Arnold Schwarzenegger has had an incredible movie career right from when he came in the public eye in 1976 with Stay Hungry, the subsequent fame as Conan, the out-worldly role of Terminator, the multitude of action films that made him a superstar in every sense of the term, until he chose politics as his next career option and became the Governor of California in 2003. In early 2011, the political run came to an end, and Arnie stepped back once more into the world of Hollywood. But times had changed, and a seven-year absence from movies did not help either, though the name of Arnold Schwarzenegger has still remained big worldwide. Nonetheless, Arnie had aged, and a 60-plus tough guy is not the same as the 30-something fellow who first uttered those memorable lines – I’ll be back. As we gear up to see Schwarzenegger back in the role of the Terminator that made him a global star, let’s have a look at his rebooted career so far, post his Governor days.
The Expendables 2 (2012)
Arnie’s notable cameo in The Expendables in 2010 was one of the selling points of the film. It brought on screen, for the first time, the duo of Arnold Schwarzenegger and Sylvester Stallone (and there was Bruce Willis in the room too). When the sequel moved into production, a now “jobless” Arnie had more time on his hands, and so his role as Trench was widened. This one was a wonderful supporting role, part of an ensemble action star-cast, in which Schwarzenegger still shone, and uttered his famous lines for our benefit. The movie was a hit at the box-office, and marked a nice comfortable return for Schwarzenegger into the world of movies.
The Last Stand (2013)
Released in January 2013, The Last Stand was the real test for Arnold Schwarzenegger to gauge his worth as an action star in this changed world of movies which he had left a decade back. He played his age, taking on the role of an old but experienced sheriff who has to battle an escaped leader of a drug cartel. The movie, directed by Kim Jee-woon, was in fact R-rated, which I found to be a bold move that allowed for it to be grittier and the action scenes to be more intense. On a personal level, I enjoyed watching Schwarzenegger’s return, as he took on that large-than-life personality which we are all too familiar with. He mocked his age in the movie (“How are you sheriff?” — “Old”), but he delivered some wonderful action sequences, and gave the villain a hell of a beating. And he commanded your attention in every frame, just like the good old days. The movie failed at the box-office though, earning only $48 million worldwide. Schwarzenegger had to learn the realities of the new age the tough way!
Escape Plan (2013)
Sly and Arnie weren’t done with each other yet! While The Expendables series had a big bunch of actors, which did not make it a Sly-Arnie movie after all, Escape Plan was just that. It was a film to make any lover of the action films of the 80s and 90s get giddy with anticipation. In the movie, Sylvester Stallone, an authority on prisons, ends up inside one, and the fellow who can help him out is, ta da, Arnold Schwarzenegger. It was a decent enough premise that could have worked, but the direction by the Swedish director Mikael Håfström and the screenplay written for the movie faltered in many places. Escape Plan turned out to be nothing more than a B-grade flick, lacking in style and quality, and demeaning the personalities of Arnie and Sly to retirement-worthy old folks rather than action stars. Arnold Schwarzenegger played the character of Emil Rottmayer, and did bring a strong personality, full of confidence. But there was only little he could do to save this film that made only $25 million in North America though did garner another $112 million from overseas. The foreign earnings helped cut down the losses for the $50 million budget film, but the potential of what it could have been was ruined forever.
By this time, I started feeling pity for Arnold Schwarzenegger. It ain’t that he isn’t trying. He’s picking up action movies, characters that he would be able to easily fit his shoes into, with stories that sound interesting when you read the summary section. But when the final product is pieced together, it sort of falls apart. Sabotage was the third film to fail for Schwarzenegger, and you just cannot blame him for this one. He played the leader of an elite DEA task force, John ‘Breacher’ Wharton, a tough bloke with limited emotional outbursts, a character written purely for him. The story was a ‘whodunnit’ tale, meant to be gripping and captivating till the finale. The movie was directed by the talented David Ayer, who got recognized for the excellent war movie Fury that released later in the year. So where did Sabotage go wrong? Everywhere, except for Arnie. The story of the film was a bummer, completely absurd, that makes you feel cheated. The morbid look of the film that was indeed engaging early on turns into senseless drama later with a disappointing finale. The movie tanked heavily at the box-office, with global earnings of slightly less than $18 million against a production budget of $35 million. Critics tore into the film, and the audience stayed away. The revival in his career that Arnold Schwarzenegger had been seeking seemed like a million miles away.
The Expendables 3 (2014)
Now even The Expendables did not work! Sylvester Stallone brought the big gang back for the third edition of the franchise which he had created. With newcomers Wesley Snipes and Antonio Banderas part of the gang, and a small role for Harrison Ford, Arnold Schwarzenegger’s Trench got pushed further in the background. He is there just to be there, like giving your attendance when the names are called out. The movie too was a disappointment, raking in the least box-office earnings in the franchise. It might very well be the end of The Expendables, and the end of Trench.
Arnold Schwarzenegger took on something different with Maggie which had a limited release in the USA only a while back. This one is a horror film, where Schwarzenegger plays the father to a teenage girl who becomes infected by an outbreak of a disease that slowly turns the infected into cannibalistic zombies. Schwarzenegger had been part of a horror film in the past with End of Days in 1999, which was a mini-comeback of sorts then, where he battled the Devil himself. But it’s still a new genre for him, and so full marks for exploring something beyond guns and knives. Directed by Henry Hobson, Maggie is a low budget film that was unlikely to ever get a wide theatrical release. It in fact was available on VOD (Video on Demand) alongwith its limited theatrical release. Nonetheless, the movie earned great reviews for the acting performances of Schwarzenegger and Abigail Breslin, who plays his daughter. As a doting father, this one was a more emotional packed performance by the otherwise tough looking actor. It showed the variety that Arnie can bring in his performances, and even at this late stage in his career, gave us something fresh to enjoy.
The biggest step in the resurgence of Schwarzenegger’s career comes with Terminator Genisys. It’s not only his biggest franchise as an action star, but one of the biggest ones in the sci-fi genre itself. The comeback road has been bumpy so far, with more downhill paths than uphill, but reprising the role of Terminator and subsequently the planned return to the Conan franchise could be the beginning of something better.