The A-Team (2010) is streaming on Hulu. Most action movie fans relish that movie because it offered the first-ever use of a parachuting tank as an aerial weapon. And Liam Neeson, as Lieutenant John “Hannibal” Smith, chews scenery through the film in admirable fashion.
Of course, that bit of action, like many things in the movie and the initial television series, was just this side of over the top and made the audience shake their heads in disbelief … then usually howl with glee because the action kept going.
Instead of continuing the adventures of the established team, Liam Neeson’s take offers the untold origin of the A-Team.
The Liam Neeson-starrer was written by Joe Carnahan, Brian Bloom, and Skip Woods, and it was based on the 1980s television series of the same name. Stephen J. Cannell, one of television’s most prolific series creators, paired with Frank Lupo, himself a huge mover and shaker in the industry, to roll out one of the biggest blockbusters of the decade.
Given the five-year run of the television series, and the fact that the movie had supposedly been in the works since the 1990s, director Joe Carnahan and his team had to find new ground to launch what they hoped would be a movie series. Stephen J. Cannell even returned as a producer of the film. Instead of continuing the adventures of the established team, Liam Neeson’s take offers the untold origin of the A-Team.
The movie takes place during the war with Iraq and features Liam Neeson as a special forces soldier. The movie also has a plot with a lot of layers, a lot more than the television series ever embraced, and in the end that plot might have put off the audience it had hoped to attract.
Fans wanted good guys and bad guys, and the movie offered unexpected twists and turns. Roger Ebert even commented that the film was an incomprehensible mess.
The studio and the producers had hoped for a $30-35 million opening weekend return on their investment. Instead, they got $26 million, and the film finally earned $177 million against the $100-110 million budget. The box office just wasn’t big enough to green-light the proposed sequel that Liam Neeson and others had agreed to.
The A-Team’s Cast
The A-Team’s movie cast was lit by big stars and actors who became big stars. Liam Neeson was fresh off his first Taken movie, which exploded at the box office and made him a draw as both a leading man and an action hero. Bradley Cooper had starred in The Hangover, another big box office success.
Quinton “Rampage” Jackson starred as B. A. Baracus, and his skills as a mixed martial artist and wrestler made him a no-brainer for the role. Sharito Copley, having starred in the science fiction movie District 9, played Howling Mad. Jessica Biel, who had been blowing up as an actor and had recently starred in The Rules of Attraction and The Illusionist, had a significant role.
Liam Neeson’s version should have worked. It had the bones of the original hit, it had box office caliber actors, and the special effects budget was huge compared to what the original television series had to work with. In fact, a lot of the flying jeep stock footage in the original series was repurposed for other episodes.
The TV Series
The A-Team television show was quickly nicknamed the flying jeep show, because those vehicles were constantly getting blown up or were shown leaping over vast distances.
The television show came out at a time when the industry had been slapped by industry and federal guidelines to tone down violence. Characters couldn’t bleed or even show bruising as the result of rough handling. Police officers couldn’t be shown getting shot, but security guards died by the dozens.
Some sources say the episodes averaged 46 violent acts. Fans never counted. They just enjoyed the no-holds-barred (except for the blood and bruising and death) action. The Liam Neeson-helmed movie had no such limits and is totally violent … in a good way.
In the 1980s, the four men who made up the A-Team were ex-military commandos with special training. Brandon Tartikoff, the president and driving force of NBC Entertainment, intended to build the show around Mr. T, who played B. A. (Bad Attitude) Baracus (“I ain’t gettin’ on no plane!”), the team’s mechanic and driver of the iconic black and red van. As a result of the show, Mr. T became a household name and a meme in the making for the time.
The critical response at Rotten Tomatoes lists The A-Team movie at 49 percent. Movie critics tore into the character development and plot. Even Liam Neeson took some critical hits for being much too successful at everything Hannibal did, yet he didn’t carry off Peppard’s smug tones with the character. But you can judge the movie for yourself after you check it out on Hulu.