This isn’t the movies anymore.
We’re back. This time we’re traveling to the world behind the silver screen with artist Roz Townsend to dissect the meta-fictional cult action/comedy movie that many at the time considered Arnold’s first box office flop, Last Action Hero.
Teenager Danny Madigan is the world’s biggest fan of the Schwarzenegger-helmed Jack Slater series of action movies. When a magic ticket literally transports him into Slater’s cinematic universe, he finds himself in an over-the-top world where a combination of bad puns and giant explosions can always save the day. But when one of the movie’s villains steals the ticket and discovers his own nature as a fictional character, Danny and Jack must follow him back into the real world, a place where, suddenly, the bad guys can win.
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Great episode. I recently watched LAH for the first time since maybe seeing it on video rental back in the day, and wow, it’s jumped easily to my top 3 Arnold films as well.
I had another metatextual reading too: McTiernan essentially killed the 80s action film with Die Hard – the paradigm soon shifting from invulnerable heroes to punching bags who could hardly stand by the end of their films – and here he is actually paying loving tribute to the subgenre he murdered. I really do think there’s love there, it doesn’t mock in a nasty way.
And there lies its failure at the time. For Arnold fans, it was a bit of a slap in the face. For people deserting Arnold’s kind of hero, it was an Arnold film not worth seeing. It was too soon to pay loving tribute to an era that wasn’t gone, just on its way out. Today, the 80s action genre has long been behind us, so that tribute works much better. There’s no sting.