Back in the ’70s, National Lampoon magazine ran a classic mock ad showing a VW floating in a pond with the caption, “If Ted Kennedy drove a Volkswagen, he’d be president today.” (If you don’t know the dark humor of this, do your homework and get back to me.) Similarly, and somewhat conversely, if Arnold Schwarzenegger had not been elected governor of California, we’d most likely be wincing through movies with Ah-nuld flexing his aging muscles as a 60-plus-year-old action hero. As it is, he’s too busy being the governator to make much monotonous mayhem in the movies — and that’s a relief.
But he could have been. After all, Harrison Ford, 65, has just done it in Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull. And even before that, Sylvester Stallone, 61, did it in Rambo, which is new to DVD and comes to us 20 years after Rambo III. (For all us nostalgia hounds, it’s also available in Rambo: The Complete Collectors Set, a handsome tin featuring all four of the vengeful soldier’s movies.)
Now, I’m no age-ist. In fact, I’m the opposite. I believe people get better in many ways as they get older. But I’m not so sure that being a movie action hero is one of those ways. I mean, Ford looked downright grandfatherly in Indy 4, but the movie made a big deal of how, instead, he was merely fatherly. You’d think he was 45, not 65.
And, as so often happens in such cases, oldsters tend to overcompensate.
Ford has never been more masculine, virile, strong and indomitable than in Indy 4, disregarding the facts that (1) he’s much older and (2) Indy’s charm, in his ’80s heyday, sprang in large part from his regular-guy vulnerability. And Stallone’s John Rambo reportedly kills 236 opponents in Rambo, the most in any film of the series. Over the hill? Not when you overcompensate, I guess.
I also guess this means if Ah-nuld wasn’t governator, he’d be slaughtering at an almost genocidal rate in Terminator 4 or somesuch — and we wouldn’t be enjoying it. So before you bemoan the runaway production he’s prompted (you know what I’m talking about, industry types), let’s be thankful for small favors. Between Rambo and Indy 4, at least there was no Commando 6.