The Expendables was more of a love letter to the fans of action movies of the 80s and 90s, since they had their hay day ever since The Matrix came out, since then it's all fancy kung fu fighting and then quick cut shaky cam stuff with the Bourne movies but while nobody was competently bringing back that style of action movie leave it to Stallone to do it and do it successfully. I absolutely loved the first movie, even the underused stars in that movie such as Arnie and Bruce Willis didn't bother me much, the fact they were in the same movie was just great. This sequel had to top everything the first film did successfully, such as the over the top violence, big guns, big explosions, more banter, more Dolph Lundgren ... the sequel has more of it, unfortunately it doesn't top anything the first film does, which is more or less the most upsetting thing for me.
Don't get me wrong, the film is great fun. Bring back the cast of the first movie, add more Arnold Schwarzenegger and Bruce Willis, add some Chuck Norris and make Jean-Claude Van Damme the bad guy. It is the perfect recipe for the sequel to one of the best action films in the last 10 years. The movie opens up with a BIG action sequence, which was rather exciting and fun to watch and had a hint of proper Jet Li action which the first movie rather lacked, and then the movie turns it down a little bit for the majority of the movie which to me is rather suprising. The sequel has a bit more character development which is something that wasn't expected or wanted, you see most of the characters cracking wisely with each other, connecting with each other in a way the first movie simply didn't attempt to do (with the theatrical cut at least) which for me was both suprising and rather good to see. The only slight i would have against the 'character banter' is that some of the 'one liners' were borderline cringeworthy, their winks and nods to the actors' back catalogue were a bit silly in some spots but cheesy in a way that most people may like, which i to a point, didn't. I thought that Jet Li was somewhat wasted in the first picture (except his great fight with Dolph Lundgren) and in this movie he pops up for the intro action scene, then disappears ... he isn't really missed either. Randy Couture was literally a waste of time, except for a few cauliflower ear gags he is basically window dressing next to the other guys, Dolph Lundgren's character is given a small layer of added depth by saying that he is secretly a genius (which is reminiscent of him in real life) and Terry Crews does his Terry Crews thing.
The villain of the piece, Van Damme, is appropriately moody and trying his best to be a villain (despite having the single worst name for a character ever - Jean Vilain) and for the most part, he pulls it off well. The only regret is that there was not enough of him or not enough for him to do, thanks to the script. He appropriately kills one of The Expendables in a very 'Van Damme' way which was a cool thing to see, his right hand man, Scott Adkins is someone i do not know of really, and all he does is look at Jason Statham in an intentional way of basically saying 'you and me = fight at the end'. His intentions as a villain are simple enough, "get in the way of my plan, you will be killed" and the majority of the movie is The Expendables trying to track him down through some rough parts of Europe. Then you have Chuck Norris turn up which was both ridiculous and stupid and done in a way that the internet Chuck Norris fans will definitely dig (which to this day is something i have never understood) and his one line, which was basically conjured up from one of the MILLIONS of internet memes for him, is funny in a way but completely out of place in my opinion.
The final action scene was, in some ways, rather disappointing especially when comparing it to the first movie's climax. There was the one time where The Expendables 2 was going to be a PG-13 / 12 Rated movie, remember that? well i think the producers and director went into the movie intending for it to be a hard PG-13 movie and only realised that was a dumb idea when the internet basically screamed and shouted at them (rightfully so) so instead of having hard hitting fight scenes like the first movie did, you get weaker and shorter fight scenes in this movie with somewhat violent pay offs (deaths, basically) which could have easily have been edited to be PG-13 friendly but they got a violent version of each death in the bag, just incase (or for a R rated / 18 rated directors cut 12 months after the DVD release) - the whole Stallone / Van Damme scene was just plain disappointing, JCVD does his signature kicks (as seen in the trailers) a couple of times then basically lets Stallone beat down on him, there wasn't really much special about it. Compare this to the Stallone / Steve Austin fight in the first film it just looks and feels VERY tame, but since Stallone nearly broke himself in two doing that i can see why he may have asked to have it toned down slightly. The one part of the finale i did really enjoy and had the hairs on my body tingling was the one main shot of all the action heroes in one line unloading round after round into Van Damme's men ... that was basically every young boys wet dream and that moment was worth the price of admission alone. It is a tremendous moment in action movie history.
I think if Stallone had directed this movie, it may have been much more violent and intentionally so, as opposed to what we get this time around which was basically tons more CGI blood and tamer looking fights. Don't get me wrong though, what action you do get is very enjoyable to watch even if i was constantly comparing it to the first movie at all times. When it comes to a sequel i think that is somewhat justifiable, as it has to top the first movie and in my opinion, it just didn't. For fans of the first movie it could go either way, you could love it as much as the first film as a few of my friends did, or be slightly disappointed by it if you end up comparing it too much to the first movie ... like i did.