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Aging Action Stars

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The features of a Die Hard film require little thought, but that’s the beauty of action movies. Since its debut in 1988, Bruce Willis and his Jersey attitude have been giving the hard-nosed movie fanatics exactly what they came to see.  However, when the  5th installment of the Die Hard series, A Good Day to Die Hard, was released, many questioned whether Bruce Willis’s age would have any effect on the film’s action.

The film’s aggressive attitude is imminent even in the tag line for the movie, “Yippee Ki-Yay Mother Russia.”  Some, like sophomore Eric Sabshon, enjoyed this attitude. “[It is the] best movie I’ve seen so far this year. The action was fantastic, and the explosions jolted everyone in the theater.”  But, there is no denying that Willis was no longer as young as he was in 1988.

57-year-old Willis’ role in the film is modernized, for Willis still jumped out of planes and buildings. “Bruce Willis seems to be always at his prime. Although physically he looks older, he can still perform just as well as an actor and in stunts,” Sabshon commented. As long as the series continues to be successful, Bruce Willis will own the irreplaceable role as the lead part of John Maclain.

Willis is not the only old dog still in the game of action movies in recent years. In the initial months of 2013 alone, the industry saw the releases of The Last Stand, starring the iconic 65-year-old Arnold Schwarzenegger, and Bullet to the Head, another action movie starring an aged Sylvester Stallone, who’s still killing bad guys at 66. The Last Stand followed the story of Schwarzenegger playing a small town sheriff who becomes the last hope to take on a vicious drug lord making his way through to the Mexican border. Bullet to the Head tells the story of a hitman played by Stallone and a cop who team up to take down a common enemy. Both films were similar because they starred aging iconic action stars from the 80’s, but were also similar in the fact that both films were gigantic box office disasters.

What exactly caused these two films to flop so hard? Stallone seemed to have been enjoying success with his two Expendables films, which both Willis and Schwarzenegger starred in alongside the rest of the behemoth of an action-star ensemble. The Last Stand grossed only $31.3 million on a $45 million budget, while Bullet to the Head fared far worse in the box office with only $13 million on a budget of $55 million. On the other hand, Die Hard seems to be doing alright for itself, so far grossing $186 million on a $92 million budget, with at least a good few more weeks in its wide theatrical run. This is most likely due to the fact that Die Hard is the fourth sequel in a long-running series of action films with an iconic character, while the other two movies are original films with no nostalgic character to back the film up. Bullet and Stand clearly are relying on the weight their stars carry far too much to pull in ticket sales, but that is clearly not enough.

Society will always have an appreciation for the previous works  such as Predator, Rambo, and the original Die Hard films. However, unless it’s a sequel, it doesn’t seem that nostalgia will be enough for some filmmakers to tell the stories they want to tell. Don’t feel sad for Stallone and Schwarzenegger though. They might have lost this round, but all will be remedied when The Expendables 3 hits theaters in 2014. Audiences of the action genre tend to lean toward the familiar, and don’t mind revisiting an old series. It’s part of the reason why A Good Day to Die Hard can financially succeed, despite overwhelmingly negative reception in the critical field, where only a whopping 16% of 181 film critics gave the film a positive review on Rotten Tomatoes.

Don’t expect too many of Dad’s favorite action hero’s to be coming back for original stories. Their age may slowly cause them to fade away from the movie business, but if one thing is for sure, these men will certainly not allow themselves to go out with a whimper.

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Miles Essner is a junior at Half Hollow Hills High School West. Miles has been editor of the Arts and Entertainment section of the newspaper since freshman year. Miles aspires to have an occupation in media arts; working behind the camera has been a dream of his for a long time. Films such as Pulp Fiction and The Godfather heavily influence him. In school, Miles is more geared towards the social science subjects of school including Social Studies and English; he uses the knowledge and skill from these classes to help put out the finest possible writing. Miles is also a well-accomplished percussionist and is part of the High School West Music Honor Society. Miles is heavily driven and well versed in the entertainment scene for which he covers.