First Blood Part II was the beginning of Rambo’s bastardization. Starting with a script from Alien Saga co-creator David Giler, the plan was to pair Rambo with a sidekick. Eventually, the script was given to James Cameron to pad out. Every single word of it was rejected, but a lot of the plot elements remained. They were just devoid of a tech sidekick and turning Trautman into a Right-Wing mouthpiece.
James Cameron’s influence has been overstated on this film. Sure, he got a credit, but that seemed to be more of Carolco cashing in on the recent success of Terminator. Stallone gutted the script, paired down the running time and got the action moving faster than in the first movie. A lot had changed between 1982 and 1985. Stallone met the zeitgeist and Rambo was worse for it.
When you take a distraught Vietnam vet and then indulge him in a fantasy revenge plot, it feels trite. Yeah, some guys probably would’ve liked to have gone back for POWs a decade after the War ended. But, time and distance has a way of changing things. Growing up, I had a neighbor that flew a POW flag until the day he died. I never talked to him about this movie, but I would’ve liked to have seen what “the base” would say about it.
But, that’s just it. While the 4K release looks stunning. Hell, I could count the beads of sweat on Napier’s forehead at the end of the movie. Yet all of that visual clarity doesn’t change the fact that this is an empty fantasy. Part of me wishes this was all in Rambo’s head as he was busting rocks at the beginning of the movie. But, those ideas left this franchise by the first reel change.
I don’t blame Stallone for his choices. The zeitgeist has incredible pull and can warp things to an insane degree. The film’s ending speech was a bit much, though.