The movie Expendables was written and directed by Sylvester Stallone and unites many of the great action stars of the past 30 years. Action movies are not the same today and when doing the media rounds a few weeks ago Sylvester Stallone blamed the Batman movie starring Michael Keaton for the change in action movies. Stallone said that after Batman action heroes were guys in masks and suits that made them look fit, unlike Stallone and Schwarzenegger who had to put in a lot of hours of “hard work” in the gym. Is Batman really to blame? What is the real reason for the disappearance of the “expendable” action hero?
There are a lot of holes in Sly’s theories ranging from how “hard work” really means performance enhancing drugs to the notion that the “expendable” action hero ended in the 80’s even though only Schwarzenegger and Dolph Lundgren are action stars in this movie that are the same era of Stallone. If the “expendable” action star is dead then why are Jason Statham, Jet Li, Steve Austin and Randy Couture in this movie? They are all action stars that have seen the height of their popularity (so far) in the last 10 years. Even Bruce Willis is only barely the same era as Stallone.
Sly’s biggest mistake is thinking that Batman replaced the “expendable” action star. Maybe Stallone has an argument today, action movies don’t rely on stars as much as they rely on special effects and masks and superhero outfits, but that didn’t start with the Michael Keaton Batman. The first series of Batman movies was a failure to popularize the comic book genre. The comic book genre didn’t take off until about 10 years later from 2000 – 2002 when X-Men and Spider-man hit the big screen.
If Sylvester Stallone wants a reason the “expendable” action star went out of style then look no further than the cast he assembled. The action star changed from the 80’s to the 90’s because of Bruce Willis, not Michael Keaton. Willis deserves so much more than to be lumped in with the “expendable” action hero. In the 80’s action heroes were big muscle bound juicers that looked cool and could barely even speak good English, much less have any acting ability. Then Die Hard hit movie theaters and movie goers and studios realized they could get actors that were good looking for the ladies, macho for the guys and could actually act.
Nobody should have any sympathy for the endangered “expendable” action star because the 90’s ushered in action stars that were simply better. Die Hard is arguably the best action movie of all-time. Willis also had hits like Armageddon and well reviewed movies like the Fifth Element. Mel Gibson already had the Mad Max films under his belt but became a household name with the Lethal Weapon movies, Maverick and Braveheart. He gets a bad rap now but Nick Cage had a good run of fun action movies with The Rock, Con Air, Face/Off and Gone in Sixty Seconds. Then of course there is Will Smith who set the bar for action stars so high that nobody has been able to match him since.
From the 90’s to the 2000’s Hollywood did make a change from relying on good actors to special effects and superhero costumes but that wasn’t what did in the “expendable” action stars. They became expendable because it was realized they weren’t that good. The Expendables could be a fun throw back to the cheesy 80’s action movies but don’t expect action movies to go away from the CGI-filled films that are dominating the box office now.
Matt McDaniel, Movie Talk: Sylvester Stallone Blames ‘Batman’ for Decline of ’90s Action Heroes, Yahoo Movies