When The Expendables launched in 2010, it capitalized on nostalgia for the intense action films of the 1980s. The sequel seemed to perfect the formula, allowing for bigger action sequences and more screen time for the high-profile cast. The films were both successful and it wasn't long before The Expendables 3 was announced.
Unfortunately, that's where things began to go wrong for the franchise. First off, in an attempt to appeal to wider audiences, the film was rated PG-13. This served to heavily cut off the movies from the fanbase that made its predecessors so successful. The Expendables 3 also suffered from piracy, with the full film being leaked three weeks ahead of release; it went on to be a disappointment, both critically and commercially. However, this wasn't enough to stop Sylvester Stallone, nor his franchise.
According to Variety, The Expendables 4 begins shooting in 2016 and will be released some time in 2017. Despite the film having no director or announced cast, the project will be pushing forward with an estimated budget of over $100 million. That's a big investment, especially considering the disappointing domestic box office for the third film, but there's a good reason for throwing money behind its sequel.
While the film performed poorly domestically, it was very successful when it was released in China a month later. That market is arguably the main reason for a new installment, thanks to a deal between Nu Image/Millenium and producer Steven Paul's SP International Pictures (on behalf of SSXH Bejing and Max Screen Film Distribution). The latter has invested in the film and secured Chinese distribution rights. The nature of the deal also allows for some scenes in the upcoming film to be shot in China.
The same deal was signed for Image/Millenium's other upcoming film Security starring Antonio Banderas (The Mask of Zorro) and Ben Kingsley (Iron Man 3). The twin deals are valued at an excess of $25 million.
Despite the poor reception for The Expendables 3, there's still a chance for the sequel to be successful. Sylvester Stallone, the man who has been spearheading the franchise, has already said that The Expendables 4 will be rated R. The rating misstep has not only been openly acknowledged, but the people behind the film are assuring it won't happen again.
There's also the possibility that the next film will be jumping genres. Expendables 3 director Patrick Hughes put forward the idea of having the team deal with time travel in the sequel. Stallone has also hinted that the franchise might move toward science fiction. It's far from a sure thing, but changing the genre would certainly widen the appeal - and possibly get the franchise back on track.
The Expendables 4 is expected to be released sometime in 2017.