Monday Morning Quarterback
By BOP Staff
August 19, 2014
Kim Hollis: The Expendables 3 crashed and burned this weekend as it debuted with $15.9 million. An early copy was leaked online. Do you think that is the reason for its poor performance or is there something else at play?
Brett Ballard-Beach: I don't give much credence to any significant impact that the pirating might have had. The franchise had slipped a lot between 1 and 2 and all the added stars in the aging action world weren't going to reverse that trend here, particularly with a PG-13 rating, which renders all that machismo "impotent,” particularly since the ridiculously over the top limb snapping and gore popping accounted for much of what the first two films had in the way to recommend them.
Bruce Hall: I'm sure it had some effect, but I don't know that there's any way to definitively quantify how much. More germane to this disaster is the fact that this style of action flick has seen its day. The first Expendables was an amusing novelty (an over the top, R-rated action film starring box office macho men 20 years out of their prime?) that surprised everyone with its success, particularly overseas.
And it’s that overseas performance that continues to drive the franchise forward. The sequel boasted a higher budget but suffered domestically as American audiences seemed to tire of watching elderly action stars mug their way through an utterly impotent script. But internationally, the movie destroyed.
But even that trend may be in danger now, with a $15 million overseas debut for Expendables 3. Still, when all is said and done, the movie stands a good chance of being profitable. I wouldn't rule out the possibility of more sequels, so if this bothers you, I suggest going off the grid now. Word is, Stallone's next project is Rambo 5. I doubt you'll want to be around for that.
Edwin Davies: The leak probably had an impact, and I imagine the studio will try to pin this failure solely on piracy rather than the series' rapid decline from film, but at most it merely accentuated a failure that probably would have happened anyway. (Some reports I read prior to the weekend claimed that most of the downloads were from people outside of America, so if it had an impact it might be more noticeable in the international numbers than in the domestic ones.) In any case, I think that the problems were much deeper rooted than piracy.
The first Expendables did good business but wasn't a very good film, a fact that was reflected in the weaker performance of its even worse sequel. That compounded the disappointment and disinterest of the people who showed up the first time, and greatly reduced the number of people who would bother to show up for the third go-round, especially once it was announced that the film would be PG-13, effectively removing the gratuitous violence that had been the appeal of the previous films. Rather than broadening the audience - how many 13-year-olds care who Sylvester Stallone is anyway? - it shrank it. Everyone involved in this boondoggle burned the audience twice already, then decided to thumb their nose at them for good measure. Turns out that is not a terribly good strategy.
It remains to be seen whether audiences overseas are as bored with the The Expendables as America is, but I think the best case scenario here is that the international numbers cover the loss. Still, I'd be surprised if they're strong enough to justify a fourth film in a series whose appeal is waning as its cast is growing. Then again, this has been an incredibly weird summer, so we'll have to wait and see.