Posted by: Greg | May 25, 2011

What I Learned from 80s Film…Commando

Matrix: Remember Sully when I said I would kill you last?
Sully: Yeah. That’s right Matrix, you did.
Matrix: I lied.

Commando was my first knowledgeable foray into over the top action films. My Dad took me to this film and I was on the edge of my seat. Guns, explosions, grown men crying, explosions, bodies littering the ground, and shopping for more guns all that’s needed for an action flick.

Oh wait! I never explained the movie. You can go online and find paragraphs explaining the plot and what the movie is about. Don’t waste your time. The simple plot is: Mr. Schwarzenegger’s daughter is taken from him, he doesn’t like that, and so he gets her back. There are nuances here and there about an exiled dictator, members of a former elite military unit dying, betrayal, and BLAH BLAH BLAH. Forget that boring crap. Arnold wants to get his daughter back from the bad guys. Enough said.

This movie quickly made it’s way onto my TV screen a year later. My friends and I would quit playing outside to come in and watch it. This is one of the first films I remember watching with my friends and acting out. (For some reason I always played Bennett!) It usually came on during the middle of the day Saturday or Sunday on TBS. (Yes, that TBS before they went all cable. And that TBS where they would replay movies in between really horrible Braves games. This was during the heyday of craptastic Atlanta Braves losing seasons!)

I recently watched it again on Netflix. Actually I listened to it while I was at work and remembered how I viewed this through my seven year old eyes…

1.) A Dad’s love is strong
I knew very well my Dad loved me and would do anything for me. (Hell, he still does love me and would move the world for me albeit with a limp!) After this movie, I was certain nothing would stand in his way to save me from peril. I figured this is how all fathers would be if something happened to their children. At times I would wonder if this show of force would differ depending on whether it is a son or daughter and I remember asking my friend Jason’s Dad for clarification because Jason had a younger sister. The answer was simple and exactly what I thought: NO. Any child taken would receive full parental punishment. Now I knew he didn’t mean a spanking and bed with no dessert. He meant what Arnold did to those creeps is exactly how he would do it. Although he hinted more at ripping arms off and beating people to death, which sounds more like Arnold in Conan the Barbarian than Arnold in Commando.

I also remember asking my Mom and Jason’s Mom if this is how they would do it. Both of them answered with a laugh. Which led me to believe only Dads would behave like Arnold. So, to me that meant a father’s love must be stronger.

2.) Examples of Problem Solving
As a kid loads of new experiences unfold in front of you and sometimes they require some individual problem solving. Let’s say you lost your house key and you need to get inside from the rain and your parents won’t be home for another two hours. What do you do? Some would go to a friend’s house and wait for their parents. Others might just sit outside in the rain. Me? I broke into my house.

No, Arnold does not teach people how to break into homes in the movie, but he offers new ways of solving problems.

-Want to get off of an airplane taxiing for take-off without causing a panic?
Feign illness and head towards the bathroom, sneak into the elevator and head to the cargo hold, tear through a few walls, and get onto the front landing gear to jump.

-Want to go from one end of the mall courtyard to another?
Beat up a bunch of mall cops, grab a streamer draped across the ceiling and along the sides and Tarzan that mofo onto the elevator carrying your prey on the other side of the mall courtyard. Simple.

-Want to have a large assortment of weaponry?
Steal a bulldozer from a nearby construction site, drive it into the side of gun shop, and go shopping for guns.

-Want to rescue your daughter from the army of an exiled dictator and lone mercenary?
Watch this movie.

Arnold was very blunt in his abilities to solve problems. He went head first. He was quick thinking and resourceful. Sometimes life requires wrecking ball problem solving skills and it is better to learn those at a young age. When you get older you can use your quick wit and bypass the wrecking ball skill set for the laser precision ones.

3.) Kids don’t have to be victims
This was a nice thing to learn, because it applies through adulthood as well. Be resourceful. Be aware of your surroundings. Never play a victim. Now of course the daughter of super wrecking ball Schwarzenegger will be resourceful, but you never know her abilities until she is tossed in an empty room. Up until that point she was a literal rag doll being passed around. Alone in the room she took apart a door handle and used it to pry open the boarded up window. Pretty impressive. Especially for a 10 year old girl in the 80s with a very bad hairdo. Even though we were a group of 7 – 8 year old boys that hated girls, we really wanted Jenny on our team if we were out on an adventure.

4.) Bad Bad Guys
I was never impressed with the bad guys of the film. The exiled dictator didn’t scare me and Bennett was too much of an over the top crazy bad guy. He was quick to anger and lose composure. I found him, the actor Vernon Wells,  more frightening as his apocalypse surviving character from Mad Max and Weird Science.

The situation scared me more than the people invovled, although there is one caveat to that thought process, Bill Duke’s silent character scared me the most. He spoke little and when he did it was quiet. No screaming. No melodrama.

These bad guys gave me a better idea of what makes a good bad guy. Which is why Hans Gruber, played by the ever talented Alan Rickman, from Die Hard is the best bad guy.

5.) Mall Cops
Early on as a young child your parents, hopefully, teach you to avoid strangers and to trust people in uniforms. Based off of this movie I made the decision that Mall Cops do NOT deserve my trust. Then again if I am at the mall alone I would find another child my age and hang out with them and their parents. Nothing about these wanna-be-cops inspired me to go to them if I were in distress. Let alone to tell them someone resembling the Incredible Hulk was outside wanting to hurt someone. If you must know, what appears to be 15-20 mall cops fail to apprehend Arnold and they end up looking like a bunch of kittens trying to take down a tiger.

Watching Commando brings back enjoyable moments of over the top action and lame one liners, which Simon Pegg and Edgar Wright nail down perfectly in their take on buddy action films, Hot Fuzz. The downside of looking back into ones past is the regret at seeing heroes become jokes, excluding jokes over bad movies. With the recent news of Arnold’s extra-marital affair and fathering a child out of wedlock I wonder if he would brave the dangers of the world to save this child with as much vigor as his own. For shame Arnold. Another childhood hero bites the dust!

In the end, watching this film again enhances my enjoyment for the film Taken with Liam Neeson.

Same concept but Liam does scalpel like problem solving over Arnold’s wrecking ball.

Next Wednesday is…Howard the Duck!

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