Sylvester Stallone’s career has been defined by comebacks, following up high-profile duds with major hits consistently enough to make him one of Hollywood’s most prominent survivors. While critics and awards voters pegged last year’s Creed as his most recent return to respectability, in the meantime Stallone has kept busy developing plans for The Expendables; an action franchise built around uniting fellow over-the-hill 1980s and ’90s action stars onscreen.
Created in 2010 by Stallone, who wrote and directed the first installment, The Expendables series follows a team of mercenaries who are continually drawn into dangerous conflicts while carrying out covert paramilitary operations around the world; with Stallone himself, Jason Statham, Terry Crews, Randy Couture, Dolph Lundgren and Jet Li making up the core team. While the film was a box office success, some fans criticized it for an advertising campaign that framed Arnold Schwarzenegger and Bruce Willis as playing major roles in the film when they only made cameos.
All things must come to an end and now we have word that The Expendables 4 will be the final piece of the series. Casually dropped in a post from THR about the prospective sequel’s German-language distribution rights being secured comes the first official word that Expendables 4 is being positioned as the “final” film in the popular series. Why the move had been widely anticipated, those behind the film (which is still taking pre-production shape) had not previously confirmed that there were not plans to continue into a fifth installment or any prospective spin-off.
Expendables 2 beefed up the screentime for Willis and Schwarzenegger, while also bringing fellow onetime action stars Jean Claude Van Damme and Chuck Norris into the fold to further positive reception among vintage action fans. A third installment added Antonio Banderas and Mel Gibson to the roster, but opted to focus on Stallone’s character leading a new team of younger heroes – with the older actors mainly appearing in supporting roles.
No official cast, premise or start-date has been set for the fourth Expendables yet. The series has not typically followed a rigid continuity, and has mainly aimed to keep the regular cast returning for more sequels. The third film closed with the implication of the older and younger teams uniting for future exploits, but no immediate setup for a sequel was proposed and the film underperformed. It is unknown whether or not Stallone will return for writing and/or directing duties, in addition to being part of the casts in The Expendables 4.
The Expendables 4 is tentatively set to arrive sometime in 2018.