Jul 16, 2012

A Fan Experience After Watching EX2! Mild Spoiler Alert!

I attended the EX II advance screening on July 13th at Camp Pendleton. It will go down as one of the greatest theater going experiences of my life.

I got my seat at around 4 pm. A good 2 hours before the premiere. The place was already packed like sardines. At least 800 in attendance. Primed for this action film event. 15 minutes before the film started, Arnold, Couture, Crews, and Lundgren show up. The place was like a rock concert at that point. Cheers, claps, screams, etc were all given at deafening volume. It's an atmosphere that held up throughout most of the film as well.

This crowd was intensely interactive with what was going on in the film, and I can't blame them. It's the best kind of unpretentious crowd pleasing material. A film that makes jokes about itself and simultaneously embraces its roots. This is tongue in cheek about 80s action cinema like Indiana Jones was about serial adventure films from the 30s - 50s. It's not meant to be taken serious, and is all the more fun for it. The original Expendables felt like it was trying to be too serious with its political subtext. I wasn't a big fan of the original. This eschews all of that to streamline the action and laughs.

Anyway, the film opens with what will go down as one of the best action intros of the year. Many limbs are blown off, various types of bombs are shout out & air dropped, and Li delivers a classic HK style beatdown with a pair of frying pans. It's gloriously violent and nonstop for almost 20 minutes. It's all extremely exhilarating, because it is well directed. Something the original lacked, imo.

The film settles back down for 20 minutes to introduce Hemsworth and Church's new agent that keeps an eye on the team. We also get to see the crew is more laid back with each other this time around. More jokes. More camaraderie. No drug substance problems or problems with the family. These guys are having the time of their lives sharing beers and personal jabs with each other.

That is until a particular member is dispatched by Vilain after their mission is hijacked. The film gets a more serious tone for a few minutes, but it goes right back to the type of fun loving men on a mission film we wanted from the first. The team is on revenge mode here on out. From here we get more action sequences. A memorable introduction from Chuck Norris that will have the crowd hurting from laughter. I'm not lying when I say this is the best film Norris has been in, and he's seldom been used better. A majority of the squibs show up in the middle section. One bad guy is memorably dispatched by the entire Expendables crew in a scene that mimics the Robocop malfunction scene of ED-209. It's gratuitously violent, but hilarious (like a majority of the film).

The crew eventually meets up with Vilain at an airport. I won't spoil it, but it's an awesome mix of hand to hand combat and "Commando" style action. Norris mows down enemies with god like consistency. Walking through a torrent of bullets without a scratch. It is, again, hilarious because this is how it was done in the 80s. You can laugh it and still appreciate the giddy cartoonish nature of it. These guys make comic book heroes look like boring philosophical guilt ridden pansies. They relish the action as much as the audience do. Something missing in action cinema today.

The final showdown between Stallone and Van Damme is almost surreal to watch. A clash of titans that we all dreamed about as kids. To see it onscreen is almost like lightning striking the fond memories we have of these legends. They both move gracefully (even at their age). No sign of slowing down. Brute force displayed by both, and no stuntmen or CGI face BS. Real deal mano-e-mano. The film ends on a light hearted note after the mission is over. The team even sings their own hymn for a fallen soldier as they share beers with each other. A manly ending to a manly film. If you're a fan of these legends, you'll certainly be walking out of the cinema with a fat grin on your face. A must-see event for action fans, and a HUGE improvement over the original.