I am watching The Expendables. It is fascinating.

May 22, 2011 § Leave a comment

This movie is unrelenting in its drive to be enjoyable. But it’s not cloying. It works towards its aim by carefully controlling information to suit audiences in a variety of contexts.

Let me tell you what I’m seeing.

*Each shot is clear, high in contrast, and contains just one important piece of information. This movie was shot to be shown on airplane seat backs. You do not need a large screen to enjoy The Expendables.

*Also, each shot appears to have been composed to be easily panned-and-scanned. So while it looks good in widescreen, there isn’t so much information distributed across the screen at any time that it can’t be chopped down by a third.

*Audiences worldwide know Stallone, Statham, and Jet Li; and cameos by Schwarzenegger and Bruce Willis don’t hurt. You do not need to learn new faces to enjoy The Expendables.

*Irony exists in only one scene (the Willis/Schwarzenegger cameo) but it reaches no further than the careers of the film’s biggest international stars. None of the humor is idiomatic. Only a few scenes between Statham and Stallone have any nuance in tone or delivery. The result is that the whole movie is easily translatable. It would even work well in markets where dubbing is done by one actor for a whole film. You do not need to speak English to enjoy The Expendables.

*The “dirty CIA” plot plays to American conservative values to the extent it needs to as an action movie, but the film comes up well short of flag-waving. You do not need to love America to enjoy The Expendables. And even if you hate America it’s not so bad.

*At a running time of 103 minutes, you don’t need to have more than a couple of hours to kill to enjoy The Expendables.

This is a film that’s fit to be sold into every distribution channel you can imagine. Which means The Expendables doesn’t give a good goddamn if you enjoy it. The producers made their return before this thing hit theatres.


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