I wanted to look at a movie that could have been something more, but was tied to an aging actor and an annoying kid and only wanted to be tongue in cheek about the whole “Cop” movie thing.
So What If…. Last Action Hero was a GOOD movie?
I know what you’re thinking: “John, there is no way to salvage anything within that movie!”
And you know what, random person talking to their computer screen, you’re probably more right than you are wrong… but let’s give this thing a try anyway.
Note, the one thing I am not touching is the soundtrack. Say what you will about the movie, Alice in Chains (2 songs!), Anthrax, AC/DC, Megadeth, Def Leppard, Aerosmith, Cypress Hill, Tesla, Fishbone… it is one of those albums that I still listen to from time to time.
For those of you who don’t remember, the movie was supposed to be a parody of the 80s action movies (anything with Schwarzenegger, Stallone, Russell, Gibson, etc). A kid manages to get a magical movie ticket that puts him directly into the movie he’s watching. Eventually he brings Arnold back into the real world where suddenly Arnold realizes that the rules here are not the same as they were. And worse yet, his arch-enemy has somehow made his way into the real world as well!
That’s actually not a horrible idea on the surface. That core concept of what is real and what is fantasy. And that’s what my version would focus on as much as anything else. Those little moments that appeared in the movie, but were glossed over due to the need for another catchphrase or yelling boss or even cartoon cat.
My version would still begin with Danny watching the movie, getting the magical ticket, and then getting sucked in. But our hero, Jack Slater, wouldn’t be a goofy parody spouting one-liners left and right; no, this would be someone who had seen the worst in people and still managed to keep going (think Se7en for an idea of the feel I’d be going for). He’s a person who is barely holding on to his sanity and is constantly wondering why all these terrible things always seem to happen to him.
So when Danny reveals that he’s a character in a movie series our hero lashes out. The idea that someone has been dictating the horrors of his world, tearing his marriage apart, killing his son, keeping him estranged from his daughter… that would be too much for him. And even though Danny would try to plead with him to follow through on his latest mission, Slater ignores the kid and then goes on a spree of his own. If the world is always going to be terrible, then why bother with it, why bother with saving anyone… let it all burn… and he uses half of the ticket to go into the real world (Danny rushing in after him)…
While the second piece of the ticket manages to fall into his enemy’s hands, Benedict. This is a man that has stood by and watched Slater destroy his boss’s empire, and only by luck was Benedict able to escape. Once he finds out about the ticket he sees it for what it is – a way to go to other worlds than these – to recruit like-minded people to his cause, giving them the freedom in the real world that has been severely lacking for any of them.
In the original Benedict has a monologue where he talks about the real world being a place where the bad guys can actually win. He talks about going to get the villains and bring them out. But we never get to see that moment in the original. And I believe that is a huge missed opportunity. So in my version we not only see some of it, but these villains coming out are not treated as just randoms… no, Benedict would have begun to research who might be able to help him. And freed them. And the Ripper would be one of them.
Now the real world is suddenly going to Hell and somehow Danny still believes in the HERO that Slater was. He convinces him by telling him that while it is terrible that all those horrific things have happened, he always knew that Slater would still try and do the right thing. That he could still be the man Danny always knew him to be.
And that would set up an ending where Slater not only has to deal with Benedict, but with the random assortment of baddies that are out in this world. It gives Danny a chance to assist in figuring out those characters who Benedict might have contacted in the first place (what the people are like, what their weaknesses might be, etc.).
We end with Slater and Benedict squaring off, Slater run through the ringer, but somehow finding enough strength to finish his enemy off. A beaten and bruised Slater limps back to the theater with Danny helping him, ready to go back to his movie life again… Danny fires up the movie, but instead of Slater IV, it is something nicer – perhaps a romantic comedy. A just reward for the life that Slater has led.
John McGuire is the writer of the sci-fi novel: The Echo Effect.
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