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Return of the big screen meatheads

Hollywood’s comically pumped-up action heroes are back this summer, alongside a new generation of beefcakes.

hollywood Updated: Apr 15, 2012 00:30 IST
Phil Hoad

Well, he always promised. Confirmation that Arnold Schwarzenegger would indeed be making a full stream return to films came with the announcement of a sequel to Twins — Triplets. And by the time it hits the screens, the man will already have starred in action-thriller, The Last Stand, and done the slo-mo explosion walk in Sylvester Stallone’s The Expendables 2. This summer, the beefcake action star is back.

Giving him company is the younger lot in a beefy Thor (played by Chris Hemsworth) in The Avengers. Meat concentration levels get dangerously high with The Dark Knight Rises, as actor Tom Hardy is still on protein shakes, reportedly gaining 13kg for his role as the villain — Bane. Mark Wahlberg (above) and Dwayne ‘The Rock’ Johnson (below right), on the other hand, play bodybuilder bank robbers in Pain and Gain.

The heyday for this sort of hero was the 1980s, when audiences were on first-name terms with Arnie, Sly, Dolph (Rudolph Lundgren) and Jean-Claude (Van Damme). But this time around, they’ve crossed the line as veterans chancing it for one last job.

By the late 1980s, beefy action heroes were already looking immobile next to nimbler newcomers such as Bruce Willis and Mel Gibson. Schwarzenegger, the only one with any real charisma, started to diversify into comedies. Stallone was arguably the frontrunner of the pair for the first time.

Sylvester Stallone

The genre took itself with a narcissistic seriousness that would be impossible now and perhaps that’s why iron-pumpers such as Vin Diesel and Dwayne Johnson have stuttered in recent years.

The meatheads have to face it — no one’s dazzled by a Himalayan bicep peak any more. Maybe it’s The Expendables franchise that best articulates the sense of desperation, of a rearguard action for beleaguered masculinity.

The Guardian