Friday, November 23, 2012
The Expendables 2
The first one was better.
That isn't to say this was a bad movie or that I was at all disappointed or let down, it's just that the first one was better is all. Maybe it's because the first film had more novelty and felt fresh while this one is just more of the same. Maybe it's because this film felt like less of an ensemble and more of a starring vehicle for Stallone. Maybe it's because this one had a weaker story and more muddled direction. Maybe it's because I'm a few years older and more mature. Maybe it's because I watched this one alone in my apartment instead of on opening night in a theater full of like-minded Stallone fans. Or maybe it was just because it wasn't a very good movie.
Anyway, I liked it.
If you liked the first film -- and I can't imagine that anybody would go see it unless they were the kind of person who was going to love it -- you'll like this one too, since it brings back almost all of the main characters and puts them through the same intense, over the top action. The I described the original film's finale as the best action sequence in movie history, but the opening of this one maybe tops it. This was seriously one epic opening battle that was ridiculous in all the right ways, perfectly creating one of the most epic introductions to some of history's most epic action stars. But then it kind of lost steam, and even though there was a lot of action along the way, it was never as creative or fun as that opening, nor as anything from the first film. It all just kind of played out with people shooting until they run out of bullets and then throwing knives into some merc's throat. In any other film review, that would be a rave recommendation, but for an Expendables film I just expected more.
I don't really remember the main plot of the first film (and that's as it should be!), but this one is about the team's search for revenge after one of their own is murdered in cold blood during a mission. But don't get too worked up, since the Expendable who died wasn't anybody from the first film, but a new character played by the very handsome but very bland Liam Hemsworth. Listen... if you're going to make your entire film revolve around a revenge story, you have to make it about a character we care about, not some new guy who was shoe-horned in just so he could be killed off in the first half hour. This would've been a much stronger story had they killed off one of the main guys, and at least that would've explained why none of them had much screen time anyway. I hardly remember Randy Couture or Terry Crews being in this movie at all, and Jet Li really only had a cameo before he disappeared all together.
There was also some woman added to the team which didn't really work. I'm not saying there's anything wrong with women in action movies, I'm just saying I didn't know who this actress was and that she was bland and added nothing to the story.
There was also an appearance or two by Chuck Norris, which sounds cool but it didn't really work either, since he was so awkwardly forced into the movie with no real explanation or thought. It was kind of funny how Norris basically played some god-like force or nature who showed up when the team needed him most, killed everybody, then vanished again, but it just didn't work for me. And having Chuck Norris repeat one of his internet meme "facts" isn't meta humor, it's just kind of dumb.
Much more fun were the expanded roles for Bruce Willis and Arnold. But then again, Chuck Norris's fame is kind of based on the fact that he's kind of a joke whereas these guys are famous because they're awesome, so having more of both actors is always great. I could've done without all the "I'll be back" and "terminator" jokes, however, since a little of that goes a long way.
And I don't know about Jean-Claude Van Damme as the villain. He was a lot of fun, but he didn't really do much and I never really knew what his plan was. But Van Damme is always funny, and his big fight against Stallone at the end was fantastic.
But the main problem -- and this is going to sound like a dumb criticism of a big budget action movie throw back -- is that the script lacked wit. The first movie was just as funny as it was exciting, but this one just fell flat in too many places. Here's one example: At one point Stallone and Jason Statham are running through the jungle when they are suddenly ambushed by a bunch of villains.
Statham: "Did you order room service?"
Stallone: "Not really..."
Not really? Not really?! That was really the best set up and follow through they had? Stallone should've said something like, "I really have to complain to the concierge." Or, "Zagat's gave their service four stars," and then he could've thrown four ninja throwing stars into their throats. But all that happened was he said, "not really," then they stood around awkwardly until he pointed his finger at them at which point some sniper shot them all... which was a bit they ripped off from that movie The Losers anyway. But there were just too many moments like that, where I was left waiting for the joke or one-liner to come... and they just never did. This script just needed a punch-up.
Hey, Sly... if you're reading this, you can use that "four star" gag in The Expendables 3!
So that's the Expendables 2. I liked it and I recommend it for fans of the first film, as long as you go in realize some of the magic has been diluted every so slightly. But I still liked it.