Apr 3 2014, 3:23pm CDT | by Forbes
If you thought the trailer dump was over with the end of CinemaCon and the international debut of Captain America: The Winter Soldier, well, Lionsgate doesn’t care about overseas debuts of movies with the word “America” in the title. As such, here is the first real look at The Expendables 3 via Yahoo Movies, which was preceded yesterday by sixteen pretty amusing character posters. Via this “roll call” teaser (pardon the French embed, I’ll replace it with an English one when it becomes available) and the character posters (which you can see at the end of this post), Lionsgate is clearly and efficiently selling what its obviously its key asset. The sequel has a boatload of major stars, and the “roll call” marketing scheme is basically just to highlight the expanding cast.
The ongoing Expendables franchise is the prime example of what I would call an “added value element” franchise. Regular readers will notice that I talk a lot about “added value elements” when it comes to sequels to ongoing franchise properties. In other words, in terms in marketing and creating pre-release interest, it behooves you to have something new or unique to sell as opposed to instead of merely having to say “It’s the same… but more!”
Alvin and the Chipmunks: The Squeakquel didn’t just have the return of Alvin and his buddies, but also the live-action debut of the Chipettes. And obviously The Dark Knight didn’t just sell itself as “Batman Begins 2“, but as that film where Heath Ledger plays the Joker. Sometimes an added-value element is a major actor or movie star playing an iconic character. But sometimes it’s something as seemingly obvious as bringing back original cast members, as was the case in 2009 with Fast & Furious.
An added value element isn’t always required, witness the success of the original Bourne trilogy which was just Matt Damon doing that thing he does three times in a row to ever-larger box office returns. And it’s usually not required when adapting a novel series which has little choice but to stick to the source material. An added-value element can help shake off franchise fatigue, which is why Transformers: Age of Extinction will be featuring Dinobots.
It can also help rebuild excitement if the previous installment wasn’t that successful (Saw VI was followed by Saw 3D) or if audiences weren’t super crazy about the last installment. The latter is why the next Superman sequel is basically Added Value Elements: The Movie with (deep breath now) Ben Affleck as Batman, Gal Gadot as Wonder Woman, Jesse Eisenberg as Lex Luthor and Jeremy Irons as Alfred Pennyworth. All of this brings us to the Expendables franchise. Each installment is basically nothing but “added value element” casting.
The Expendables, released in August of 2010 to a $35 million debut weekend, was based heavily on the nostalgic idea of seeing all of your favorite action heroes in one film, except that writer/director Sylvester Stallone was the only old-school action star to be prominently featured (Arnold and Bruce shared a cameo). Thus, the big sell for Expendables 2 back in August 2012 was basically “Here’s what we promised you last time”, with major roles for Arnold Schwarzenegger, Bruce Willis, and Jean-Claude Van Damme, plus a cameo for Chuck Norris.
Now we have Expendables 3, which is selling itself not based on the esteemed reputation of the prior two installments (neither of them are that good) or even their reputation as stalwart action films (nope), but rather based on who came to play this time. And the big “gets” this time are Harrison Ford, Antonio Banderas, Wesley Snipes, and Mel Gibson (as the baddie). Few of the new or returning old-school stars have made much of a box office dent in the last decade, but the alleged thrill of seeing them all together is what The Expendables is all about.
I can’t say whether this third installment will end up in regards to the first two. The first entry made $103 million domestic and $274m worldwide, while Expendables 2 made $88m domestic but $305m worldwide. The film has its usual mid-August release date, but has to deal with Guardians of the Galaxy on August 1st. But if Expendables 3 does end up being another solid hit, it will be for little reason other than the allure of who decided to play this time around.
And you can bet that Expendables 4 will see more old-school action stars (Nicolas Cage? Jackie Chan? Steven Seagal?) joining the mix, with the ultimate “get” arguably being Liam Neeson. As a franchise, Expendables has little to offer other than its “added value elements.” For as long as it lives, it will live or die by who Stallone can convince to come aboard each time out. Of course, making a really good movie, or even a really strong action picture wouldn’t hurt, but that’s for another day.
Because I’m nice, hit the jump for all sixteen character posters. For what it’s worth, the “cinematic tough guys smile like it’s a Christmas card photo” theme is the kind of offbeat advertising I’m generally a fan of. It may remind some of the closing credits for Con Air, which ironically was directing by Simon West, who directed The Expendables 2. This time around it’s Patrick Hughes at the helm, whose 2010 Australian action flick Red Hill is currently on my “will make a point to watch this before August” list. The Expendables will be released on August 15, 2014. As always, we’ll see.
Forbes is among the most trusted resources for the world's business and investment leaders, providing them the uncompromising commentary, concise analysis, relevant tools and real-time reporting they need to succeed at work, profit from investing and have fun with the rewards of winning.
blog comments powered by Disqus