Product placement in movies has taken a new path in recent years in being considerably less subtle than it used to be. We're far too aware now when we see even prestigious actors strategically holding up a Coke bottle, eating a certain candy, or driving a particular car in ostentatious scenes. But out of all products, cars are receiving slightly shorter shrift than they used to have in the movies, or at least in certain cinematic cars becoming iconic for decades afterward.
Arnold Schwarzenegger's "The Last Stand" is attempting a throwback to that, or at least in theory if you apply it as a 1980s and 90s nod to Arnold's heyday. In the movie, the Chevrolet Corvette C6 ZR1 is one of the star attractions. Its nickname of The Blue Devil might be appropriate in this case considering a Mexican drug lord is the one driving the car at 200 mph into a small border town where Arnold and his cast of crazies await.
And while Corvettes have a classic history, you have to wonder what the car's maker, General Motors, thinks of a drug villain driving one of their cars in a movie. Going by history, most iconic cars were driven by the protagonists rather than the enemy. Would the Aston Martin, the Mustang, and the De Lorean not have been as memorable if driven by the antagonists in the respective and obvious movies they appeared in?
No matter how you answer, times are slightly different now where the enemy in a film is nearly deemed an ambiguous protagonist. The selling point today seems to be showcasing the performance and look of the car rather than worrying who's driving it. You can still say that about every other iconic film car in history.
Even if going 200 mph is still the equivalent of an old Bill Cosby comedy routine, the thought of such a car going said speed is one that provides the high road to machismo. The fact that the 2012 Chevrolet Corvette C6 ZR1 really does go that fast, you can see why it's in a movie to catch the eye of those who have $100,000 on them. Apparent intention in "The Last Stand" is to sell the feeling of being a bit of a rogue if buying the car.
Of course, moviegoers felt the same way when the 1960s started bringing cars into the fray as iconic pieces of a film. But there was a dichotomy for a while in the late '60s when you had the worlds of James Bond's Aston Martin and Disney's Herbie the Love Bug butting heads. The Aston Martin represented the cool rogue side for high incomes, while Herbie the Volkswagen represented the family-friendly side of cars for those who wanted something more affordable.
You didn't see the latter as much in later movies when TV commercials could sell the cars everybody else had. Specialty cars were made for movies and where everybody could dream owning one. Regardless, as with the Chevrolet Corvette, those cars were fairly new.
Movies of recent years have been bringing back classic cars (think the 1973 Volkswagen Transporter in "Little Miss Sunshine") to provide a sense of character rather than being a commercial. Chances are small the Chevrolet Corvette will ever get there when the De Lorean from "Back to the Future" ultimately became the perfect combination of real performance car and fantasy rolled into one.