Nearly forty years after the release of Rambo: First blood, Sylvester Stallone is bringing the famous character back for one last hurrah. The final Rambo film will involve the aging veteran of several wars rescuing his daughter from a Mexican drug cartel. A recently released trailer for the new movie shows a retired Rambo attempting to run a ranch before being dragged back into the violent world that he had tried to leave behind forever. Stallone’s age did not make the particularly gory 2008 Rambo film laughable. An aged, grizzled Rambo killing dozens of younger men seems believable enough in the action movie world.
The original 1982 film was based on the 1972 novel first blood, which did not portray Rambo as a hero. Instead, Rambo was a dangerously angry man that the reader could partly sympathize with but who was by no means heroic. In the next three movies, Rambo killed far more people than in the original and became an action movie legend.
Was Rambo now a pro-war figure that glorified the American war machine, or was there something about the futility of war in the films? The third film, released in 1988, manages to amuse a modern audience by portraying Rambo fighting for Afghanistan against the Soviets – almost fighting for the Taliban that would come back to haunt America in the future. At the time it was a patriotic anti-communist war film, today it unintentionally has something to say about the consequences of America getting involved in distant wars. The fourth and most recent film it violent to the point of making war look unglamorous. Is Rambo mostly a glamorization of American military adventures, or is he primarily a warning? Hopefully, a fifth and final film will give us a proper answer to what the character means.
Stallone’s recent films have been successful. By bringing Rocky back as the trainer of a new champion, the Rocky franchise can still bring in a lot of money at the box office in the 2010s, and there may still be some money left in Stallone’s other classic character. A few different ideas for a continuation of the Rambo series have been considered since 2008. The Fox network discussed a TV series that would have focussed on Rambo’s son. There was also the idea of Rambo leading a special forces team on the hunt for a genetically engineered creature. Fox has abandoned the idea of a Rambo TV series. The tale of the genetically engineered creature will be told, but it will be a standalone film that does not take place in the Rambo universe.
Is there any politics in putting Rambo up against a Mexican drug cartel? Stallone doesn’t think so. Stallone sees the Rambo films as mostly politically neutral. Since the wars and conflicts that Rambo fights in are real, however, politics find their way into the stories. The novel that created the character seemed political, as the story of a Vietnam veteran who had been abandoned by his country after the war.
The new film is due for a 2019 release and seems to promise answers to mysteries about the character that have not been revealed by any of the previous four films. The American setting and the use of booby traps make the film seem more like the original than any of the three sequels.