General News

Has Ah-nuld Still Got It?

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Mar 19, 2001 | 11:51am EST

Just like his monotoned android promised nine years ago in "Terminator 2," Arnold Schwarzenegger -- as we know it -- is back.

But the big question after all these years is: Does anyone still care?

Case in point: "The 6th Day."

Opening last weekend, the sci-fi actioner took in an estimated $13.2 million over the three-day period. While the actioner had the disadvantage of opening up against the season's most anticipated fare, "Dr. Seuss' How the Grinch Stole Christmas", the fact of the matter is that for an Ah-nuld picture, it is -- after all things considered -- still somewhat disappointing.

"A Schwarzenegger film nowadays is no longer an event. Thirteen million is a disappointing opening for a Schwarzenegger film. He was averaging beforehand $20 million-plus openings," Brandon Gray, editor of boxofficemojo.com, told Hollywood.com. "But of course, we need to keep in mind that his movies do really well overseas."

Disappointing might also be the word for Schwarzenegger's "End of Days" last year, which grossed only $67 million domestically, and "Jingle All the Way" in 1996 with a paltry $60 million at the U.S. box office. Sure, the big guy may have rebounded with the $100 million "Eraser" in the same year, but that was four years ago.

Hmmm, could the blockbuster days of "T-2" and "Total Recall" be over for the Austrian muscleman?

"I think part of it is Hollywood has been making different kinds of films, and Arnold has continued to make the kinds of films that are, well, his kinds of films," John L. Flynn, professor of English at Towson University in Towson, Md., and author of "The Films of Arnold Schwarzenegger," told Hollywood.com. "And so even though Arnold continues to make movies like 'End of Days,' I don't think that's the kind of films that Hollywood and the popular audience are looking for.

"I just don't think his films have stayed up with what the current audience's needs are."

And all you have to do is look at this year's top-grossing film, aka "M:I-2," to get an idea of what audiences need.

"Let's face it. Your hero there [in the movie] was Tom Cruise -- good-looking, with a lot of babes. There were a lot of wild camera angles and special effects and editing, and you didn't need to be a big, larger-than-life figure for that film."

Following that line of thinking, at the core of Schwarzenegger's dipping popularity might very well be the changing idea of what an action hero is and what the action genre should look like in Y2K.

Basically, the type of new stylistic sensibility -- fast editing and weird cinematography coupled by savvy special effects, the type that can make you fly and kick ass at the same time -- has made it possible for any actor, and not just Schwarzenegger, to become an action guy in today's movies.

And when it's all said and done, it might not be that Schwarzenegger's act is getting old but just that other big boys -- such as the aforementioned Cruise, Keanu Reeves, Nicolas Cage, Jackie Chan, etc. -- are honing in on his turf.

So where does that leave Schwarzenegger?

"I think selectivity has a lot to do with it [his comeback]," Flynn said. "He needs to be a lot more careful with lining up the roles that he'll be doing.

But quite honestly, how long will we as a public accept him as an action hero? I think he needs to start selecting roles that will take him in the direction of being sort of the leading man, where he has romantic entanglements with his leading ladies, which doesn't mean that we can't have a shootout here and there."

But if the stars are aligned, Schwarzenegger may not have to wait as long as that for a comeback, given that "Terminator 3" (sans director James Cameron, no less) is gearing up for a 2002 release.

"What's really going to make a career comeback will be 'Terminator 3," Flynn said. "It's a disappointment that James Cameron will not have the directing role in it, but I think a lot of people are looking forward to having Arnold's comeback. I think a lot of people have been waiting for this character to come back.

"It's a character that is identified with Schwarzenegger, and I think people will go to see it just because of that."

So Ah-nuld fans needn't worry. He'll be back.

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