The Rambo Franchise has been going strong for 37 years but it appears to finally be coming to an end this September with the release of Rambo: Last Blood. It's been a fascinating journey, which began as a statement on the lingering horrors of war and the mistreatment of veterans but evolved into something almost antithetical to that message, with each ensuing movie having a pro-war, more jingoistic tone than the first one.
It's been a roller coaster ride for the Rambo franchise and its journey from inception to the present day is almost as exciting as the stories that we've seen on screen. Here are a few fun facts about the franchise that you may not have been aware of going in.
10 First Blood Started As A Book
10 years before Sylvester Stallone helped bring John Rambo to the big screen, David Morrell introduced a mononymous character named Rambo in his 1972 novel, First Blood. The novel, while similar to the movie in tone and theme, also had some striking differences which made it more akin to the cinematic sequels than the movie it directly spawned.
While Rambo has become synonymous with killing, the events in Morrell's novel, however, are an absolute bloodbath. The book is filled with the deaths of many soldiers, cops, and civilians. It culminates in the explosive death of Rambo, meaning that the literary Rambo would have no shot at the sequels that his cinematic counterpart would. Or, would he?
9 James Cameron Wrote the First Draft of the Second Film
While James Cameron already had the first Terminator film under his belt by the time that Rambo: First Blood Pt. II came out, he was not yet the Hollywood powerhouse that he is today. Because of this, he was still getting hired to work on other people's franchises, rather than his own. His script was more in tune with the first film's exploring the lingering trauma that Rambo experienced after fighting in Vietnam.
Stallone would eventually rewrite a majority of the script, however, but if James Cameron is to be believed, he has since expressed regret for throwing out much of Cameron's script and turning John Rambo into a "superhero." Although Cameron has obviously recovered, one can't help but wonder what would have happened to the Rambo franchise if they kept his version intact.
8 Ronald Reagan Cited Rambo As a Template For Hostage Situations
The first two First Blood sequels are almost inextricably linked to the Reagan-era. They are a fascinating portrait of the flag-waving, us against the world spirit that was prevalent among many Americans during the 1980s. Therefore, it should come as no surprise to learn that Reagan jokingly referenced the films with regards to how to deal with hostage situations.
Never one to shy away from his past as an actor in Hollywood, Reagan told reporters that after seeing the first sequel, "I know what to do the next time this happens." Coming from the man who created the Star Wars initiative, this should come as no surprise.
7 The Naming of the Films Makes No Sense
In the age of Fast and Furious movies constantly changing the formula of the franchise's naming, they may have the Rambo films to thank in this regard. While it makes sense to make Rambo the center of the naming formula, the way the makers of the films have gone about incorporating it make it nearly impossible for those who know nothing about the franchise to decipher.
First Blood begets Rambo: First Blood Pt. II begets Rambo III begets Rambo begets Last Blood. It is a hodgepodge of different strategies which often weave between two or three of the films in the franchise and, in an odd way, it fits the shifting nature of the franchise in the process.
6 Morrell Also Wrote Two Novelizations of the First Two Sequels
While First Blood, the novel, exists as a standalone tale within its own franchise, it is not the only Rambo book that David Morrell wrote. Back in the 1980's, when nearly every hit film from Friday the 13th to Invasion U.S.A. got a novelization, the Rambo franchise did something similar, yet different by bringing in the author of the book from which the first film was derived to write the novelizations to Rambo: First Blood Pt. II and Rambo III.
With Rambo dying at the end of the original book, these obviously cannot be seen as literary sequels to the original novel; however, by giving Morrell these novelizations, they allowed him to give his own creative spin on the character he helped create. It should be noted, as well, that Morrell has consulted on many aspects of the film franchise since its inception.
5 There Was a Children's Cartoon
War and Military-based cartoons were not uncommon in the mid-1980s. With GI Joe and Transformers using this concept to success, many, such as Chuck Norris: Karate Kommandos and Rambo: The Force of Freedom, tried and failed to replicate this success with their own take on the war cartoon. Rambo, however, was a strange choice, even when one thinks about the absurdity of a children's cartoon based on war and violence.
Rambo: The Force of Freedom hit the airwaves in September 1986. It saw Rambo and his team traveling through several made up countries fighting terrorists and guerrilla forces in the name of freedom. Its voice cast included character actor Alan Oppenheimer and James Avery of Fresh Prince of Bel-Air fame. Unfortunately for them, the complex themes of PTSD, war, and bloodlust did not translate to a kid-friendly format. The series was canceled three months and 65 episodes later in December.
4 There Were Also Video Games...
In one way or another, Rambo has been a mainstay of the video game community since 1985, when multiple games were released alongside the first sequel. Many of these were adaptations of the movie, with some being released on consoles, others for arcades, and more recently, on mobile devices.
The most recent console video game, Rambo: The Video Game, was curiously released for Xbox 360 and PlayStation 3 months after their next-generation counterparts had already hit the market. It takes place during the first three films, and its gameplay involves both action and stealth-based mechanics. It was critically maligned and another attempt has not been made since.
3 A Live-Action TV Show Was Considered
A proposed (and Stalloneless) television show would have brought the Rambo character to the small screen and introduced his son, the creatively-named John Rambo Jr. The duo would have gone on a bonding adventure which presumably would have involved lots of rescue missions, death, and weekly life-lessons passed down between father and son. Think Full House meets... Rambo.
The idea is a strange one, as much of Rambo's purpose is the fact that he's a mercenary lone wolf who can never spend more than a small amount of time in one place. Pair that with the fact that Rambo's son is never mentioned in the films, so having one who bears his name is a curious choice. Either way, we probably lucked out not having to see this adaptation. As shows like Taken have shown us, big screen action doesn't always work on the smaller screen.
2 A Bollywood Remake Is On the Way
Bollywood star Tiger Shroff has been trying to star in his own version of the Rambo films released in India for several years. Announced in 2017, Rambo has had trouble getting off the ground, but according to the Mumbai Mirror, filming is set for the beginning part of 2020, with Siddarth Anand directing it.
The film is set to take the themes of the Rambo films, while Anand hopes that he can make it in a way that will resonate with an Indian audience. The Bollywood remake of an American film is nothing new and it will be interesting to see how a film as ingrained in the American psyche will transfer over to another setting.
1 Rambo vs. Monsters?
Sylvester Stallone has a knack for throwing several ideas up against the wall through the media before actually letting one stick. Since Rambo released in 2008, he has thrown several ideas out, retired the character forever, and resurrected him for the upcoming Last Blood. One of his ideas amidst all this was less like a Rambo film and more like Predator or Alien.
2008's Rambo, for all of its intense blood and gore, returned to the roots set by the first film by re-exploring the lingering pain felt by John Rambo after all he has experienced. An early idea for Rambo V, however, would have had him facing some sort of monster. Whether this was an actual monster or a rhetorical one like Ivan Drago in Rocky IV, we will never know. However, we can be cautiously thankful that Stallone went in a different direction, although the American man versus the Mexican drug cartel can present several issues of its own.