Thawing Mr. Freeze – The Life And Death And Life Of Schwarzenegger’s Career

The implications of resurrecting Arnold Schwarzenegger.

For the record, I voted for Gallagher.

In the Second Great American Mindfuck of the early 21st Century, also known as the 2003 California Gubernatorial Recall Election, I was one of 5,466 watermelon-hating voters who chose to throw away their vote on comedian Gallagher rather than the action star Schwarzenegger, security guard Gary Coleman, porn merchant Larry Flynt, porn star Mary Carey, sumo wrestler Kurt “Tachikaze” Rightmyer, or any of the other names on the packed page of, er, uniquely qualified candidates provided at polling places across the Golden State.

More people voted for Schwarzenegger.  About 4.2 million more people, in fact, for a grand total of 4.2 million votes and the Big Win.

With the win, Arnold Schwarzenegger disappeared from the American cineplex.  With it, not because of it.  So there is no confusion, the disappearance would have happened anyways.  Schwarzenegger had not banked profitable numbers since Jingle All The Way and Eraser seven years earlier, and had not scored a patented Schwarzenegger megahit since True Lies in 1994.

Runaway financial success would not be the hallmark of the Schwarzenegger Administration, either.  Arnie would spend the next eight years riding Cahl-Ee-Fohn-Yah and his live-in staff right to the brink, leaving barely enough time for him to tell buddy Tom Arnold to “shut the fuck up” after repeated jokes about how much Schwarz’s housekeeper’s kid resembled the Schwarz himself.

By my accounting, Schwarzenegger’s governorship was blessed in two cosmic ways.  The first was that his rise to political power coincided with the rise of the second Bush Administration, which grabbed every available headline with its monolithic incompetence and subterfuge to the point that commenting on the shortcomings of any other administration seemed trite in comparison.  By the time anybody realized how badly a former professional bodybuilder could oversee the intricacies of government at the state level, the big dope had already been reelected.  The second was that the fizzling out of his administration coincided with a personal disgrace so egregious as to eclipse the eight-year cycle of aggresive boobery that was his political career in one fell swoop.

For the record, I will reiterate that I voted for Gallagher.

There was never any real doubt that Schwarzenegger would return to the movies, even before he snuck in shoots for the first Expendables film while still in office.  In fact, after floating that initial test balloon, the only real surprise is the speed and deftness with which Schwarzenegger managed to fill his calendar over the next couple years with starring roles in the same type of schlocky action vehicles that he had ridden into the wall almost twenty years earlier. The Governator is currently signed to headline five feature films, before a single one of them sees the light of day.

Expendables 2 is hitting theaters presently, much to the acclaim of absolutely nobody.  I won’t watch it.  I couldn’t even make it through the trailer (in which I noticed that Sylvester Stallone is looking more and more like the puppet that portrayed him on D.C. Follies), the lowlight of which was Schwarzenegger ripping a car door loose from its hinges. Watching the clip, it is apparent on an instinctual level that there is no attachment between the car door and the chassis, or between the car door and the rules of physics, or between Schwarzenegger and Awareness of Self.  It’s a sad looking move from a man who was once a titan on the big screen.

Sadder still is the trailer for The Last Stand, which will be the first of the Schwarzenegger Five to arrive in theaters.

In Schwarzenegger’s heyday, there was a strange phenomena that started happening in the prime of his career.  Despite all visual evidence, you would have intermittent instances, usually immediately after the viewing of one of his films, of people praising the acting ability of Arnold Schwarzenegger.  I never got it while it was happening.  People’s preferences and substance problems are their own business.  I am only now able to believe this appraisal because I have seen the above clip of The Last Stand, and I can see that Schwarzenegger’s delivery has actually stiffened in his off years.  There was a time that he was better than this.

Obviously, there is a lot that remains to be seen before we can write off Arnie’s comeback completely.  The Last Stand boasts The Good, The Bad, And The Weird‘s Jee-Woon Kim as director.  There will also be grades to hand out over Arnie’s return to the realm of comedy, which will be put to the test with the production of the sequel for Twins, which has been announced but will probably take a couple of years to reach the theater.

In the meantime, he’s back, and he will likely be letting you know it at least once in every picture.  How long audiences will be back is the only question that remains.