Rambo III shouldn’t have been so terrible. It was also the second Rambo movie where Stallone fired a lot of the creative staff over differences. Highlander director Russel Mulcahy was the film’s original director. Stallone accused Mulcahy of not getting the point of the movie and botching nearly every casting decision. From there, the film was given over to First Blood Part II‘s second-unit director. Honestly, it looks like a second-unit guy shot the entire movie. What else could go wrong?
Charles Napier gives way to Kurtwood Smith and again, it represents the Zeitgeist. Napier was an American bureaucrat hardass that did what Congress wanted. Kurtwood Smith just wants to stop an international incident that could jeopardize the Cold War ending. After all, Colonel Trautman being captured in Afghanistan is a drop in the bucket vs. world peace. All that Rambo heard was he had an excuse to invade a war zone.
At this point, it’s been six years since Rambo worked his best in First Blood. It’s funny to see how a character starts at the launch of the Reagan era and how he finishes. A lot of that has to do with the changes in production and Stallone taking control. Even more of it has to deal with the expectations that come with a successful franchise. First Blood didn’t have video game adaptations, yet this one did.
I can already feel people arguing for Rambo III. The video game thing is a cheap shot, but not when applied to its structure. Check out the old Genesis version and see how it structurally follows the script without much effort. That’s not a good thing, as it means that character building and dialogue are being sacrificed to make a intense experience that doesn’t play as a film.
Plus, Rambo III dodges the easy thread to follow. The obsession with Colonel Trautman stems from Rambo imprinting on him like a baby bird. Instead of allowing Trautman to participate in his death ala the First Blood novel, you have a series of films about a musclebound and his father figure destroying various parts of the world. There are some deep-seeded issues there that Part IV and the upcoming Last Blood will have abandoned. Oh well, I’ll wait for the eventual reboot.
AV’s Rambo retrospective has concluded for now. Check out Rambo III on 4K.