Reporters have spent days detailing why Terminator: Dark Fate became the year’s most embarrassing flop.
The movie made just $29 million stateside, and its foreign box office totals are equally weak ($94 million and counting). That’s no way for a franchise reboot to perform. Most observers are writing the saga’s obituary.
Those reporters nailed some of the core reasons for its box office woes, from franchise fatigue to recycled story beats. Most missed another crucial factor.
The sad decline of Arnold Schwarzenegger, A-list movie star.
Yes, once upon a time Ah-nold ruled Hollywood, cranking out hit after hit despite his limited acting chops. Today? He’s an anchor in the worst of ways, a drag on any project hoping to crack the critical $100 million box office mark.
He still could leverage his waning star power for direct-to-video glory a la Nicolas Cage and Bruce Willis. Otherwise, studios should be wary.
How did we get here? There’s no one answer …
‘Hasta La Vista, Hollywood’
The actor famously hung up his SAG card and ran for governor of Kah-lee-forn-ya in 2003. And he won via a special recall election.
His stunning victory added another chapter to his immigrant success story. Sure, his film career had cooled by then, but his political segue made making more movies impossible.
In Hollywood, taking any kind of sabbatical can be brutal to one’s career. Just ask Renee Zellweger, the Oscar winner who struggled to reclaim her film traction following a five-year hiatus.
The Report Card … Wasn’t Good
Schwarzenegger shocked the political landscape by becoming governor without any previous political experience (sound familiar?). He even won re-election with more than 1 million votes. Still, he left office with a brutal 23 percent approval rating within the state.
Everyone loves a winner. The actor turned Governator emerged from his political life with a slate gray cloud over his head … and brand.
Coming out as a conservative in 2019 Hollywood could kill one’s career, or at least make finding work a chore. Just ask the stars of Will & Grace, happy to avoid anyone who votes for the GOP.
Things weren’t as harsh a decade or so ago, but Schwarzenegger’s Republican brand didn’t make it easier on him. That’s only part of the problem, one that’s grown worse in recent years.
Some see him as yet another RINO – Republican in Name Only. That’s partially due to his California roots. It’s tough to be a rock-ribbed Republican in the Golden State.
Going political, per se, won’t always hurt your career. It’s given Alyssa Milano a huge boost, for example. Branding yourself as a member of one party, and then alienating key members of said group, is something different.
Some images are hard to shake, like a floppy-haired Hugh Grant begging for forgiveness on The Tonight Show after getting caught with a prostitute.
Similarly, close your eyes and you’ll see Schwarzenegger flaunting his fame sans guilt.
Remember the pictures of him puffing on massive cigars and driving around in a gas-guzzling Hummers? Few stars enjoyed the spoils of success quite like Schwarzenegger.
These days, he’s singing from the eco-choir. He even supports suing oil companies for hurting the planet. This week Schwarzenegger embraced the radical left’s climate change sage.
The actor stands as one of Hollywood’s biggest eco-hypocrites, a wildly unflattering label and one some movie goers resent.
The irony of Schwarzenegger’s descent is clear. He’s grown as an actor over time. Critics routinely scoffed at his stiff line readings and limited range at the height of his fame. Director Ivan Reitman once described how he meticulously crafted the star’s facial expressions to get the right takes for his comedy smash Twins.
Critics cheer Schwarzenegger’s sense of humor and, yes, depth. His sober zombie film Maggie demanded a true performance, not a series of muscle flexes and one-liners.
Maggie is Schwarzenegger’s Cop Land, that is, a feature designed to highlight and showcase that which an action movie hero could only hint at in glancing moments between explosions. In Cop Land, Stallone stripped himself of all the violent artifice that comes with his build, presenting a vulnerability that is hauntingly effective. Schwarzenegger does the same thing here, playing a father who is clearly shaken when driven to violence.
In Terminator: Dark Fate he’s the reluctant heart of the story. His T-800 (AKA Carl) feels remorse for the pain he’s caused over time. He’s willing to sacrifice his cyber life to help others, particularly the woman he hurt the most, Sarah Connor (Linda Hamilton).
Ah-nold sells it.
Because of Hamilton and Schwarzenegger, the movie works. Everyone else, though played by reasonably competent actors, is bland and forgettable,” says Salon.
Now, sadly, he can’t sell his own films to a once adoring public.
[Cross-posted from Hollywood in Toto.]