Monday Morning Critic – Dissecting a Failure: Piracy, Nostalgia, The Expendables 3 & Figuring Out What Went Wrong With One Of The Year’s Biggest Flops


It’s been nearly a month since The Expendables 3 debuted to not much chagrin into theatres, with a lot of hype and a substantively larger cast than the first two films. It flopped, and hard, for a lot of reasons and the big one is going to be that the film was released online to outlets such as YouTube as well as the usual black market type sites. With nothing of note having come out, nothing major happened and nothing this week that’s all that interesting I thought looking further back to Sylvester Stallone’s latest ensemble action film would be worth it.

Today it’s time to whip out the surgical scalpel and dissect what went wrong with The Expendables 3.


I reviewed it in theaters when it was released, of course, and I’ve been fairly curious as to how it’d do at the box office. Stallone has all his eggs in keeping this franchise afloat and doubled up the cast, ostensibly to be able to jettison some members for a new group to continue on with sequels. If Terry Crews wants too much money, for example, or has too much clout to continue to be in a small role he can trade him out for any number of “who’s that” group that were the “new” Expendables in the third film. The only actors who are fairly vital to the film seem to be Stallone and Statham, as Jet Li had bit roles in the sequels and neither film missed him.

The third traded out Crews for Wesley Snipes and nothing was subtracted, either.

The fact that this film hasn’t crossed the $40 million mark yet, and probably won’t hit $50 million domestically, is something to be blamed on a lot of things. Studio execs will blame a large portion of it on the film leaking beforehand, which is something substantive. Potentially $10-20 million of ticket buying revenue was lost on people who chose to see it illegally/unethically, either downloading it off a torrent site (the former) or watching it on YouTube (the latter), so that has to be a factor as well. The key to all of this, though is one big concept that I don’t even think Sylvester Stallone would happen.

People stopped caring about the franchise because the nostalgia factor couldn’t be stoked any further.


The thing about the first two films was that they were firmly rooted in nostalgia, of course, and each one gave us two things we never had. In the first we got Stallone, Arnold Schwarzenegger and Bruce Willis on the screen at the same time. It was an iconic moment for action film fans; the three biggest stars of the genre for nearly two decades got on screen for a scene of note. But we were left wanting more; why couldn’t we get an action scene with at least two of them, if not all three?

The Expendables 2 gave us that plus threw in Jean Claude Van-Damme and Chuck Norris, the other two stars from that era, in an action sequence for the ages. Everything as an action film aficionado you could’ve wanted was in that final sequence. There was nothing left besides maybe throwing in Jackie Chan, Chow Yun Fat and Jet Li into that mix. You could argue for Wesley Snipes, as well, but throwing in the big five of action was about as good as it could get.

The only way Stallone could turn up the voltage for a third film would be to add that Hong Kong trio and set in China, making the easy film about how Jet Li was kidnapped in the second film and they need to rescue him. Throw in Mel Gibson as the man behind it all and you have the only way you could really top the nostalgia of the first two films. Throw in the fact that now you have an exotic location, the ability to add in action stars like Michelle Yeoh in roles and The Expendables Go To China could’ve been an interesting change to the franchise. That was the last remaining area for them to mine, really. Even then that’d be more positioning itself for a massive Chinese/Hong Kong box office as opposed to one in America.

Stallone may have thought he was making an action franchise but he was making a nostalgia franchise, really. The Expendables was about reliving that 15-20 years of action film making, nothing more, and the third film didn’t give us that. Stallone was explicitly appealing to action film fans en masse with this franchise to start with but after two films the only thing left was to aim towards guys like me, Rob “R0Btrain” Sutton and other action film junkies by going even more inside baseball than before. There’s only so much nostalgia you can milk in this genre of 80s action films.

TEN RZ PRINTS Arnold fires from atop truck Nov 19 2012 xl CH__0519.tif

Instead it gave us a path forward, not back, as Stallone wants to be able to continue on with new stars. And that’s the problem; action film fans don’t have a fond history, and multiple DVD purchases, surrounding the likes of Ronda Rousey, Kellen Lutz, Victor Ortiz and the gang. Throw in Harrison Ford, because Willis wanted out too much money, and you have a bunch of new faces that don’t inspire genuine nostalgia for a genre that’s changed. Forget about things like a PG-13 rating or a new director; there was nothing

The Expendables 3 died on the table of cinema not because it was leaked beforehand, among other things. It merely was the final bounce of death for the 80s action film, nothing more.

Stuff for General George S. Pimpage, Esq

I reviewed The Heavenly Sword and Blended on Blu-ray, which you can view here and here respectively.

Joe Corey continued his onslaught of classic TV with the 10th season of Gunsmoke.

Mike Noyes tackled Open Grave on DVD.

And now on MMC … we mock the YouTube Fitness Community.

If you want to pimp anything email it to me with a good reason why. It helps to bribe me with stuff, just saying ….

What Looks Good This Weekend, and I Don’t Mean the $2 tall boys of Red Fox and community college co-eds with low standards at the Fox and Hound

Dolphin Tale 2 – Apparently the dolphin needs to get laid now and it’s up to Morgan Freeman to hook a brother up.

Skip it – The first was skippable Disney tripe and I can’t imagine this is anything different.

No Good Deed (2014) – Stringer Bell goes all home invasion crazy.

Skip it – Home invasion films about psychos are always kind of creepy.

The Drop – A bar that houses money that can’t be deposited into a bank gets robbed. Shenanigans ensue.

See it – It’s one of the final films of Tony Gandolfini and has a good buzz to it.

Atlas Shrugged Part III – Ayn Rand’s trilogy that no one has watched, or cared about, comes to fruition.

Skip it – I vastly overrated the first … and the 2nd was cheaper and awful. The third is kind of perfunctory at this point.

Scott “Kubryk” Sawitz brings his trademarked irreverence and offensive hilarity to Twitter in 140 characters or less. Follow him @ScottSawitz .

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