The 80s era was memorable for a lot of things, but especially for the rise of iconic action heroes like Rambo, Dutch, Ripley, Sarah Conner, and John McClane, to name a few, portrayed by legendary actors who forever changed the landscape of the genre. Their screen presence, insistence on the portrayal of physicality in action sequences, and larger-than-life appearance have captivated generations of fans ever since—and led to the franchise boom in the first place. Long before studio-wide superhero crossovers took over Hollywood, it was a dream of every action movie fan to see their favorite stars sharing the screen together, and Sylvester Stallone, an action legend himself, fulfilled the dream by creating The Expendables franchise. The franchise is now three movies strong, and after a prolonged nine-year gap, the fourth part is about to crush theaters worldwide this weekend.
The film series, which revolves around a group of highly skilled mercenaries who undertake global missions in subsequent entries, with each being deadlier than the previous one, has so far brought together a plethora of action stars across the world, with more iconic faces appearing in upcoming ventures as well. As The Expendables 4 releases, let’s take a look back at the story so far and discuss briefly what can be expected from the latest entry.
The Missions So Far: Expendables and Their Heavy Roster
Keeping the various kinds of high-profile international missions aside, The Expendables franchise is recognized for its ensemble cast of iconic action movie stars. The first movie solidified this characteristic of the franchise by assembling the star-studded crew of the topmost mercenaries of the world, consisting of the team leader, former U.S. Marine Barney Ross, projectile expert, former SAS Lee Christmas (Statham), demolition and armory expert Toll Road (Randy Couture), the expert shaolin and martial artist Yin Yang (Jet Li), secondary artillery specialist Hale Caesar (Terry Crews), the loose cannon/chemist Gunner Jensen (Lundgren), a covert CIA and team ally Mr. Church (Bruce Willis), and quite appropriately, Ross’ frenemy merc, Trent Mauser (Arnold Schwarzenegger). Each of the seven individuals is a former military expert in the art of tactical combat and has individual expertise in certain skills. The aforementioned roster has appeared in all the previous installments, but the upcoming one will be missing Trench, Mr. Church, Yang, and Caesar.
The first entry of the franchise, The Expendables, saw the team get deployed on a mission to Vilena, an island located in the Gulf of Mexico, to wrest control of the island from its autocratic ruler, General Garza. However, rogue CIA operative James Munroe turns out to be the real orchestrator of the illegal operations and dictatorial governance. The seemingly unstable team member, Gunner, gets excommunicated from the team after showcasing erratic tendencies, jeopardizing the lives of teammates, and joining Munroe’s team. Ross and Christmas infiltrate Garza’s palace, get into a battle with Garza’s army, and kill Munroe at the end, leaving the governing duties of the island in the benevolent hands of Garza’s daughter, Sandra. By the end of the movie, Gunner undergoes a change of heart and re-joins the team, and since then, he has proven himself to be an invaluable member of the team.
The second installment, The Expendables 2, starts with the team mentoring the newest recruit, the young gun Billy the Sniper, who shares a special bond with the team leader, Ross. After his brief tenure with the team, Billy confides in Ross that he is looking forward to settling down with his girlfriend and leaves this dangerous profession behind, but fate decides to deal him a bad hand. During a retrieval mission in Albania, the team confronts the infamous arms dealer and Sangs mercenary leader, Jean Vilain (Jean Claude Van Damme), and his team. As a conflict ensues, Vilain flees after brutally killing Billy. Ross and co. swear revenge. After chasing the Sangs worldwide to foil Vilain’s plan of acquiring plutonium from a Russian mine, the expendables find themselves in a cornered position, but with the help of Ross’ old associate Booker (Chuck Norris), they are finally able to turn the situation in their favor. Eventually, the team engages with the Sangs in an all-out war, and Ross is able to avenge Billy’s death by stabbing Vilain to death.
In the third entry, The Expendables 3, the team comes across one of their founding members, currently notorious arms dealer Conrad Stonebanks (Mel Gibson), whose assault severely injures team member Caesar. This leads to Ross disbanding the team, fearing the loss of his old comrades, and founding a new one with younger members. CIA operative Drummer (Harrison Ford) tasks the veteran team with the mission of capturing Stonebanks. Led by Ross, the younger team attempts to one-up the former one but gets captured in the process, with Ross managing to escape in the nick of time. With the help of talkative sniper Galgo (Antonio Banderas) and his former team, Ross manages to rescue the younger members. As both teams join hands to lay waste to Stonebank’s crew and the Azmenistan army (which so far has backed up Stonebank’s operation), Ross fights with and kills Stonebank.
What Can Be Expected From The Fourth Film?
The fourth chapter of The Expendables franchise will once again focus on the aspect of young members working along with the yesteryear stars, with prolific martial artists like Tony Jaa and Iko Uwais joining the ranks of the esteemed mercenaries. As the trailer reveals, another ‘situation’ has arisen that needs the attention of Lee, Ross, Gunner, and other Expendables members, which revolves around the threat of World War III looming large, leading to an incident of nuclear weaponry falling into the wrong hands. This one is going to be the last time viewers are going to see the action legends together, and with that, our hopes of seeing icons like Jackie Chan, Linda Hamilton, Michelle Yeoh, Dwayne Johnson, Tom Cruise, and Sigourney Weaver make their debuts in subsequent installments are squandered. Nevertheless, we surely hope that the adventure of the Expendables will end with a bang.