The Expendables 3 was a bit of a failure for Lionsgate. It had an abysmal opening weekend at the box office while battling against piracy after a screener for the film leaked online a few weeks pre-release. On top of poor reviews and mixed (at best) fan reception, the three-quel's worldwide haul was a hundred million less than The Expendables 2. And that's despite blowing out the already-massive cast and dropping the R-rating of its predecessors in attempt to appeal to a wider market.
Some blamed the online leak for the film's poor box office performance, but you might remember me lambasting that idea after the film opened, blaming mediocrity as the real villain against The Expendables 3's success. The PG-13 rating and odd choice to focus on young, fresh faces directly went against everything the franchise stood for. Throw in unimpressive action sequences and this film, as I explained, didn't have much going for it. The weak marketing didn't help either, and unfortunately for everyone, the casting additions of Antonio Banderas, Kelsey Grammer, Mel Gibson, and Wesley Snipes - despite being highlights of the film - couldn't save the project or expand the audience.
The good news is that Sylvester Stallone, the man spearheading the series, is paying attention and isn't planning on making the same mistakes again. Speaking with Crave Online to promote the November 25th home video release of The Expendables 3, Stallone emphatically stated that The Expendables 4 and other future Expendables installments will be R-rated when they hit theaters not not just on "unrated" home DVD/Blu-ray cuts.
"Absolutely unequivocally yes. I believe it was a horrible miscalculation on everyone’s part in trying to reach a wider audience, but in doing such, diminish the violence that the audience expects. I’m quite certain it won’t happen again."
So, things will be different in the next installment, potentially very different. And yes, there of course will be another installment. You might remember a few years back, us reporting on a more sci-fi themed fifth entry in the Rambo series. Stallone has long had the film rights to the novel "Hunter" by author James Byron Huggins and it seemed he was going to be adapting it into Rambo V: The Savage Hunt. That didn't go anywhere (yet) but a few years later, when The Expendables 2 was about to hit theaters, Stallone hinted that they could do something "ambitious" and enter another genre, possibly sci-fi, with the third entry.
That didn't happen and Stallone's plans for a Hunter adaptation remain unrealized. Given that the current direction of The Expendables is one that's not working, we're thinking they should do something crazy with The Expendabels 4. Stallone is thinking that too. After hinting that Expendables 4 could see some of the main characters die, he responded to director Patrick Hughes' idea of having the team time-travel.
"I have actually entertained the idea of putting the group into such an unnatural environment that it, in an of itself, creates extra suspense and tension: the 'fish out of water' scenario. That environment might not be time travel, but nearly just as jarring."
Time-travel? Alien world? Both of these plot points sound more interesting (and more marketable) than what they did with The Expendables 3. Go for it, Sly, as long as the next one gets the action right. John Wick did everything better.
Follow Rob on Twitter @rob_keyes.