By any reasonable measure, Arnold Schwarzenegger doesnt need a comeback. Over the course of his illustrious five-decade career, the Austria-born actor has become the worlds all-time greatest bodybuilder (courtesy of seven Mr. Olympia titles), arguably the biggest movie star of the 80s and 90s, the two-term governor of California from 2003 to 2011, and one of the most recognizableand popularpublic figures during the second half of the twentieth century. At 69 years old, his Teutonic accent, still-impressive physique and gigantic smile make him known, and beloved, worldwidea Hollywood force of nature with a last name as larger-than-life as his biceps, and the living embodiment of the American Dream.
And yet here we are in 2017, with his latest film Aftermath having just arrived in theaters, and something feels slightlyamiss.
Its been a tumultuous twelve months in the public eye for Schwarzenegger, largely thanks to his decision to preside over NBCs corporate-boardroom reality series The Celebrity Apprenticea post previously held by Donald J. Trump. With their roles reversedformer Republican governor Schwarzenegger hosting Trumps TV show, while Trump runs the free worlda feud felt inevitable, and it wasnt long before the two were sparring openly with each other in the media. Schwarzenegger may have come out of this squabble looking more presidential than his rival, but it did little to alter the fate of his Celebrity Apprentice stint, which likely thanks to audience fatigue with all things Trump-related, crashed and burned, prompting its replacement host to swiftly exit the franchise.
A brief, unsuccessful venture into reality TV could hardly derail Schwarzeneggers larger fortunes. However, it comes on the heels of a string of big-screen misfires that have, to a greater extent, marred the mans once-impenetrable winning streak.
In terms of box office power, the actor hasnt participated in a $100 million-grossing film since 2010s The Expendables (in which he delivered a glorified cameo). And the last time he actually headlined such a hit was 2003s Terminator: Rise of the Machines. To be sure, Schwarzeneggers fruitful foray into politics limited the number of movie projects he took on during the early part of the new centurybetween 2003 and 2013, he only had bit parts in Around the World in 80 Days, Terminator Salvation, and the first two Expendables installments. Yet having returned to acting full-time over the past few years, hes found it increasingly difficult to regain his prior king-of-the-world form.
The young, insanely strapping Schwarzenegger cut a literal superheroic pose in early kill-em-all classics like The Terminator (1984), Commando (1985), The Running Man (1987) and Predator (1987)the last of which remains the actors finest achievement, and not just because its handshake between Schwarzenegger and Carl Weathers epitomizes everything outsized, corny and awesome about 80s genre cinema. He was a living, breathing action figure; an incredible hulk demolishing bad guys with ease and delivering eye-rollingly perfect one-liners in the process.
That personas mileage began to wane some time around Batman and Robin, the ill-fated 1997 Joel Schumacher sequel in which Schwarzenegger played villain Mr. Freeze as a cartoon-of-a-cartoon who only speaks in cold-related puns (e.g., Youre not sending me to the cooler!). His performance came off as self-parody, and though hes spent the ensuing two decades churning out functional action efforts2002s Collateral Damage, 2013s The Last Stand, 2013s Escape Plan (with Sylvester Stallone), 2014s Sabotageits often felt as if he never quite recovered from Mr. Freeze, insofar as that role fully tipped his big-screen mode of operation into the realm of camp.