Movies Are Boring—Rambo Extravaganza
Sylvester Stallone’s saga is violent pulp and social commentary
Rambo: First Blood is the 1982 action classic that made Sylvester Stallone an icon. Stallone has starred in three sequels—First Blood Part 2 in 1985, Rambo III in 1988 and Rambo in 2008.
In First Blood, Stallone’s Rambo is a Vietnam vet—a Green Beret and master linguist. He’s making his way through a quiet Washington town when the local police harass him.
Rambo loses his cool. The cops chase, Rambo evades … and fights back. It’s a solid thriller—well shot, expertly paced. It also explores America’s conflicted feelings about soldiers returning from Vietnam.
First Blood’s three sequels are, well, less thoughtful.
The first film is based on the book First Blood by David Morrell. The book ends with Rambo’s death. The original ending of the movie followed the book. Rambo’s former commander Col. Trautman confronts Rambo. There’s a struggle. Rambo dies.
First Blood was originally three hours long. It went through hundreds of minor tweaks and cuts before the studio released it. The studio cut Rambo’s death, making way for the sequels.
Stallone took on a larger role in the production of the sequels. He helped write all three and also directed 2008’s Rambo. First Blood Part 2 and Rambo III are straight-up power fantasies. They can be fun, but they just aren’t as smart as First Blood.
Rambo is a different kind of movie. It’s one of the most violent major motion pictures ever. Soldiers set children on fire. High-caliber bullets rip through bodies. Rambo disembowels a bad guy.
Stallone set Rambo in Myanmar. He unflinchingly depicts the genocide. Myanmar’s regime banned the film. It has since become popular with the country’s rebels, who use Stallone’s cheesy one-liners as a call to arms.
More Rambo movies are on the way. Stallone is working on the fifth film. He says it will be the last. Let’s hope so. Rambo looks a little worn after four decades.
Rambo reflects America’s changing attitudes toward veterans and conflicts around the world. But let’s hope Stallone hangs up the bandanna before he becomes embarrassing.