I. Cast & Characters
The Expendables series is renowned for its ensemble cast of action legends, featuring stars such as Sylvester Stallone, Arnold Schwarzenegger, Bruce Willis, and Jason Statham. However, previous films grappled with maintaining a harmonious balance among these colossal stars. A fifth installment's success rests on meticulous casting, ensuring each character possesses a meaningful role within the narrative and an opportunity to shine.
Each member of the Expendables team brings a unique personality and skill set to the table. For the fifth film to succeed, character development must take center stage. Offer the audience deeper insights into these larger-than-life figures, delve into their backgrounds, and forge emotional connections between them. This approach will make the action sequences more impactful and resonate with viewers on a profound level.
Getting Production Rolling ASAP
Timing is of the essence to ensure the success of the fifth Expendables movie. The action stars of the '80s and '90s, who form the backbone of the franchise, are not getting any younger. Thus, it is crucial to kickstart production as soon as possible before age becomes a limiting factor in their ability to perform at their action-hero best.
Bringing Back Arnold and Introducing His Team
Adding Chan, Russel and Seagal
To provide a grand finale to the franchise, the inclusion of Jackie Chan, Kurt Russel, and Steven Seagal is a must. While their roles may be cameo appearances, except for Jackie Chan, who deserves a substantial part due to his global appeal and action prowess, their presence would elevate the movie to new heights.
Minimizing New Blood
To maintain the core appeal of the franchise, the introduction of new talent should be kept to a minimum. A new addition should come from backgrounds with proven action credentials, reminiscent of the approach taken in the first two movies with actors like Scott Adkins, Steve Austin, and Gary Daniels, who would play henchman roles rather than becoming additions to the Expendables team. Someone like Frank Grillo, Alan Ritchson or Joe Manganiello could be a valuable addition as a henchman.
Adding new talent to the Expendables team itself will only make sense if the actor possesses star power that resonates with modern audiences in action movies. While the idea of John Cena or Dwayne Johnson joining the team is enticing, budget constraints and now the bad reputation of the franchise may make such aspirations unrealistic.
Character Sacrifice for Higher Stakes
To heighten the stakes and streamline the cast, the fifth movie could consider a daring move by killing off characters played by Randy Couture or Dolph Lundgren, perhaps at the hands of Arnold's team in the opening sequence. This would trigger a war between the two teams. Not only would this increase the tension, but it would also prevent the film from becoming overcrowded, a pitfall seen in "The Expendables 3."
A remarkable action film is only as potent as its antagonist. The Expendables franchise has showcased memorable villains, such as Jean-Claude Van Damme's Jean Vilain and Mel Gibson's Conrad Stonebanks. To ensure the success of the fifth installment, the antagonist must exude charisma, pose a formidable threat, and harbor a compelling motivation. This combination will yield a more captivating conflict, making the ultimate showdown all the more gratifying.
The following is a wishful list, but if, by any chance, these actors can be persuaded to take part, their presence will elevate the movie:
Keanu Reeves: Known for his versatility and ability to portray both heroic and villainous roles, Keanu Reeves could bring depth and charisma to the antagonist character. His performance in "John Wick" demonstrates his capability in action-packed roles.
Mads Mikkelsen: Mikkelsen's commanding presence and acting prowess make him a strong candidate for a memorable Expendables villain. His roles in films like "Casino Royale", “Indiana Jones 5”, and the TV series "Hannibal" showcase his ability to portray complex and menacing characters.
Idris Elba: Elba's imposing physicality and acting chops would make him a formidable adversary for the Expendables team. He has amply demonstrated his capacity to excel in action-oriented roles and has lately accepted minor roles in Netflix action movies.
Dwayne Johnson would make the perfect villain, and at some point, he expressed interest in joining when the franchise was at its peak. However, his participation at this stage would be nothing short of a miracle.
Incorporating Meaningful Female Characters
In today's cinematic landscape, diversity and the inclusion of robust female characters are essential. However, these additions must be purposeful, featuring authentic female fighters and action actresses. A delicate balance should be maintained so that every character, regardless of gender, has an opportunity for development throughout the movie.
Once again, the following is a wishful list, but these actresses could add depth and a breath of fresh air to the movie. Some of them are also affordable and might be willing to participate in the franchise:
Carrie-Anne Moss: Known for her role as Trinity in "The Matrix" trilogy, Moss is no stranger to iconic action roles. Her experience and familiarity with the genre would be an asset to the film.
Zoe Saldana: With experience in franchises like "Guardians of the Galaxy" and "Avatar," Saldana is well-versed in action and sci-fi genres. Her inclusion would bring both action chops and a fan following.
Michelle Rodriguez: Known for her roles in the "Fast & Furious" franchise, Rodriguez is no stranger to action-packed movies. Her presence would add a level of intensity and authenticity to the action sequences.
Gina Carano: Carano is a former MMA fighter turned actress, known for her roles in "Haywire" and "Deadpool." Her real-life combat skills would make her a convincing and formidable member of the Expendables team.
Katheryn Winnick: Known for her role in the TV series "Vikings," she brings a compelling combination of combat skills, acting talent, and fan appeal that could make her a strong and exciting addition to the Expendables team. Her inclusion could contribute to the franchise's evolution and appeal to a wider audience.
Maggie Q: Known for her roles in action-packed TV series like "Nikita" and films like "Mission: Impossible III," Maggie Q has a strong background in martial arts and could contribute both in terms of action and character depth.
II. Directing, Action & Storyline
An Engaging Storyline
The linchpin of success for the fifth Expendables film hinges on the narrative. While the previous installments thrived on their straightforward, action-centric plots, the time has come to infuse more depth and complexity. Audiences should be emotionally invested in not just the action but also the characters and the overarching story. A gripping storyline could involve personal stakes, moral quandaries, or well-written unexpected plot twists to keep viewers on the edge of their seats.
In the fifth Expendables movie, pitting Arnold Schwarzenegger's team against Sylvester Stallone's, for instance, could inject depth and intrigue into the narrative.
Jason Statham can lead the cast to help alleviate the reliance on the aging action legends, with Arnold and Sly in significant supporting roles that enrich the story.
Creative Action Sequences
While the first 2 films delivered on their promise of high-octane action, the fifth movie must raise the bar even higher. Audiences anticipate mind-boggling stunts, innovative combat sequences, and intense firepower. Learning from the standout moments of previous films, like the opening scene in "The Expendables 2" and the thrilling train sequence in "The Expendables 3," the fifth installment should continue to push the boundaries of action filmmaking, ensuring it remains fresh and exhilarating.
Reducing CGI and Re-embracing Classic Action
A return to the style of the earlier films, featuring practical effects and cleaner action sequences, should be a priority. Minimizing the use of CGI and shaky camera techniques will restore the action to its roots, mirroring the more successful approach of "The Expendables 2," directed by Simon West.
Hiring a Visionary Director
The selection of a director with a strong vision, even if from the direct-to-video universe, is pivotal. The director should be capable of making the movie stand out by seamlessly blending nostalgia with fresh elements while maintaining the signature style of the Expendables.
If, by some miracle, the producers manage to secure a renowned director, one of the following individuals could potentially steer the franchise back on track:
Chad Stahelski: Stahelski is renowned for his work on the "John Wick" series, which has set a new standard for modern action filmmaking. His experience with intricate action choreography and stylized visuals could bring a fresh and exciting perspective to the Expendables franchise.
David Leitch: Leitch, a collaborator with Stahelski on "John Wick," also directed "Atomic Blonde" and "Deadpool 2." His knack for blending action and humor could inject new energy into the series.
Gareth Evans: Evans, known for "The Raid" series, is a master of martial arts action. His gritty and visceral style could bring a unique flavor to the Expendables.
Matthew Vaughn: Vaughn directed "Kick-Ass" and "Kingsman: The Secret Service," both of which featured innovative action sequences. His creative approach to action filmmaking could be a fresh addition.
Martin Campbell: Campbell has directed James Bond films like "GoldenEye" and "Casino Royale." His experience in handling iconic characters and action-packed narratives could be an asset.
If budget constraints remain a concern, there are more affordable directors who could perform adequately, such as Isaac Florentine, Jesse V. Johnson, and Renny Harlin.
One of the franchise's enduring strengths lies in its ability to pay homage to the action films of yesteryears. The fifth Expendables movie should remain true to this tradition, incorporating nostalgic callbacks to classic action moments and iconic one-liners from the stars' previous works. These moments not only delight long-time fans but also introduce younger audiences to the rich cinematic history of action heroes.
A Grand Farewell
As much as fans crave the sight of their iconic action stars in full throttle, the fifth Expendables film should acknowledge the reality of aging. Crafting a storyline that provides a fitting and respectful farewell to some characters could prove to be a poignant and emotionally charged element, elevating the film beyond mere spectacle.
If this indeed marks the final chapter for legends like Sylvester Stallone or Arnold Schwarzenegger, contemplating a poignant farewell, perhaps through the passing of one of these iconic characters at the film's conclusion, could deliver a highly emotional and grandiose finale to the franchise.
The success of the fifth Expendables movie if it ever gets made, hinges on striking a harmonious balance between nostalgia and innovation, paying tribute to the past while embracing the future. By implementing these recommendations, the film has the potential to stand as the ultimate homage to action cinema while bidding a fitting adieu to its legendary cast. Despite the debacle of the fourth movie, The Expendables franchise can still hold the promise of a triumphant return with a fifth installment that builds upon past strengths and rectifies prior weaknesses, offering an adrenaline-pumping yet substantial and emotionally resonant cinematic experience.