In the early part of Arnold’s film career he made lots of movies, some of which didn’t really work. I’m not suggesting that Commando didn’t work on some levels, but it had pretty modest objectives of showing off Schwarzenegger’s post Mr. Olympia body rather than his infamous acting ability. On the subject of action, there is some horrendous ham in this movie, especially from Vernon Wells, who’d been the elemental Wez in Mad Max 2 not long before.
But even The Austrian Oak has his work cut out here, in one scene he’s so heavily armed at that even he looks like he’s struggling to carry it all to the next scene.
So what’s good about it? Well, its classic Arnold, and he’s got more pectoral muscle mass than the average mountain gorilla. Some of the action sequences are also very impressive, if only for the amount of explosives they’ve used to blow things up.
I also love the funky James Horner soundtrack which used steel drums to give a decidedly fun tropical feel to the proceedings. Thankfully this is also the full US released theatrical version with all the ‘garden shed’ sequence in place, and not the trimmed-for-UK audiences version. But it isn’t the entirely ‘uncut’ Director’s Cut that appeared on DVD, sadly. The English sound is in six channel DTS HD, so you get some full explosions, and there is also 5.1 DTS audio in both French and German.
What’s not so great? Actually I’m going to cut Fox some slack on the Blu-ray conversion because quite clearly some of the original footage is diabolically grainy. The digital transfer just highlights just how little interest was taken in the quality of the cinematography when they made this. Continuity wasn’t of much interest either, and there are plot holes in this you could drive a Hummer through.
But where I won’t be as magnanimous is in my reaction in the rest of the disc, which is devoid of anything I’d class as an ‘extra’ or even the most basic additions. Five promotional trailers, including one for Commando itself, isn’t a justification for the capacity of Blu-ray by any stretch of my imagination. There are no commentaries, nothing, zilch. They’ve filled up the disc by encoding it in MPEG2 rather than the more efficient VC1 codec. Calling it a ‘gouge’ is an oversell, it’s an extremely poor effort.
No, this isn’t an important movie of social significance, but the exception of bundling it in a Hercules in New York and Batman & Robin triple pack, I’m not sure how more shabbily this movie could have been treated.
Maybe it’s not Conan, Terminator or Predator, but it’s a seminal example of a mid-80s action movie which is refreshingly unhindered by plot or plausibility. Arnold kills 81 people in this movie, some several times over I suspect.
Overall it’s tons of fun, action packed, and as much Arnold as anyone could handle in a single sitting. Quite why Commando never justified a sequel, I’ll never know. But it deserved a better Blu-ray release than this.The Film The Extras