Last Action Hero (1993): Starring Schwarzenegger

Everything you have heard about the debacle of Last Action Hero is true–and worse. Considering its budget (over $70 million) and aggressive and arrogant advertising campaign, the movie is a major fiasco–worse than Heaven’s Gate, Michael Cimino’s disastrous Western that destroyed United Artists back in 1980.

Last Action Hero is not going to destroy Columbia, but I hope some useful lessons will be drawn from its experience.

What went wrong? Possibly everything.

Based on a cute, though not original, idea, it’s a tale of a kid (the misdirected Austin O’Brien), who cuts school and everyday reality to immerse in the movie-reality of his action hero, Jack Slatter (Arnold Schwarzenegger). Soon, the line between these realities blur, ensuing some expected complications.

Last Action Hero reflects studio committee moviemaking at its worst. Like Schwarzenegger himself, it’s more of a product than a movie, a technological machine that tries to be sophisticated. Made, or rather constructed, by a committee in story conferences, it fails to reflect the sensibility or taste of one person, be it its star, the comic strip Schwarzenegger, or its director, John McTiernan, who is the wrong man for this movie. Numerous writers worked on the screenplay (some, like William Goldman, uncredited) and the end result is a muddled, messy picture.

Joyless, soulless, and tasteless, Last Action Hero is also incoherent: A work that can’t decide whether it’s an action flick, a fantasy, or a spoof. The movie is also deafening–it’s one of the noisiest I have seen in years. Everything in the movie is excessive: there are too many beginnings (the story starts at least twice), too many villains, too many subplots, too many action set-pieces, too many chases. The movie is also quite violent–despite Schwarzenegger’s statements to the contrary.

As for Schwarzenegger: it’s one thing to show detachment and some humor about his screen image, as he did in Terminator 2. But it’s quite another to laugh at himself and completely deconstruct his image, because by doing it he also shows how artificial his screen persona is and he is also offensive to his loyal fans (mostly children) who may still like to believe in the magic of his movies.

I can’t think of one good reason for spending two hours and 7 bucks to see this film.