Wednesday, November 21, 2012

Expendables 2 & Unlimited Free Will

Is there any other reason to watch Simon West's Expendables 2 than it being out on video this week? It is good enough that it stayed at the top of the box office for at least two weeks, primarily because it's a testament to America as a super-power, a no-apology manifesto about what America has been and (at the time the film came out, pre-election 2012) will continue to be, validating national pride and patriotism which has been not only under attack, but considered to be a vice by the current political administration. To properly contextualize The Expendables 2, let's look at two other films from cinema past before getting into this one.
Why is The Expendables 2 out on video so early? I think it has everything to do with the re-make of Red Dawn opening today. As a political statement about American free will to keep the rogues of the world in order, juxtaposing The Expendables 2 against the invasion of the US by a tiny, but aggressive, North Korea should make viewers consider the implications of the US not only being able to protect itself, but keep the order in the world that desperately wants to become chaos.
In 2004, we got to enjoy The Incredibles, about a family of super-heroes the world no longer wanted, clearly an indictment of American strength (symbolized by Mr. Incredible), American agility to be wherever we needed to be to handle crises (Elastigirl) as well as American weapon technology in stealth (the little girl who can disappear) and the American unlimited free will to act swiftly and be ready for all kinds of global unrest; each member of the family, in other words, makes up a characteristic and feature of the American military while the narrative demonstrates how the post-9/11 world was reacting to America's unnatural strength and military might (the rewarding of mediocrity was a theme of the film we are seeing more and more of today). But the Incredibles were needed; today, however, we could say that Obama has retired them permanently.
Jason Statham as Lee Christmas. Why does he have a cheating woman he can't trust? She symbolizes America "cheating" on the military (which Christmas symbolizes) by going over to the enemy of socialism which so many American soldiers gave their life to fight and defend America against. Her calling him just as they are in a dangerous spot is a "call" of the vocation of America (what we are "called" to do in life through our destiny) that he should be more concerned with her (America) than the international violence about to destroy the world.In the trailer above, we see Christmas dressed as a monk and saying, "I now pronounce you man and knife," then stabbing the proverbial bad guy. Why? Anyone being "wedded" to a cause against the US will meet with the knife... at least, that's how it used to be.
In 2006, we got the rare treat of an actually good Ben Stiller film, Night At the Museum, wherein the inventor who couldn't invent (translate: was having problems competing in a free market economy) was treated to a world view of how "towering" the United States is above all other empires and eras throughout history (Stiller's giant stature compared to the "little Romans" and the "little cowboys," he is the king of the day in the annals of history, i.e., the museum, but the bad guys are threatening to steal that history, just as socialists today are re-writing American history to leave out our achievements, such as Abraham Lincoln Vampire Hunter and Lawless).
"I'm back!" Why does Trench (Schwarzenegger) say this? To remind us of the famous line uttered by General McArthur during World War II and how, again (you've read this many times this year) America was made into a superpower during World War II and that is now at stake because of Obama and Clinton.  At one scene in the film, there has been a huge gun fight, and The Expendables have killed dozens of men; they think the fight is over then one enemy gunman stumbles out and all of them start firing on him at the same time and none of them stop, just pumping round after round into him. Why? The outnumbering and strength of The Expendables against the lone enemy offers us the visualization once more of America's power and endurance to remain standing and how we outnumber and outgun our enemies, or at least, we did once.
The emphasis on it being "night" at the museum is because night symbolizes the time of darkness (political uncertainty about the future) and going through the "museum" of history helps us remember our own "towering" place in history and the giant accomplishments we have made. If you don't believe me, who is one of the dominant characters of the story? American imperialist president, Teddy Roosevelt, who believed in America's role as a leading, global power. Why bother going into this? To demonstrate the history of this theme and how the attacks against American might and military presence has changed in nearly a decade and the difference in who the attacks are coming from: The Incredibles and Night At the Museum were general statements to the general American public assuring us of our destiny to be great and how ridiculous it would be to turn away from our tasks and duty when the world was clearly in so much danger.
But turning away is exactly what is happening.
It's important to understanding the identity of Billy the Kid (Liam Hemsworth, which also invokes Pettyfur's character "The Kid" in Magic Mike) that his girlfriend is French; why? Because the French are basically socialists, as Madagascar 3 taught us about their labor laws. Billy symbolizes Generation X and Y, not the Baby Boomers like Stallone and Willis' characters, and the events of the film and his terrible end is a not-so-hidden concern about Generation X & Y not being capable of making the same choices and sacrifices the Boomers did to keep America as a super power.Why does Barney (Stallone) send the girlfriend the money at the end? Call it an ideology joke, that the French are just as interested in money as the US, regardless of their politics.
Enter Expendables 2.
Great film making has the aura of prophecy, and given the 2012 attacks on US embassies and diplomatic missions, and the escalating violence between Israel and Hamas, the military strength being advocated by Expendables 2 is a deliberate undermining of President Obama's and Secretary of State Hillary Clinton's foreign policy positions (or, as some of us would say, "lack of position" coining the phrase, "leading from behind"). Where does the narrative's threat come from?
Socialism.
Why does the big "shoot out" take place in an airport? What do you think of when you think of an airport today? Maybe the hassle of traveling, security checks, taking off your shoes and packing everything in 3 oz. bottles? And what do we owe that to? 9/11. The airport reminds us of the freedom and security that has been robbed from us by America's enemies and how The Expendables (the military might and political power they symbolize) are literally fighting to take back for us. The tiny car Church (Willis) and Trench drive ("My shoe is bigger than this car!") shows how ridiculously small and incompetent the "vehicle" of Obama's policy on international affairs is because the foot symbolizes our will power. So a foot bigger than the vehicle means that our will power to act and be a powerful force in international politics (and defense of the homeland) is severely hampered by the "smallness" of Obama's policies. Compare, if you will, the tiny car to the massive, military vehicles in the opening scene as The Expendables force their way into an enemy compound. Those were the days of American military power and might, not America standing by while Seals and citizens are blown to bits in a raging fire because our President sided with the terrorists instead of his own people. 
We will see this again in my post on Arbitrage, but it's the remnants of Russian socialism which is once again threatening world order and stability (we saw this in Mission Impossible Ghost Protocol and Chernobyl Diaries). The nuclear capabilities of Soviet Russia was spurred on by a need to expand communism throughout the world, so whenever those Soviet era nukes appear, it's a reminder about the communist agenda to destroy the US and how that threat is very much alive (in spite of the Soviet Union collapsing instead).
"I needed to adjust for the wind, Sir," once again, you have to put up with me discussing (for the record) which films are based in a world of chaos theory instead of those worlds based on Darwin and evolution. There are plenty examples of chaos theory in the film, but Billy "adjusting for the wind" particularly reminds us of World War II and how chaos theory really came into existence: ballistics. American anti-aircraft gunners weren't hitting any of their German targets and it was Claude Shannon who realized the gunners needed to not only over-shot the target, but adjust for variables such as wind, rain, velocity, etc., which aided America in winning the war because we were able to knock down more German aircraft and prevail. In the film, Billy recounts his lost friends during his tour in Afghanistan and that being the reason for him to want to leave. The personal losses which Barney endures are losses he endures; in other words, The Expendables 2 makes it clear that life is about loss, even deeply personal loss, and while the film paints Billy in the most honorable and admirable of heroics, it also shows us how that isn't enough, there has to be a willingness to take the hard, personal hits and make the sacrifice, because getting our soft spot is exactly what the enemy hopes for.
A minor point, but important to me, is when Barney and Lee are in a foreign bar and the people in there don't like them, so both take out "brass knuckles" and beat everyone up. In Lawless, America's "brass knuckle tactics" for getting things done was highly criticized but The Expendables 2 makes the point clear: if everyone is bent on your destruction, why be nice? Because it's only the ones getting the "brass knuckle treatment" who complain, but they're the ones who want us destroyed (please see Lawless & Brass Knuckle Tactics for more).

Why does Chuck Norris get the "royal treatment" in the film? We're not just dealing with America's past in terms of the military and economy, but America's past in film as well. Hollywood is to America what the Louvre is to France, and the anti-socialist films of Chuck Norris and Hollywood in general is something to remember not only as artistic statements and achievements, but because those films contributed to the American Identity, and to suddenly "go socialist" is anti-American and anti-Hollywood.
The Expendables 2 might seem like a rough and tough action film, and it is, but it's also as much of a political manifesto as the World War II bomber Barney flies. The "old group" reassembling has to re-assemble because the current generation isn't emotionally and psychologically strong enough to complete the task at hand (especially if you believe the liberal media about the young voters being the ones who put Obama back in power, i.e., voted for socialism).  It's definitely a film worth watching and worth enjoying because it looks like American free will is going to become a thing of the past.
Eat Your Art Out & Happy Thanksgiving!
The Fine Art Diner