Rambo: The Franchise That Has Lasted Almost Four Decades

“Rambo Last Blood” was not a box office success, but the Rambo franchise deserves a second look.

Joshua Amster, Staff Writer

Rambo is a franchise that’s 37 years in the making with the newest installation: Rambo Last Blood was released on September 20, 2019, with lead actor Sylvester Stallone at age 73 reprising his role as the Vietnam war veteran John Rambo.

The first film in the franchise Rambo First Blood originally debuted in 1982, only seven years after the end of the Vietnam war and public response to the movie consisted of anger.

Writer Janet Maslin who reviewed the movie in 1982 for The New York Times did not leave a complimentary review but offered many criticisms. Maslin stated that the Vietnam war setting seemed to have been an “excuse for a rampage of destruction.”

Although Rambo First Blood achieved success financially and made a gross income of 125.5 million, reviews at the time were mixed.

The movie hasn’t been given the credit it deserves up until recently. Although during the post-Vietnam war era it was released, the movie was misunderstood. Today, it is given the praise it deserves for talking about the important subject of PTSD.

Looking back on the original film, you can tell that the movie has remained a cult classic throughout the years due to the vast difference between the other movies in the Rambo franchise. While the majority of the other films mainly focus on the action aspect of the movie and simply use a good-guy-killing-bad-guys formula, First Blood depicts Rambo as a person that feels emotion and is a tortured soul that has simply had enough of the harassment he received from the police force back at home after returning from Vietnam.

I recently watched the newest film in the series Rambo Last Blood. While the movie retains the title of the original film, the overall quality was far below that of the original’s. Stallone’s acting was shaky at certain moments, and although this could be excused due to the lead actor’s age, the fact is that the movie essentially uses the same wash-rinse-repeat formula.

The film Rambo Last Blood is set in 2019 Southwestern America. The movie opens with Rambo living a quiet life on his farm with his niece, but his world is shattered when he learns that his beloved niece, who is visiting her father in Mexico, has been kidnapped by the Mexican drug cartel. This prompts him to leave his home to head south of the border in search of his niece

While previous films in the franchise have addressed PTSD, this film addresses real life issues related to the modern-day drug crisis such as the dangers of drug overdose and the rise of drug trafficking.

Rambo’s past in Vietnam is brought up at various moments throughout the film within flashbacks to events from previous films and war memorabilia found throughout Rambo’s household. Beyond these moments, we see Rambo’s past experiences reflected through his guerrilla warfare tactics which he still employs as a seventy-three year old.

Rambo Last Blood’s gross earnings were a fraction of the original’s and the target audience of the film was likely people who had seen the original films. Audiences were most likely small because Hollywood offers a variety of other characters that also deal with mental traumas and are overall more complex than Rambo.

Maybe in today’s society there isn’t as much of a need for Rambo as there was in 1982. When the original movie was released, there was a lack of representation of strong action heroes who faced problems dealing with past trauma. By 1982, it was also more acceptable to talk about the Vietnam War than it would have been years before.

While the new installment doesn’t hold the same weight the original did in 1982, there are still concepts brought up in the franchise that could be applied to people in the modern era. The films bring up important topics such as trauma and mental health which are still topics that need to be addressed.

In an era in which franchises such as John Wick and Bourne cloud the mainstream, Rambo is still a cult hero. Even though Rambo Last Blood didn’t live up to the legacy of the series, the rest of the series is definitely worth checking out.