I am intrigued by the idea that people genuinely want to see more action movies starring Arnold Schwarzenegger.
Look, as much as anyone, I am a first-generation fan of the guy as an action icon. I was so determined to see “Conan The Barbarian” in the theater when I was 12 that I spent months campaigning my parents, eventually getting them to agree to take me and all my friends to see it as part of my birthday party that year. When “The Terminator” came out in ’84, my friend’s older brother worked at a local theater and would let us in for free, which led to me seeing the film in the theater something like 30 times. There are many films he starred in, including a high percentage that happen to have been directed by James Cameron, that I enjoy. But as a first-generation fan, I also remember the unmitigated garbage that makes up much of his filmography, and I would hardly call him the king of good decisions. His presence in a movie does not automatically render that movie amazing. And we are now at least a decade past the point where I realistically see him as an action lead, especially after he just spent a stretch of time working his office gig.
Still, I understand that nostalgia is king for my generation and even more so for the film fans a decade or so younger than me. Anything that reminds them of their childhood is indulged to the point of being creepy. When I see people debating the merits of a “Thundercats” reboot, it is obvious that quality has nothing to do with this disturbing fetishization of anything that was part of their formative years. And there must be some sort of near-Pavlovian comfort that they hope to get from the return of Arnold Schwarzenegger to action roles, no matter how old he is.
In Monday’s edition of The Morning Read, I openly mocked that awful, awful, awful “Governator” trailer, and there is nothing anyone is going to say to convince me that is anything but a mistake. It is the worst kind of cynical, and if that’s what we’ve got to look forward to from Arnold Schwarzenegger now that he’s back in business, then I wish he’d retire. I keep hearing reports that he’s getting serious about getting back into the “Terminator” franchise in some way, and that strikes me as equally calculating and pointless.
I would do my best to tune out his post-Governor career and just leave you to your nostalgic wallowing, except for the rumor that he may be stepping in to star in “Last Stand,” which is the first English-language film for Kim Jee-Woon, one of my favorite working filmmakers. And with a movie that’s not an adaptation or a sequel or a comic book? That sounds like a step in the right direction for Schwarzenegger, and it gives me hope that this next step of his career won’t just be a giant ’80s nostalgia wank.
What is “Last Stand”? Well, according to /Film, it’s a movie about “a sheriff near the U.S. border tasked with stopping a Mexican drug cartel leader from speeding home at 200 MPH.” And in an interview with Coming Soon, back when Liam Neeson was still onboard to play the lead, Kim Jee-woon described the film like this:
“My concept for ‘The Last Stand’ is that it’s kind of a combination of ‘Die Hard’ and ‘High Noon’ where (the latter) was about protecting something very important that needs to be protected, while ‘Die Hard’ is a very drawn-out, long process that almost kills someone in the process, so my film will be something that has to be very well protected and in the process, we almost die protecting it in a way.”
“So if ‘I Saw the Devil’ was about a person’s extreme remorse about having lost something that they couldn’t protect,” he continued, “‘The Last Stand’ would be where someone puts their lives on the line to protect something that’s very important and it will be a bit more optimistic film in that regard.”
The basic premise is interesting and the filmmaker couldn’t be more promising, so now the big question is will Arnold really do it? He’s taking meetings on a number of projects, and his CAA team is determined to make a big announcement soon. Still, /Film seems to think this is the one that’s going to happen first according to their sources. If so, then I have to give him credit for choosing a strong collaborator and not just relying on nostalgia. If his character is written to be age-appropriate, this could be a lovely evolution of the persona he used to play in his action films, and I’m interested in that.
What I don’t really want is for him to just return to familiar ground and to pump out more of the same. A “Running Man” remake… a “Terminator” sequel… even another “True Lies”… those all sound dire to me. I am already at the absolute breaking point with this infantile obsession with the things of the past, and I think an Arnold Greatest Hits tour through past successes would be insufferable.
Fingers crossed for “Last Stand” to turn out to be something special, and for Arnold to realize that moving forward is the answer, not looking back, no matter how much his fans demand it.