Watching Schwarzenegger in Commando deepened my appreciation for Rainier Wolfcastle, the Simpson’s parody version of Arnie.
It has all the hallmarks of a beloved Schwarzenegger and Wolfcastle movie: cheesy one-liners, colorful villains, incredible feats of strength, and, of course, an insanely high body count. The plot is skeletal and mostly serves to move us from one setpiece to the next: Our retired hero gets thrust back into the game after his daughter gets kidnapped. As a one-man army, Schwarzenegger’s John Matrix (great name) punches and shoots his way to the thugs that are keeping his daughter, with the (sort of) help from a female flight attendant.
Which brings me to one of my pet-peeve tropes of action movies: the hysterical female companion. Schwarzenegger’s character, for all intents and purposes, kidnaps a woman and forces her to help him save his kidnapped daughter. And by the end of the film, she has, what I think you could safely call, Stockholm syndrome.
I’m not writing all of this to be Mr. Woke Guy, drinking Woke juice with my Woke friends. I just think any civilian, regardless of sex, would be hysterical if shot at. I flinch when my eight-year-old nephew shoots at me with a Nerf gun. You bet I’m going to be soiling my pants and screaming my head off if twenty goons pulled out their Uzis and start spraying bullets at me in a mall.
To its detriment, the film treats hysteria as a weakness and uses it as comic fodder. If you’re going to have Arnie lift a car over his head, don’t introduce actual human emotions like fear. It punctures through the fun and fantasy of seeing an invincible hero victoriously emerge atop a pile of foes.
Although I’ve been pontificating for the better part of three paragraphs, my favorite things about Commando is that it’s a perfect airplane movie: mindless enough to not have to think too deeply yet entertaining enough to distract you from the crippling fear and anxiety of flying.