The Reason Why a Schwarzenegger-less Reboot Never Works

   After returning home from a screening of the newly rebooted Conan the Barbarian I sat down to write a review for my column and realized, that I was absolutely indifferent to the film. While the picture was playing I enjoyed it, but the minute I left the theater a faint sadness drifted over me. I’d been sucked in to watching a sub-par ‘re-imagining’ of one of my favorite films. It reminded me of the same feeling I had upon exiting the theater from Predators last summer. To be fair, this current ‘reboot’ is far superior to the absurd Predators. It’s probably the best sequel to the original film. However Jason Momoa like Adrian Brody and Laurence Fishburne are no Schwarzenegger and Carl Weathers. I know Brody is an Oscar winner, and he’s serviceable in the role. Momoa has loads of charisma and is fantastic in HBO’s Game of Thrones yet the comparison to the original Conan is too great to overcome. C’mon, whats next? Taylor Lautner in a Top Gun reboot; or Channing Tatumn headlining a ‘re-imagining’ of Rocky? The fact of the matter is that the concepts weren’t the ‘draw’; it was Schwarzenegger. The genius behind the original Predator is that an Alien is the only being in the universe who could possibly match up against Arnold. You can not remake an ‘Arnold’ film, without Schwarzengegger. Lets go back to May 2009 when all this started.

   First there was the wholly unnecessary and ultimately boring Terminator 4. Starring a pre-Avatar Sam Worthington and Christan Bale in full ‘Batman’ growl mode. Nothing made sense in this flick because it was a lame attempt by the producers and Warner Bros. to squeeze the series for whatever commercial value was left. Despite the convoluted plot and Transformer-esque new Terminators, the movie lacked a critical part of what gave the series its center; the presence of Arnold Schwarzenegger.

   I’ll be the first to admit that T-3 was the weakest in the series up to that point. However when compared to the mess of ‘T-4’, Jonhathan Mostow’s take is much closer in tone and humor to the first two pictures that James Cameron helmed 15-20 years earlier. While the series should have ended there; writer Michael Branco stretched out an origin tale sequel-reboot-prequel. It’s as confusing as it sounds! The worst thing is that Schwarzenegger, whom by now was in his second term as California Governor; was relegated to a laughably bad CGI ‘cameo’ sequence. It says a lot about how the ‘Austrian Oak’ felt about T-4, by appearing in a glorified cameo in The Expendables yet not participating in the role he is most recognized for. Whatever the reason for his absence Salvation was an empty and forgettable experience.

   It’s difficult to remember now in a post 9/11 era and with Schwarzenegger having been in office for 8 years and the recent scandals, just how big of a star he was in the 80’s and 90’s. When T-2 was released in the summer of 1991, it cemented Arnold as the biggest box office draw in the world. He was paid not in dollars, but in the form of a gulf-stream air-jet. The kind of star treatment that accompanies headlining the first film to break the $500 million worldwide mark. However by the time T-3 was released 12 years later his star had faded considerably, having not marshaled a film past the $100 million mark since 1996’s Eraser. His previous pictures had preformed poorly and Schwarzenegger felt it was time to leave the action to the younger stars emerging at the time; even filming a ‘cameo’ passing of the torch so to speak to Dwayne Johnson in 2003’s The Rundown. Arnold used the promotional circuit to announce his decision to run for Governor and was subsequently elected in late 2003.

   There are currently three ‘Schwarzenegger’ film reboots in various stages of development and production. At the time of this writing Commando, Total Recall and Conan are being retrofitted for a new era of audiences. Recall is almost assuredly to be presented in ‘3-D’. Commando is in initial script development with no lead attached and Conan is set to be released this weekend. There were years of rumored interest surrounding Schwarzenegger in a King Conan film; exploring the barbarian’s exploits as ruler, this unfortunately never materialized. Instead we are being served a rebooted Conan with a new lead and no connection to the previous films. Even if the producers of this new Conan use the murky 3D illusion it still won’t make the things on screen any larger than the man who originally occupied that title role.

9 thoughts on “The Reason Why a Schwarzenegger-less Reboot Never Works

  1. I liked Predators although Predator is still my favorite. The biggest problem I had with Predators was that it was a story that I had seen in every other “predator” movie. Repetition eventually saturates the appetite of the audience.

  2. the numbers don’t lie predator(1988) total gross was $98,267,558 while predators(2010) was 126,759,204. The script was weak I admit that, but you gotta give Adrian Brody props as Royce he did a convincing job, my biggest disappointment was Lawrence Fishburn his onscreen time was weak and pathetic, far too short, you do not do this to the guy that played Morpheus. It was still fun, but easily forgettable, but fun. Rodriguez probably used the same writing staff he used for Spy kids that’s why it was so weak.

    1. Predator came out in 87 not 88. You’re also comparing unadjusted worldwide grosses for movies that are over 30 years apart in release dates. It’s not possible to accurately adjust those numbers, but if we adjust and compare just the domestic you can see the clear winner.

      Predator – $121M adjusted domestic
      Predators – $52M domestic

      So domestic wise Predator made as much as Predators did worldwide.

  3. While Arnold may have been responsible for the box office success of Predator, it is the rest of the cast that made it a great film.

    The use of muscled up guys with big personalities such as Ventura was key to making it work as ensemble piece. You had one guy in there for his acting chops (Bill Duke) but the rest were more ‘personalities’ than actors.

    The failure of Predators to even hold a candle to the original is seen in the casting of Adrian Brody. The film didn’t need any oscar winners but a new bunch of roided up action heroes. Looking at the sucess of the Expendables I can only think of what Predators might have been with a cast like that. Instead we got a bunch of instantly forgetable characters or weak comic relief parts such as whoever Topher Grace played.

    I would have expected better from the script of Rodriguez too. Casting and direction aside, it was the script that set the tone for this mediocre fare.

  4. The major difference between Conan and the likes of Predators, Terminator and Commando is that Conan was a pre-existing property long before Schwarzenegger was even born. Thus, although Schwarzenegger is thus far the only person to play a cinematic Conan, it shouldn’t be counted on the same terms as those remakes.

    Being (ostensibly) a new adaptation of the original character, the only thing a new Conan has to live up to is the source material by Robert E. Howard. Much in the same way Heath Ledger’s Joker didn’t owe anything to Nicholson’s, or Robert Downey Jr’s Sherlock Holmes didn’t owe anything to Rathbone’s, Momoa’s Conan doesn’t need to measure up to Arnold – just the original character. Unfortunately, the film has much bigger problems going for it than Momoa: the director, script, production company, most of the actors save Lang & Perlman vary from mediocre to atrocious.

    Finally, regardless of whether it convinces you or not, the character of Conan is larger than the man who originally played him. He was around for 50 years before Conan the Barbarian, and the original stories are still in print after all the works by later authors have faded out of print, even being collected in Penguin Modern Classics – not even Tolkien can boast that honour. There are new comics, video games, RPGs, board games, audio books, statues, and action figures – none of which are relying on the Schwarzenegger likeness.

    Conan the Barbarian was a great film, don’t get me wrong, but Conan has a life beyond it, and any new film shouldn’t have to compare itself to it. He is one character who is, in fact, larger than the man who originally played him.

    1. Regardless of the fact that Conan existed before the films, the idea of Schwarzenegger embodying the character and becoming the “Conan” in someone’s mind makes sense. After all everyone has a favorite James Bond that all other Bonds pale in comparison to.

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