Wednesday, August 22, 2012

Exhibit E

They say that he who lives in the past is doomed to miss out on the future. That's all well and good, but if the future of action cinema is going to be Andrew Garfield skateboarding through New York and moping about his parents, then you'll forgive me if I continue to look backwards.

And what better way to look backwards than with this summer's heaping helping of nostalgic macho goodness that is The Expendables 2? Oddly enough, upon stepping out of the theater, I came to a funny realization. In a year that gave us The Avengers and The Amazing Spider-Man and Brave and ParaNorman and Madagascar 3, I stand to reason that The Expendables 2 is still the most kid-friendly movie of 2012.

If you're done laughing and shouting out loud to your computer screen that it's the most violent movie of the year and that I'm some kind of idiot for making such a claim, lemme try to explain myself here. Yes, E2 has a lot of action and a lot of violence. It's also got some healthy doses of blood, gore, explosions, and light profanity. But you know what? It's also a TON of fun! Nostalgia aside, let's pretend we haven't been waiting for this on-screen team-up for 30 years and try to get into the mindset of, say, an 8-year-old boy. This would be his favourite movie. There are big explosions, loud guns, tanks blasting shit to pieces, wacky characters spouting funny one-liners, good guys who act really heroic, bad guys who act really nasty, and generally a lot of ass-kicking and subsequent name-taking. This is exactly, to the letter, the kind of stuff 8-year-old boys love. Want proof? Just watch an 8-year-old boy play with his action figures for five minutes. The stuff he'll come up with could be ripped from the pages of any Expendables script.

There are themes in cinema that are not appropriate for young audiences, but I don't think E2 had any of them. There are no F-words, no adult themes, no heavy emotional duress. There's hardly even a mention of sex (the general consensus the movie puts forward, in fact, seems to be that girls are icky, unless they're cool and tough like the boys are). There's nothing in here that an adult would have to explain to an inquisitive kid. And yet I saw no children in the audience for The Expendables 2. Instead, I saw all of the children seated in the theater for The Dark Knight Rises, a movie that features (among other things): sex, partial nudity, numerous adult themes, the death of heroic characters, stock market jargon, frightening images, a bus full of little orphans about to be blown up by an atomic bomb, and corporate espionage. You know, for kids! Hey, parents, when you take your little ones to a movie, here's a hint: do some fucking research first. Just because Batman is on the poster doesn't mean it's going be a magical ride of smiles & rainbows.

On that note, The Expendables 2 is also a perfect movie for adults. We are, after all, the target demographic here. Everybody who's been waiting for these actors to blow shit up onscreen since the 1980s will finally get their wish granted. The first movie was a little more tame and light on the fan-service, but this one doesn't pull any punches. If somebody told me 25 years ago that one day I'd get to see Sylvester Stallone, Chuck Norris, Bruce Willis, and Arnold Schwarzenegger team up to fight a bunch of soldiers who were working for Jean-Claude Van Damme, I'd have probably peed my pants with glee. Heck, I almost peed my pants with glee yesterday when I watched the damn thing happen. There's something euphoric about seeing all of these heroes in one movie; The Expendables 2 is for action cinema what The Avengers was for comic books. Going back to the 8-year-old playing with action figures example, it reminds me of exactly that: anyone who's played with action figures in their youth knows how cool it was to team up a Ninja Turtle with a Spider-Man villain and make them fight a battle against Optimus Prime and the Mighty Morphin Power Rangers. Your imagination was the limit. That's how E2 felt.

You know what? Even the elderly will find something to enjoy here, watching aged relics like Stallone & Schwarzenegger take part in another glorious bullet-opera as the two actors playfully jab about one another of glory days long past, and reminisce about how much fun they used to have. The two actors are still having lots of fun (it shows), and I think that will put a smile on any Golden Ager's face; it's a nice little testament to the fact that our elders have indeed been through a lot of great shit in their time, and they've seen and been through things the rest of us couldn't even dream of. If there's any movie of 2012 that really sticks home the "respect old people" thing, I can't think of a better example than E2.

In a nutshell, The Expendables 2 proves that -while it may be no masterpiece of film, and is by no means the best picture of the year -it's got something everybody can enjoy. And that's worth something. So take your kids. Take your parents. Take your grandparents. This is a movie for everybody. that that the more serious stuff is out of the way, can I be a geek for a moment? Because here is my wish list for The Expendables 3:

-it should be a much longer movie, to give more screen-time to the growing list of actors.
-instead of having one villain, the villains should be another team of Expendables, only these guys have much darker agendas. That way every one of the heroes can be pitted against an evenly-matched opponent and make for some bone-crunchingly good fights.
-Schwarzenegger has to get in there with his fists this time, Commando-style.
-new additions to the cast should include: Carl Weathers, Michael Biehn, Nicolas Cage, Jackie Chan, Steven Seagal, Harrison Ford, The Rock, Daniel Craig, Liam Neeson, Jean Reno, and (if there's a just and loving God) Sean Connery.
Make it happen, Hollywood!