Monday Morning Quarterback Part II
By BOP Staff
April 2, 2014
Kim Hollis: Sabotage, another one of Arnold Schwarzenegger's attempts at being relevant in the action genre, earned just $5.3 million this weekend. What's the problem here?
Edwin Davies: The problem is that Arnold stopped appearing in action films at exactly the right time in his career, then returned to them at exactly the wrong time. When he went into politics, his appeal as a leading man was already on the wane. After enjoying a really stellar run from the late '80s through to the mid-'90s, he appeared in disappointments/flops like End of Days, The 6th Day, Jingle All The Way, and the career-and-rhyme ruining likes of Batman and Robin and Collateral Damage. Even though Terminator 3, which was his last non-cameo role before becoming Governor of California, took $150 million, it still cost $200 million and sold only about half as many tickets as Terminator 2, so even his swan song was a bit of a mixed blessing. He could still draw crowds when in a known property, but his days as someone who could draw huge crowds to an original movie were pretty much numbered, and bowing out with a film that opened at number one at the box office seemed like a good note to go out on.
Then politics didn't really work out for him, so he had to return to what he knew how to do. Even though he was only away from action films for less than a decade, that's a long time in Hollywood, and the audience largely moved on to a younger generation of action stars. It's reached the point where many younger fans probably know him more for being a tabloid fixture and largely ineffectual politician who used to be in films, rather than a genuine movie star. Considering that the biggest films he's been in since un-retirement have been The Expendables and its sequel, a series whose appeal is based pretty much solely on Gen X nostalgia, I'd say that he doesn't really mean anything to audiences now, and the one he used to mean something to isn't interested in seeing Arnie as an old man doing what he used to do in his prime because it all looks so embarrassing. It doesn't help that he's come back with projects like Sabotage, which look kind of bland and uninteresting.
The crucial mistake that Arnie made, other than leaving action films in the first place, was trying to return with original, or at least unknown, properties. If you compare his return to Stallone's marginally more successful comeback, you can see that Sly reintroduced himself by starring in sequels to Rocky and Rambo, two of his biggest franchises, and even though he's stalled in the same way that his fellow Planet Hollywood founder has, he was at least able to make a splash by reminding people what he did so well. The announcement that he will somehow figure into the forthcoming Terminator sequel/reboot suggests that Arnie has learned that his best chance to have a success is to basically play the hits, but even that has its limits. He needs to figure out a new role for himself, since people clearly aren't interested in his old schtick anymore.