The Expendables 3 unites the retro action stars of previous installments – Sylvester Stallone, Arnold Schwarzenegger, Dolph Lundgren, and so on – with such fellow old-timers as Wesley Snipes, Mel Gibson, Harrison Ford, and Antonio Banderas. However, in a self-admitted bid to keep up with the times – an age where younger, finely-chiseled, superheroes dominate the big screen – this new Expendables installment will be rated PG-13, according to co-writer/lead Stallone. This comes after Stallone and Schwarzenegger’s recent non-Expendables vehicles (Bullet to the Head, Grudge Match, Sabotage) were by and large ignored at the box office, while their team-up Escape Plan was an overseas hit, yet all but flopped here in the States.
The simple truth is that neither of them are big draws for their name alone anymore – though, it’s a different story when brand appeal comes into play. The first two Expendables movies were pretty lucrative, having grossed more than half a billion worldwide combined. Expendables 3, as mentioned before, incorporates even more big screen badasses into the mix, in addition to such youngsters as real-life fighting champs Ronda Rousey and Victor Ortiz – who could potentially broaden the franchise’s appeal even further.
While promoting this next Expendables installment at the 2014 Cannes Film Festival (via Deadline), Stallone explained how the decision to go PG-13 was based on the same logic:
“We want to reach as many people as possible. It’s very close to an R, believe me, it’s right there. But I think we owe it to the next generation. We thought we’d join that club for a while.”
You might recall that, two years ago, there was some back and forth in public, where it concerned the rating for Expendables 2; that was before the film ultimately landed an R for graphic violence – not bad language, per costar Chuck Norris’ wishes. Make of that what you will.
In truth, by today’s standards, the Expendables sequel – and, to a lesser degree, its predecessor – was close to PG-13 anyway. It was the bloodshed (which, in no small amount, was digitally-rendered) that pushed that movie beyond the gunfire and killings in stuff like the Dark Knight trilogy and recent James Bond films. Having said that, there was previously reason to think that Expendables 3 might up the ante, in terms of the rawness of the action. After all, the film was co-written by Katrin Benedikt and Creighton Rothenberger, who also penned the violent (with the occasional brutal piece of killing) throwback action/thriller Olympus Has Fallen; not to mention, the director this round was Patrick Hughes, who broke out making the R-Rated neo-Western Red Hill, back in 2010.
Stallone commented on the tone for Expendables 3, during his (and his costars’) Cannes visit:
“With the first one, I didn’t know which direction to go. It was experimental, more dramatic and heavier. In the second one, I think we went too far in the comedy and one liners. [For the third film] I realized we should get back to being more dramatic. When men and women know each other, there’s a kind of human comedy, not jokes, but when the action starts I don’t like to do jokes. So, I believe we finally got it right on the third one. It’s kind of like marriage.”
Expendables 3, it seems, will be lighter on the cheekiness than its predecessor, which at times boarded on being a really violent Hot Shots! film, more than anything (case in point: it featured Chuck Norris making a Chuck Norris joke and Bruce Willis stealing Arnold’s classic one-liner) – though, this next installment may not be quite as po-faced as the original Expendables, either.
There’s something a tad ironic about how, in an age where rebooted properties such as Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles are going darker than past live-action installments, the veterans of gung ho 1980s and ’90s shoot-em-up cinema are going relatively “softer” than before. C’est la vie, it seems.
The Expendables 3 opens in U.S. theaters on August 15th, 2014.