In defense of Last Action Hero (and not Bill Clinton)
Ah… Last Action Hero. The movie that aged and just got better with time. Well at least it did for me. That is not to say that the movie didn’t appealed to the targeted audience back in 1993, when I came out to theaters, it just didn’t appealed enough to become a cult classic. Actually it was big ass bomb, back in the 90’s. Directed by John McTiernan and co written by Shame Black, the movie had mixed to negative reviews from critics, and currently has 37% on Rotten Tomatoes. Back then even Roger Ebert hated it.
Despite some entertaining moments, Last Action Hero “plays more like a bright idea than like a movie that was thought through. It doesn’t evoke the mystery of the barrier between audience and screen the way Woody Allen did in The Purple Rose of Cairo, and a lot of the time it simply seems to be standing around commenting on itself, said Ebert in his review.
But… Despite the fact that the film was a box office disappointment during its initial theatrical release, it DID became a cult film and IS still beloved among the devoted fans who managed to appreciate it. However, it was during this particular week that the lead actor in the movie, Arnold Schwarzenegger blamed the initial poor reception to Bill Clinton’s administration. Yes, the movie came out barely 6 months into Clinton’s presidency, and like the Austrian born action star said in an interview for Business Insider:
It was one of those things where President Clinton was elected and the press somehow made the whole thing kind of political where they thought, ‘Okay, the ‘80s action guys are gone here’s a perfect example,’ and they wrote this narrative before anyone saw the movie
“The action hero era is over, Bill Clinton is in, the highbrow movies are the ‘in’ thing now, I couldn’t recuperate, added Arnold for BS.
OK… he didn’t blatantly accused then president Clinton for the movie’s disappointment, but I think I understand his conundrum with his remarks. I think it’s the reason why Schwarzenegger type of action movies sorta died after that movie. Yes a couple years after that there were Armageddon, and Con Air, and Face Off, but straight up machismo movies with big muscled dudes and big action packed budgets were over after Last Action Hero. If you think about it, the title fits perfectly and describes the end of an era. The Action Hero era. Other possible reason for the movie’s disappointment was the fact that it came out a week after Jurassic Park, a movie that not only is a fan favorite, was also well received with the film critics and made more than a Billion dollars on the Box office. Oh it was made by Steven Spielberg no less. The Academy Award winner had 2 movie premieres that year (1993) and the second one was Schindler’s list. So… The Last Action Hero didn’t stand a chance.
But I also know what he mean with „80s action guys are gone“comment. The 80’s were a different era for this particular type of genre, because the entire country (and by country I mean USA) was different. Conservative settlement was growing in the 80’s, it was the last (but not least) days of the Cold War and the film audience was in dire need to go to a movie theaters and see how some big muscled dude (predominantly a cop) is saving the country (and the world ) from Russian villains. In a very very dramatic fashion.
Hollywood masculinity ruled In the bigger part of the 80’s if you recall, but with Clinton in the office in the early 90’s the mind-numbing simplicity of such movies came to an end. The audience’s expectations changed because the whole country changed. There was suddenly a serious need of a sophistication, logic and computer generated innovations in the movie making.
So the Schwarzenegger’s the Stallone’s the van Dam’s, the Steve Seagal’s were relegated into a almost B movie stars. They weren’t pulling the shots anymore and they weren’t bringing the audience to the movie theaters like they used to. They were the last breeds of the action hero species and were on the verge of extinction. When you think about it… so many things have changed since 1993. These days the only action heroes are the Marvel/DC super heroes and Liam Neeson.
But I loved Last action Hero in the 90’s and I still do. It’s a comfort food equivalent of movie that brings nostalgia and warmth every time I see it. Even now and I’m a grown ass 31 year old woman. The whole movie is a satire of the action genre and associated clichés, containing several parodies of action films in the form of films within the film. Last Action hero has a fun Meta like vibe to it, self deprecating humor, and is not afraid to be silly and outrageous. Oh and has 3 Academy Award winners in the cast, Ian Mckellen in the role of death, and a kid as a second lead. The whole movie is still fun to watch and it never gets boring no matter how many times you see it. And I’ve seen in over 50 times since 1993.
Arnold Schwarzenegger himself thought the script was one of the best he’d ever read. He especially liked all of the elements of comedy, action, drama, and satire in it, but he considered Last Action Hero (1993) his first real failure after an unbroken string of successes. He also considered it the beginning of the end of his film career.
So in conclusion… it’s not Clinton’s administration that is at fault for Last Action hero’s bombing. It’s the fault of the 90’s, the shift in audience preference, the economy and so much more. But that’s a topic for another long post.
Until then… I’m out of here…