the clone of the main character.

Remember that from the 90s and early 2000s as well? When Hollywood wasn't making movies about the devil they were making movies about clones or twins, both played by the same actor in dual roles. I enjoyed that genre more than the devil one, and two Schwarzeneggers is always better than one... unless he's dressed like Turboman or Mr. Freeze, that is.

Anyway, The 6th Man. Not one of Arnold's best, but maybe one of his best from the last decade or so. Arnold says "I'll be back" for the eleventh and (so far) final time in a feature film. I'm sure he's said it a billion more times in speeches, at political rallies, and on the Tonight Show. I'm sure he says it a lot at dinner parties too, whenever he gets up to go to the bathroom. I would.

Collateral Damage (2002)
I remember almost nothing about this movie. I remember seeing it in the theater with my friend Justin, and maybe I remember thinking it was ok. Beyond that, nothing. All I really remember is that I've had no desire to rewatch it.

But I don't remember hating it, which is something.

Terminator 3: Rise of the Machines (2003)
I don't hate this movie, but I don't like it very much either. The best I can say about this movie is that Arnold was wonderful in it. This was made as much for his bid to get back into the public eye as a starting bid to to run for public office as much as anything else, and on that score it was phenomenally successful. Arnold returned to the role of his most iconic character, getting back into shape until he was almost identical to the way he looked twelve years earlier. Seriously, my boy looked good, and if you took still shots from each of his three Terminator films, most people would have a hard time telling them apart.

As a movie, however, it's pretty dumb. Arnold is hilarious, of course, Nick Stahl was a decent choice to replace Eddie Furlong, and the action was great (especially the show-stopping car chase), but it just didn't hold up as a Terminator film. The script was just the same old "terminator comes back in time to fight another terminator" cliche, offering nothing new beyond having one of them be a female, and even going so far as to corrupt and invalidate the entire events of the previous film.

So... I don't like this movie, but it's worth watching for Arnold, who's always good, as well as for Kristanna Loken, who is pretty hot as the evil T-X.

And, surprisingly, he never says, "I'll be back," even though this was the film series that originated that line. He does refer to the female terminator and say, "she'll be back," however, and at one point he comes back from the dead (or whatever) and says, "I'm back."

The Rundown (2003)
This may not be worth mentioning because he just has a tiny cameo, but it was memorable all the same. Early in the film, there is a scene where Arnold walks out of a club while The Rock walks in, and he says something like, "Have fun," as though he is passing the torch to the up and coming action movie star. It's a torch that the Rock may have dropped soon after, but that's a blog post for another time.

Anyway, it was a fun, clever scene in a movie that is straight up awesome anyway.

Around the World in 80 Days (2004)
I never saw this, and neither did you. I'm sure it's a lot of fun and it did ok at the box office. I just never saw it and I probably never will. It is notable, perhaps, for teaming up Arnold with fellow action star Jackie Chan, although I'm guessing very briefly.

Anybody seen this and want to comment?

The Expendables (2010)
And then we have The Expendables, which is another cameo and Arnold's last appearance in a feature film... to date, anyway. Now that he has finished his term as California's Governor, perhaps his return to Hollywood will be forthcoming. One can only hope.

You can read my full review of the movie here, but I'll save you the trouble and just say that I loved every minute, especially the scene where Arnold, Sly, and Bruce Willis finally appear together in something that wasn't related to that awful restaurant chain Planet Hollywood. Because when I think of those three actors, quality cuisine is the first thing that comes to mind.

Anyway, this movie was great and Arnold's cameo was a lot of fun. It was amazing seeing him on screen again after so long, and the delight of having him opposite those two colossuses of the genre was awe-inspiring. The only thing that could've made this cameo more fun was if his final line was "I'll be back," but let's hope he will be anyway.


Justin Garrett Blum said...

I'll admit that I did like his cameo on The Expendables.

I remember reading on some blog not so long ago some guy talking about the Terminator films, saying how Terminator 2 sucked, and then (I think) something about Terminator 3 being okay. People like that piss me off. It doesn't make you cool to hate one of the best action films ever made--it makes you a moron.

I enjoyed The Sixth Day, actually, but I don't know...maybe it's one of these films that's really just a guilty pleasure, like Time Cop. Though I recall that it was way more clever than I thought it would be.

Flymar said...

End of Days was kind of "nice". Everytime I stumble on it in TV I watch it till the end because of really dark impressions in which Arnold appeared so few times.

classicfilmfan said...

"Around the World in 80 Days" is a pretty dumb movie. It's pretty much a watered down version of Jackie Chan's more serous action films that uses the Jules Vern novel as an excuse to make it a globetrotting adventure. It's got some genuinely funny slapstick moments, and a bunch of respected British actors (Jim Broadbent in particular) having fun playing haughty, turn-of-the-century versions of themselves, but some parts are kind of cringeworthy. Arnold's cameo is the best part of the movie. He plays a self obsessed Turkish prince who tries to steal away the film's leading lady from Fillius Fogg (who is not played by Jackie Chan). He's hilarious, but only in the movie for about 5 minutes.