The Path Mercifully Not Taken with The Expendables (2010)


The Expendables proved to be the big sleeper hit of 2010. Even with the combined appearances of Sylvester Stallone, Arnold Schwarzenegger, Bruce Willis, and more, few thought The Expendables had a chance at the box office. Fans of the franchise may be shocked to discover the original plan for the first film involved dumping straight to DVD.

Stallone was able to save the day and secure a theatrical release by convincing Willis and Schwarzenegger to sign on for cameos. Signing the legendary 1980’s stars was enough for the studio to release the film in theaters. Honestly, while the presence of Jason Statham, Dolph Lundgren, and Jet Li made the film intriguing, the appearance of Willis and Schwarzenegger alongside Stallone comprised the bulk of the film’s marketing campaign.

The Expendables typifies the up-and-down career Sylvester Stallone experienced over the past two decades. A series of cinematic flops ended his run as a top box office star. His television series The Contender did poorly in the ratings. Stallone’s career seemed headed down the path of home entertainment action movies and cameos on TV. The success of both Rocky Balboa (2006) and Rambo (2008) did show Stallone could still draw fans to theaters. Could he do so in a new role people weren’t familiar? That question mark led distributors to worry about spending money releasing The Expendables as big-budget theatrical production.

Fans of 1980’s action movies did turn out to buy tickets for The Expendables and its sequel. With the third film in the series, box office disaster occurred. Too much tinkering undermined the series. Fans wanted to see the 1980’s reimagined on the screen. They didn’t want to an action film revamped to appeal to kids.

Despite a series of roadblocks, a fourth Expendables movie remains a “go project.” Sylvester Stallone walked from the series, but now has returned. Stallone desire to return seems shocking considering he recently announced a new Rambo movie while also founding a production company. At an age when most big stars happily retire, Stallone seems more interested in happily working harder than ever. Remember, he’s also actively involved in the Creed films.

Would things have worked out differently had The Expendables gone straight to DVD? No one knows the real answer since so much speculation is required. That said, Stallone’s career certainly benefited from a movie series that earned hundreds of millions of dollars worldwide.


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