So you have this old friend who tells you a new story involving people from your youth. This story plays on nostalgia and features plenty of old faces in familiar situations. By the end of the story, you smile. You’ve enjoyed yourself perhaps a little more than you would have because of the nostalgia value. The story presented, after all, wasn’t all that earth-shattering or, to be blunt, particularly good.
But the nostalgia had you.
That’s the way I felt about the first Expendables film released back in 2010. It wasn’t a great film, in fact I felt that the almost concurrently released The Losers featured roughly the same concept (a motley group of modern warriors) but, in fact, had an overall slightly better story. Still, I enjoyed The Expendables more because, again, of the nostalgia. I loved seeing Sylvester Stallone, Bruce Willis, and Arnold Schwarzenegger share the screen together, even if their collaboration in the film amounted to about five minutes of movie time, if that.
With the success of The Expendables, a sequel was a natural, and this time around a greater effort was made to show more of what the audience demanded. Thus, instead of a few minute cameo, Bruce Willis and Arnold Schwarzenegger share considerable more screen time (and actually fire weapons!) in The Expendables 2. And if that wasn’t enough, the movie increased your ’80’s action stars quotient by adding Chuck Norris and Jean-Claude Van Damme (effectively menacing as the movie’s villain, a character named…Vilain) to the mix.
It didn’t work as well for me. Despite the fact that I feel The Expendables 2 is an overall better movie than the first Expendables, that nostalgic feeling I had has since dissipated and I’m left focusing more on the film before me rather than the thrill of seeing all these older actors together.
And, frankly, the film only worked in spurts. The opening was pretty good, if a little too (CGI) gory. Then we get a long slow buildup to the main story and…well…there’s not much there there. Something about plutonium buried away and forgotten and the villain trying to get it out in a hurry (no real explanation for why) which leads to the heroes chasing said villain until a final, bloody, confrontation. It all plays out like a video game, with the bad guys having a near army of red shirts ready to bite the dust with no real repercussions felt (bad guys, after all, have no family or friends!).
The Expendables 2 is a mediocre action film, alas, a return trip that may charm (if that’s the right word!) those who still have those feelings of nostalgia for the heroes of the ’80’s. Others may have less patience.