And you the audience is to blame, well, partially. The whole international audience thing isn’t helping. But when studios take a chance on a project that’s a bit out of the ordinary, one the internet clamors for, we tend to just not go. Scott Pilgrim which was a film that is as anti-transformers as you can get without being an indie film about deep feelings and stuff performed poorly. The internet screams and rallies and demands geeky tradition but the denizens of the dark corners aren’t shelling out money for the tickets to the right films.
Also, for some reason, sequels starting becoming more popular than the original film in terms of ticket sales. There used to be predicable model of diminishing returns for films. It’s the reason that even with diminishing quality (see Pirates of the Caribbean and Austin Powers) franchises still grow in quantity of sales.
But if we can’t stop bad movies and we can’t stop awful sequels we can at least bitch about it on the internet and propose better versions. Here is one of mine. Man, I am so good at segues.
From all reports Expendables 3 was awful and I refuse to give it money. Even the morbid curiosity of seeing ancient creaking behemoths spout pithy one liners while pretending to relive the glory days can’t bring me to the theater.
So how would I fix this? First I’d kill some people, and not the way the second film did which is totally cheating. For those that didn’t see “Expendable 2: The Next Paycheck” they introduced a new guy you were supposed to like with the sole intention of having the bad guy kill them to motivate Stallone to exact revenge. I understand why he did it and I appreciate at least some of the effort but I just didn’t care about this guy. We as an audience didn't have much affinity for the new guy and felt less when he died. Cliffhangar has a much more impactful death in the first few minutes that I actually cared about. You’d think Sly would remember that.
The Expendable films aren’t that great to begin with anyway. The first one felt detached - Stallone let his crew risk their lives because he had a crush on a lady he hardly knew. The second one was a bit more fun but already felt bloated with cast. But the third one overcrowds things even more and we don't really give a shit.
So how do we make this cynical Millennial audience care (are Millennials cynical, I’m not sure anymore)?
We start with the crew on a mission and things go nicely. They are imbued with the invincible nature of being action stars. But then they have a close call but not too close as it’s still the first act. Maybe they talk about disbanding or being more careful or losing a step. Something just to tip off maybe they aren’t invincible. They fly home smoking, drinking, and talking about chest hair or something manly. Arriving at the office they find it to be a smoldering rubble pile. There is a lone knife stuck in the ground (this knife is important). We see Mickey Rourke’s hat blow by in the wind. If it’s R (which it should be bloodless violence is just a cartoon and again removes us from any manner of reality) we see his bloody arm sticking out. Bam, we have investment. Now we have set that shit can go wrong.
One by one the crew is picked off either killed, captured, imprisoned, set up, or hospitalized. Have a car chase. Jet Li has a martial arts fight because the man is a fucking martial arts legend and having him shoot someone instead of kicking them to oblivion is just insulting. Don't kill the whole crew of expendables (now the name actually makes sense) but kill at least two or more. Make it feel like they are in real danger. Stallone and Statham are forced to get help. Keep them on the run. They recruit some people but they aren’t happy about it. The new guys try to impress them and we care that they are constantly being compared to the others. No one can pop and lock like Terry Crews and exclaim “woo!” you fucking imposter. Go to your room and think about what you’ve done.
So they “investigate” the bad guy and find a few things about him/her. Remember this is an Expendables movie so investigating is either done via shooting or extremely quick, albeit manly, exposition. They find out where this mystery villain will be and plan on crashing the party. But it’s a trap. Statham is captured, Stallone wounded, and we get the big reveal of the villain. It’s the son of Eric Robert’s bad guy from first movie. That knife buried in the building was like the one that killed his father.
We get a person with acting ability to deliver his bad guy speech about ruining Statham and crew. He is going to bury his name, his friends, everything. He wants him to suffer, death is too convenient. So now they have to stage a rescue operation. The new guys make up a plan while a weak Stallone advises as he convalesces. The new guys storm the bad guy’s lair while one of them stays behind and monitors from afar. Stallone calls the shots from his bedside. The dude staying behind ends up being a traitor and Stallone in his weakened state has to fight him. Generally when we have ridiculous mismatches there needs to be some malady afflicting the hero to make the fight seem less ridiculous. An old knee injury, being shot, et cetera. Otherwise its like Mohammed Ali versus your kindergarten teacher who took a few martial arts classes once. The new guys are ambushed and they have to fight for their life. The big bad guy finding out his mole is dead plans on going to find Stallone. Statham, freshly rescued, and the newbies go to find him. The race to the final confrontation. We should have some convenient event make it so that only Statham gets to Stallone. The new guys have to deal with the other bad guys or a pile of ninjas, like a whole undulating mass of them, or just a bunch of angry bad guys with gun. Stallone should sacrifice himself for Statham. Statham then has the final showdown, a knife fight. The bad guy dies and life his father takes the knife and then is shot repeatedly by a dying Stallone. They have a nice funeral for Stallone and Statham tosses in the hat with the expendables symbol on it. Roll credits.
Or just have a shitty pg-13 nonsense that makes no sense and is seemingly designed to insult the audience. Test groups would probably hate that Stallone is dead or insert him punching his fist through the coffin giving a thumbs up as he is lowered into the ground. I can only hope there isn’t an Expendables 4: Old Men and Pointless Explosions.