Forget The Face-Off

A few weeks back that call-to-arms Expendables trailer was funny and cool and everyone got it. Then The Expendables started to be screened and the air went out of the balloon. Which is why Stephen Zeitchik‘s 8.6 L.A. Times piece about gender genre loyalty and the epic box-office battle between The Expendables and Eat Pray Love feels a bit behind the curve.


(l.) Javier Bardem, Julia Roberts in Eat Pray Love; (r.) Jason Statham, Sly Stallone in The Expendables. Indulgence, travel, mysticism and hot nights with Bardem vs. Stallone-y brawn, wink-wink machismo, exploding body parts, and a beautiful innocent Latina woman being tortured in a concrete room and waiting to be rescued.

I was down with the idea of The Expendables being a standard-bearer for guy movies, but no longer. Any guy who wants to bail on this notion and join me on the metrosexual side and at least give Eat Pray Love a fair shake is welcome to join.

If we were looking at a face-off between, say, Sex and the City 2 — a film that celebrated spiritual emptiness, material indulgence and everything appalling about upscale 21st Century female culture — and Tony Scott‘s Unstoppable, then we’d be talking about something cool and perhaps even socially significant. I’m usually into the Tony Scott experience (Domino was an exception) because it makes the guy sensibility feel slick and cosmopolitan and technologically in-step. I would stand four-square with his latest against any chick flick that falls under the heading of semi-vapid. Which, let’s be honest, is a fair adjective concerning 90% of the output.

But I can’t feel any allegiance or camaraderie with The Expendables, even in a joke-assy, what-the-hell sense. So Eat vs. Expendables is simply not an equal or interesting battle.

I don’t know how good or bad Eat Pray Love is (it’ll begin screening early next week), but the odds are that it’s at least a somewhat better film that the Stallone. The spiritual element may seem effete and/or sanctimonious to some but I doubt if it’ll be presented as laughable or groan-worthy, which is more than you can say for certain portions of The Expendables. And the Eat Pray Love trailers are telling me it’ll at least be fine on a technical level. It’ll look and sound like a movie made in the 21st Century as opposed to The Expendables, which looks and feels like a 1987 Cannon film.

Zeitchik says that Eat vs. Expendables is “as close to a laboratory environment as you can get. For one thing, the two films’ subject matter and intended audience couldn’t sit on further ends of the gender spectrum. There isn’t much in each movie that should appeal, at least according to what Hollywood executives commonly believe, to the non-core gender. The Expendables contains few romantic interludes, while Eat Pray Love doesn’t feature many mercenary gunfights. Julia Roberts is interested in discovering a foreign country. Sylvester Stallone wants to blow one up.

“It’s also a near-perfect test-tube case because the movies are similar in so many other key respects. Both are mid-budget studio films coming out in the dog days of August. Both were made with the goal of pleasing crowds more than critics.” (Really? That was Ryan Murphy and Julia Roberts’ goal? They sat down and said, “Let’s make a movie that the critics will probably hate — well, maybe some of them wil be okay with it — but which women will love”?) Zeitchick also notes that “both pictures are driven by one huge-name star accompanied by a host of smaller ones. And the two are going head-to-head with very little competition.

“Given all this, the film that wins the weekend will provide a given gender with bragging rights (and perhaps, also, hand a few ideas to demographic-minded studio executives). It’s almost like each movie is carrying the weight of its gender on it shoulders (a point made amusingly in the below fan trailer for The Expendables which implores men to turn out for the film next weekend and defeat Eat Pray Love).”

No, no…that’s what I’m saying. The Expendables is not carrying the guy-movie genre on its shoulders. If anything it’s somewhere between a slight and a full-on embarassment to action fans.

“Though both films are tracking at roughly the same rates — in electoral terms it’s a dead heat — Eat Pray Love is actually generating more interest among its core audience than The Expendables is among its audience,” Zeitchk continues. “It may be that men simply don’t want to see the Stallone flick and would be more enthusiastic if they simply liked it more. But another inference appears just as valid: that men just can’t get worked up as women about a movie aimed at them.

Zeitchik concludes with the following: “So if there’s a disparity among the core audience, where does the Stallone movie make up ground? Well, with women. The Expendables is tracking better with females than Eat Pray Love is with males.”

That won’t last long. Not after women hear about Giselle Itie‘s Sandra character — the only lady with any screen time in The Expendables. Sandra is a cross between a standard-issue Latina spitfire and a kind of perfect, idealized, defenseless damsel-in-distress. She might as well be modelled on Purity Dean, the heroine in Paul Loomis‘s Pure as The Driven Snow.

  • http://scottalanmendelson.blogspot.com Scott Mendelson

    What I don’t get is why everyone is ignoring the third ‘contender’ of the weekend. As much as The Expendables is being branded as the ultimate guy flick and Eat Pray Love is being tagged as the ultimate chick flick, Scott Pilgrim Vs. the World is (to judge by the marketing) as definitive a ‘nerd flick’ as you could possibly muster. Next weekend is more than just male vs female. It’s the adult men vs. the adult women vs. the kids and overgrown geeks. Right now it’s looking like the nerd flick will win the critical war while the chick flick will win at the box office. Whatever the case, the demo stats will be fascinating and it will be a pretty healthy weekend at the box office overall.

  • Jonathan Spuij

    I feel there’s an entirely different face-off going to happen, although not really at the box office but more in terms of fan discussion and “who’d win in a fight” arguments: The Expendables vs. Machete. I’d argue Machete has a more balanced and bad-ass cast than Sly’s team.

  • larry braverman

    Hasn’t the term ‘metrosexual’ become a pejorative?

  • Sams

    So Expendables is a definite No and Eat Pray Love is a Maybe. Somehow Despicable Me is looking more attractive.

  • Deathtongue_Groupie

    Outside of the film blogosphere fish bowl, the target audiences are just now starting to peak on awareness that these films are opening next weekend. Sure, it was known they were coming, but studios have now conditioned people to wait for the deluge of TV ads that happen opening week as a release alarm clock.

    The target audience for THE EXPENDABLES are also more likely to sneer at advanced word coming from “film critics” (and in their view, our metrosexual commentator would be one). So, it’s myopic not to realize the “face off” is just heating up.

    However, SCOTT PILGRIM also has the potential to leech some of EXPENDABLES potential core audience away, as young geek guys might have gone to see the latter without an alternative.

    There’s also the date factor, with Sony very smartly playing up not only the travelogue backdrop but also the mid-life new direction aspect. Both of those things make the film more palatable to husbands & boyfriends.

    Although, as usual, Jeff isn’t giving us what the latest breakdowns are in regards to age and gender. A lot of women go to “guy movies” simply to get wet at all the beefcake and testosterone on the screen. Yes, there are chick Lexes out there (only, ironically enough, they are more attracted to age appropriate actors to lust after).

  • reverent and free

    The place to see The Expendables is when it comes to theater pubs.

  • Robert Cashill

    I get Statham’s appeal to women, but the rest of these palookas? Is “parolee” a hot look?

  • George Prager

    Let’s face it. THE EXPENDABLES is the Latino AVATAR. It’s going to do great business on the 14th street sidewalks. They’re going to be selling so many pirated DVDs of this thing that you’d think that people were dunking them in their coffee.

  • http://www.pornorest.com Free Online

    So Expendables is a definite No and Eat Pray Love is a Maybe. Somehow Despicable Me is looking more attractive.

  • http://moviebob.blogspot.com THE MovieBob

    I know I sound like a broken record on this point, but it bears repeating: to the extent that boxoffice means anything, EPL could easily “win” because Expendables and Scott Pilgrim cut into one-another’s audience. Or, rather, Pilgrim cuts into Expendables.

    This mythical “man movie” audience that still takes “Missing in Action”-style bullshit seriously and has been “missing” it is A.) pretty small and B.) averse to theatergoing. And the people paying for Expendables KNOW this – any film in that genre (see: Rambo 4, Statham’s last 30 or so movies) that wants to succeed ALSO needs to sell tickets to the hardcore geek audience that “enjoys” macho-bullshit ironically. Unfortunately for them, that audience is seeing “Scott Pilgrim” first.

    It’s a mom, a dad and a kid fighting over the remote writ-large as boxoffice. Find a married guy, ask him how often he expects to WIN that scenario ;)

  • DeeZee

    “but I doubt if it’ll be presented as laughable or groan-worthy, which is more than you can say for certain portions of The Expendables.”

    You seem to miss the point of a Cannon film.

    ” (Really? That was Ryan Murphy and Julia Roberts’ goal? They sat down and said, “Let’s make a movie that the critics will probably hate — well, maybe some of them wil be okay with it — but which women will love”?) ”

    Well, she did do Mary Reilly and Full Frontal after all….

    “The Expendables is tracking better with females than Eat Pray Love is with males.”

    Ready to eat crow, Bukowski?

    “Sandra is a cross between a standard-issue Latina spitfire and a kind of perfect, idealized, defenseless damsel-in-distress.”

    And that somehow differs from the characters Roberts plays because…?

    Scott: “Right now it’s looking like the nerd flick will win the critical war while the chick flick will win at the box office. ”

    I seriously doubt it’s gonna be #1. Again, Roberts films generally only score at the box office when they’ve got big-name leading men on the same bill. Bardem’s a cool guy, but he’s not a hit-maker.

    Jonathan: Alba does not make anything better, only worse. I think the only reason Sin City didn’t suffer from her presence is she played someone close to herself.

    DTG: No straight dude likes sitting through Roberts’ “dates”. She’s boring and not as charming as she pretends to be.

    Robert: I told you. Jet’s got a female following.

    Bob: Actually, I think it’s EPL which could lose some of its female viewers to Scott Pilgrim. Wright is able to sell the male geek genre better with girls than, say, Whedon. I saw a lot of female viewers at that Shaun/Riki Oh screening he hosted a while back.

    “This mythical “man movie” audience that still takes “Missing in Action”-style bullshit seriously and has been “missing” it is A.) pretty small and B.) averse to theatergoing.”

    Yeah, that’s why Taken and Torino bombed. Oh, wait…!

    “And the people paying for Expendables KNOW this – any film in that genre (see: Rambo 4, Statham’s last 30 or so movies) that wants to succeed ALSO needs to sell tickets to the hardcore geek audience that “enjoys” macho-bullshit ironically.”

    Um, no, the geek crowd jerks off to shit like Kick-Ass. They’re not going to want to see guys who they feel threatened by in an unironic context.

  • Gordn27

    “Um, no, the geek crowd jerks off to shit like Kick-Ass. They’re not going to want to see guys who they feel threatened by in an unironic context. ”

    Yeah, it has no geek appeal at all, that’s why Harry Knowles just jizzed all over it. As usual, DZ, you’re resistant to the idea that you want to see a geek property, but ‘Expendables’ absolutely is.

  • DeeZee

    Gordon: “Yeah, it has no geek appeal at all, that’s why Harry Knowles just jizzed all over it.”

    Oh, please. He jizzes over anything they give him a free screening to, whether or not it’s got geek appeal.

    “As usual, DZ, you’re resistant to the idea that you want to see a geek property, but ‘Expendables’ absolutely is.”

    Ok, the reason Expendables is not a geek property is that it doesn’t have a shitty actress doing bullet-time crap. And if there were such an actress in this film, she’d have to be built like Ripley in Aliens or Demi Moore in G.I. Jane to be taken seriously. If it were a geek movie, she’d be dressed up like an extra from Pirahnha 3D. And the male leads would look like emo nerds and spout off stupid internet jokes while skimping on the action scenes which would have badly done close-ups and zoom shots.

  • reverent and free

    DZ, I don’t know that Taken and Gran Torino are apt comparisons. Taken was a revenge thriller. Different genre. Gran Torino played on Eastwood machismo image yes, but it was in the vein of his post-Unforgiven period, rather than had he actually made a final Dirty Harry. Remember, there’s only one shooting fatality in that entire movie. Also, consider that Eastwood got seniors and Boomers out to see that picture. I doubt the same will be true of Expendables.

    Rambo 4 had a good $18 million opening weekend haul, but it was beaten by Meet the Spartans, and only made a little over $40 million domestic (though much better overseas).

  • actionman

    domino is a masterpiece

    it’s the toniest of tony scott movies

    wells — i thought u were a big fan of it but i guess i am mistaken…

  • DeeZee

    reverent: “Taken was a revenge thriller. Different genre.”

    Not if you’re into that Charles Bronson stuff.

    “Remember, there’s only one shooting fatality in that entire movie.”

    Yeah, but the draw is still Clint kicking whipper-snapper ass and taking names.

    “Also, consider that Eastwood got seniors and Boomers out to see that picture. I doubt the same will be true of Expendables.”

    Expendables doesn’t need seniors and boomers. It’s got enough middle-aged Gen X appeal.

    “Rambo 4 had a good $18 million opening weekend haul, but it was beaten by Meet the Spartans, and only made a little over $40 million domestic (though much better overseas).”

    True, but ‘Spartans was a parody of a film which more people saw recently, while Rambo being #2 20 years later is still an accomplishment.

  • http://moviebob.blogspot.com/ THE MovieBob

    DZ

    “Expendables doesn’t need seniors and boomers. It’s got enough middle-aged Gen X appeal.”

    Which would matter if they weren’t going to see Scott Pilgrim first. (the comic has big cache with the older-but-not-old set.)

  • thatmovieguy

    I think EXPENDABLES could have enormous appeal for women, since it’s bound to feature more scary plastic surgery and industrial-strength makeup than any SEX AND THE CITY opus could ever dream of.

  • Gabe@ThePlaylist

    Expendables or not, Eat Pray Love looks south of unwatchable. Did none of you see Running With Scissors?

  • DeeZee

    Bob: “Which would matter if they weren’t going to see Scott Pilgrim first. ”

    I doubt it. If Gen X’ers hated 90s pop culture, they sure as hell hate the hipster stuff even more.

  • JANE

    So many movies coming up but which one is going to be a worthy one to spend your bucks with.

    Jane

  • sean

    Blood is indeed thicker than water.

    Sean

  • nancyyy