Every so often I like to go back and watch movies that I haven't viewed in decades just to see if my opinions on them changed any in the intervening years. Sometimes — like with flicks like Dragonslayer — my love of the film is proven well-warranted, and I come away with a much deeper appreciation than I had prior to the reviewing. Sometimes — like with flicks like Lifeforce — I wonder just what the hell my younger self was thinking when he watched it in the first place. Well, I know what I was thinking when I watched Lifeforce as a teen ("Boobies!"), but the embarrassment stayed.
And so, I recently decided to give a movie that I originally did not like at all a second chance: Ahnold's Last Action Hero.
Really? You didn't like Last Action Hero?
Not when it first came out in 1993, no. I had grown up on Schwarzenegger movies thanks to my dad: Terminator, Predator, Conan, Commando, The Running Man, Total Recall, and hell, even Twins and Kindergarten Cop. I loved how even when the movies were semi-serious, the directors knew how to use the heavily-accented Austrian perfectly for the roles he filled.
But then came Last Action Hero. For some reason, I vividly remember expecting it to be more of a straight-up action movie in the same vein as Commando, but instead it is actually a very clever and funny comedy that takes everything we've grown to love about Arnold movies (and American 80s action flicks in general), and parodies, and sometimes openly mocks them.
I've gone back and re-watched the original trailer for Last Action Hero since I viewed the movie in its entirety just a little while ago. Now, it is pretty clear that it was NOT aiming for anything serious. I honestly have no idea why I thought what I did when it first came out. I guess I was still just high on seeing Terminator 2 and simply assumed we'd get the same kind of thing because "it's Arnold."
So you're saying that younger you was slightly retarded?
This is quite possible, and it would explain a whole helluva lot about my childhood and some of the choices that I made.
Okay, so what did you think of it after you watched it again?
I liked it. I didn't think it was the best movie ever made, but it was very entertaining, had a lot of enjoyable action scenes, a fun (but very silly) plot, and I can see the love and attention that they put into it at the time. I mean, Jesus Christ! It was written by Shane Black (Lethal Weapon I & II, Kiss Kiss Bang Bang, and Iron Man 3), directed by John McTiernan (Predator, Die Hard, The Hunt for Red October, and Die Hard with Samuel L. Jackson), and had more cameos than anything since Roger Rabbit (I noticed Anthony Quinn, F. Murray Abraham, Sharon Stone, Robert Patrick, Ian McKellen, Angie Everhart, Tina Turner, Timothy Dalton, Jean-Claude Van Damme, Chevy Chase, Damon Wayans, Danny DeVito [as an animated cat], Sly Stallone [as the Terminator], the chick who plays Veronica Vahn in Billy Madison, James Belushi, and most epically MC Hammer!)!
Most importantly, Last Action Hero costars a kid (Austin O'Brien as Danny Madigan), and he doesn't sink the movie with any really seriously shitty acting. Amazing!
And most, most importantly, Last Action Hero is simply enjoyable. I simply didn't expect (or apparently care) that it was a social/filmatic satire and NOT an actual "action movie," despite its title. Yes, I feel sheepish in hindsight.
I vaguely remember this movie. What was it about?
The film goes something like this: Danny Madigan lost his father when he was young, and now, as a teenager in a reeeeeally shitty neighborhood in New York City, he spends all his time watching movies. Namely big action flicks starring Arnold Schwazenegger, whom he really looks up to.
One day, the elderly owner and projectionist at the run-down, piece of shit theater that Danny always goes to, gives his little friend a "magic ticket" that Harry Houdini had given to him when he himself was a kid. Yeah, yeah, Harry Houdini was an escape artist and a seance bullshit-detector, and not an actual magician... Just go with it.
Anyway, it seems this ticket is supposed to let the viewer actually enter the movie that they're watching, but the old fuck was always too chicken to try it himself... So he gives it to a young child who's about to watch a rated "R" action movie filled with bullets, bombs, and babes. That's good adulting.
So Danny magically finds himself inside the next Schwazenegger vehicle (both figuratively, in that the new Jack Slater IV movie is being screened special for Danny that night, and literally, in that the boy actually finds himself in the back seat of Arnold/Jack Slater's car while in the middle of a chase through LA, hounded by bad guys armed with a small jihadist's arsenal.
Danny spends most of his time in Jack's Hollywood-ized LA trying to convince the fictional character that they're stuck in a movie. He eventually proves this fact to Jack just in time for the bad guy, Mr. Benedict (one Charles Dance, who also awesomely plays Tywin Lannister in Game of Thrones), to steal the magical ticket and jump through to Danny's real-world New York.
Then fish-out-of-water wackiness ensues for Jack Slater as he realizes that all the amazing bullshit he's able to do in his movie-world is either all but impossible in Danny's world, or he actually ends up with more than a scraped knee whenever performing a dangerous feat.
Jack Slater and Danny do their best to track down Mr. Benedict, and they bump into the real Arnold Schwazenegger at the Jack Slater IV premiere, and Movie Jack tells Real Arnold that he's ruining his life. Then there's a big showdown between Mr. Benedict (and his new evil partner) and Jack & Danny, wherein the heroes win, but Jack is mortally wounded and they lose the magic ticket that Mr. Benedict had stolen. Luckily, with the help of a passing Death (from the movie The Seventh Seal), Danny is reminded of the second half of the Houdini ticket back at the theater, and just barely gets Jack back into his own world where his almost-death is deemed "just a flesh wound."
Then we end the movie with Jack telling his chief that things are going to change around their movie-verse, even though self-aware Jack is only in that single reel of Jack Slater IV, and if Arnold ever makes a Jack Slater V, the self-aware Jack will never be a part of it.
Oh yeah... That was a strange movie, wasn't it?
It was indeed. In hindsight though, it did a pretty good job of taking advantage of the whole "falling into a fictional universe" plot that has been used and abused many times in the past. And although it has its issues (making the lead a 12 year-old boy instead of someone a bit older who could maybe act a little bit better, and not going far enough with the idea of slipping into a movie, or of a movie character coming into our real world), it is a decently tight narrative that never falls flat. It constantly keeps moving and never stalls out.
I remember first going to the theater to see this with Chi-Chi the week after Jurassic Park came out back in '93. Think about that... The week after America had its collective MIND BLOWN by living, breathing dinosaurs we got the next Schwarzenegger blockbuster... And it didn't have any dinosaurs in it. It had an animated cat voiced by Danny DeVito, sure, but that's not a real alternative to a living, breathing velociraptor.
I am of the opinion that Last Action Hero was not only ahead of its time, but it was poorly advertised and released. Everybody just wanted more Arnold doing bad-ass things, killing faceless minions with bullets and snapped necks, and then stepping over their bodies... Last Action Hero had all that, but it was done ironically. People (well, I can at least say that I) didn't understand or appreciate the humor in it at the time. I do now. And I can truly grasp the genius of actually getting the greatest 80s action hero to star in a movie parodying his own shit.
The takeaway word for Last Action Hero is "enjoyable". Arnold obviously had a blast making this thing, and you'll probably be entertained with the whole package yourself. Or you're just a loser who only watches art-house flicks.
The Rossman is trippin'. I liked this movie the first time I saw it in the theater that summer. Yeah, it was no Jurassic Park, but what is? I mean, not even Jurassic World is Jurassic Park... But whatevs.
Watching Arnold act all knowing that there was a ninja in his closet, as well as having a catch-phrase for any impossible situation that he came across in his insanely actiony life in the Jack Slater movie that the kid found himself stuck in was always funny. And man, it takes me back to that time when I was just a kid — maybe only 7 or 8 — and I thought that I could actually enter movies.
I think that all happened when I was staying at my older cousins' house, and they showed me my first porno thinking it would be hilarious, and I went to go tell their parents (my aunt and uncle), but when I walked into their bedroom I could have sworn that I had somehow been transported INTO the porno movie... 'Cause there were two people in there doing it doggy style, just like the hairy couple in that old and used VHS tape.
For a few years after that incident, I was absolutely terrified that I would fall into whatever movie or TV show I was watching. Like, I would have liked to have jumped into an A-Team episode, or maybe Knight Rider, seeing as George Peppard, Mr. T, and David Hasselhoff were awesome, and nobody ever died in those shows, but what if I was watching something like Raiders of the Lost Ark, or Gremlins, or even worse, Little House on the Prairie?! I was sure that I would die a horrible death in any of those scenarios!
Eventually I realized how silly I had been when I came of age and realized how great porn actually is, and tried to recreate that scene from my childhood when I was then around 12 or 13. Let me tell you, walking in on your uncle giving your loving aunt the rear admiral around their bedroom when you're old enough to understand what you're seeing is not in any way joyful... it is a nightmare vision that you will never forget... Even with Dr. Dave's patented "Mind Wipes" from his Mind Raping Machine (tm). Some memories are just too powerful.
Get to the choppah! It's not a tumah! I'll be back! Dillon, you sonavabitch! What's best in life? To crush your enemies, see them driven before you, and to hear the lamentation of their women! Let off some steam! Hasta la vista, baby! I live to see you eat that contract, but I hope you leave enough room for my fist, because I'm going to RAM it into your stomach and break your goddamn spine! Who is your daddy, and what does he do? You're not sending ME to the coolah! What killed the dinosaurs? The ICE AGE! Rubber baby buggie bumpers! I'm detective John Kimble!