A look at the action hero arms race between Fast & Furious and The Expendables

For the first time since 2007, the most intriguing summer match-up in 2014 won’t be between two comic book movies. Instead, it will be a return to the former king of the summer season — the action blockbuster — as Fast & Furious 7 squares off against The Expendables 3.

fast and furious 6

Sure, it doesn’t exactly seem like a fair fight as each of the last two films in the Fast and Furious franchise — Fast 5 ($209.8 million in 2011) and Fast & Furious 6 ($238 million in 2013) singlehandedly outperformed the $188 million total for The Expendables and The Expendables 2, but like his punch happy alter ego Rocky, Expendables creator Sylvester Stallone is still swinging to show he’s still got one last fight in him.

Courtesy Arnold Schwarzenegger's Facebook Arnold Schwarzenegger, Director Patrick Hughes and Harrison Ford on the set of "The Expendables 3."
Arnold Schwarzenegger, Director Patrick Hughes and Harrison Ford on the set of “The Expendables 3.”

To do that, Stallone has reached into his Rolodex to call in some old friends for another chance to reclaim some of their old superstar status (Wesley Snipes, Antonio Banderas) while bringing in some new veteran faces to the fold (Mel Gibson, Harrison Ford and License to Kill’s Robert Davi).

Wisely recognizing action fans that may not be too enthralled with watching the exploits of the senior circuit — no matter how fondly they remember them from back in the day, Stallone also added some much needed young blood.

Ronda Rousey
Ronda Rousey

Joining the new look Expendables are potential rising stars in Glen Powell (The Dark Knight Rises), UFC Women’s Bantamweight Champion Ronda Rousey, former WBC Welterweight champ Victor Ortiz and Kellan Lutz (The Twilight Saga).Kellan Lutz Twilight Saga

 Bringing on Lutz now seems to be a film too late as The Twilight Saga was winding down when The Expendables 2 came out. That film had a somewhat prominent role for Liam Hemsworth, one of the stars of the surging The Hunger Games, which is only rising in popularity with a much-anticipated sequel coming out in November.

Given a chance to do it over it again, you’ve gotta think Stallone would have swapped which film Hemsworth and Lutz appeared in to better connect with the younger demographic that largely doesn’t seem as interested in the franchise.

Sixty-three percent of the audience for The Expendables 2 was 25 and older; see also: guys who grew up watching the likes of Stallone, Bruce Willis, Schwarzenegger and Snipes.

Younger moviegoers are all about Vin Diesel’s Fast franchise for their insane action fix as 43% were under the age of 25. That’s a demographic with a lot of disposable income and the mix of fast cars, hot women and exotic locations strongly connects with them.

And just like the Cold War or the Red Sox/Yankees free agent battles, there’s an interesting arms race to lure the top action stars to each franchise.

Not long after The Expendables 2 was nearing completion, Stallone discussed the possibility of bringing Dwayne ‘The Rock’ Johnson to the franchise.

Johnson’s Luke Hobbs has played a pivotal role in the franchise’s increased popularity so getting him to The Expendables would have been a major casting coup. Johnson discussed joining Stallone’s gang, but ultimately, remained with the Fast crew.

Jason Statham in Fast and Furious

In a very interesting counter-punch, Jason Statham, who plays Stallone’s right-hand-man in The Expendables, made a cameo in Fast and Furious 6 and will be featured as the main villain in Fast & Furious 7.

Ironically, Rousey is now rumored to be joining the cast as well, but the most intriguing cast rumor is that Kurt Russell is in talks to have a role in Fast 7. This was a role initially offered to Denzel Washington.

Kurt Russell 2013

After watching 2 Guns, I’m surprised Washington didn’t want in on the most popular non-comic book franchise going today. And with his action hero status from the past in films like Escape from New York, Big Trouble in Little China and his own team up with Stallone in Tango & Cash, you figured Sly would’ve had the inside track on bring Russell to the Expendables fold.

Following the falling out Stallone and Willis had over the latter’s Expendables 3 paycheck, I kinda wonder if Universal Studios wouldn’t try to figure out some way to bring Willis into the Fast franchise?

Fast & Furious 7 gets the jump as it comes out July 11 and Expendables 3 releases on Aug. 16. What do you think? Which franchise will come out on top next year?