Sunday, December 5, 2010

Rambo Marathon: Final rebuttal

To the top of the mountain of burned flesh.

To better appreciate this article, one might want to pay a visit to Bill’s Movie Emporium to read his original review of the film at hand, Rambo.

Small town U.S.A, the jungles of Vietnam, the deserts of Afghanistan and finally Burma, these are the global regions where you and I have gone to battle with a series of reviews and rebuttals for each successive entry in the Rambo franchise. With each passing week it became increasingly clear that rather than engage in memorable titanic clashes of film debate, we were in fact allies in our admiration for the series. Even when I spewed out with terrific vitriol words of hatred towards that forsaken second chapter, it turned the same movie didn’t sit well with you either. Rambo, the last testament to a memorably violent protagonist didn’t change much. I absolutely loved it, and you clearly enjoyed it quite a bit, even if your praise wasn’t exactly on the same level as mine. Since you and I have begun these joint marathons, the single time when writing a rebuttal served any considerable jolt to my creative and argumentative juices was for Star Wars Episode IV: A New Hope. Bill, we are doing another marathon together in the future, and next time we must imperatively choose a genre, director, actor, anything for which we know our opinions differ.

The mythology of Rambo, the character as well as the series (since you characterized him as someone with ‘mythic glory’) fully comes into play here, I agree. The man’s tendency to embrace violence in resolving all the while hoping to repel such needs for blood fests is the central conflict that has raged on throughout the series. As one of my favourite characters, Colonel Trautman (sorely missed in this fourth movie, even though I admit having him be a part of this instalment would have felt a bit too forced) of the series mentioned once, Rambo can’t deny what and who he is. Reconciliation with his past is not an option. The expiration date for reconciliation has long past, and the state of mind which has replaced the search for redemption is, as you aptly put it, nihilism. Rambo’s vicious ‘Fuck the world’ comment may seem crass, but it truly fits the character and where he is at the point in his unorthodox life. The man who can’t who can’t escape the past nor what he his. The man who repeatedly falls back on what he dislikes the most to help others and survive in the face of the greatest odds and the fiercest, almost legendary enemies. That is the stuff of legend.

I do think there is a sense of nobility about the missionaries. It isn’t their religious vocation for which I share any admiration, but there borderline naïve intent on venturing into war torn Burmese territory to provide the small villages with front line medical assistance. Being such a small unprotected group, would it be accurate to describe them as somewhat delusional? I think one can make that case. On the other hand, there is much to admire about the missionaries. The Oxford English Dictionary (none of that Merriam-Webster crap) defines as

2-having fine personal qualities or high moral principles
3-magnificent; impressive

The manner in which Rambo unfolds, the film is a culmination of the relationship the series has had with ‘nobility,’ namely, a troubled one, like how develop cats and dogs…or something like that. Whenever it seemed as though someone, Rambo or otherwise, has wanted to be noble in any shape or form, it has often resulted in only more bloodshed than anybody wanted in the first place. It only seems fitting, therefore, that after the missionaries do their the best to serve and shelter the weak, Rambo and a band of mercenaries must machine gun their way through rows upon rows of fresh meat to save the sorry souls the only truly good natured people in the entire picture. It isn’t unexpected, it’s just the way things work out in the world of Rambo. In a funny way, Rambo is noble because he helps people, good people, but he must be a villain in order to do just that.

Bill, we’re on par for the usual course. Were I in the mood to nitpick at certain things in your review, I could, conceivably, go on for a few more paragraphs but I fear that the golden opportunity to for a good old fashioned debate was lost over a month ago. More precisely, it was I wrote my review for First Blood Part II. Knowing that you have a liking for Uwe Boll masterpieces, I thought it possible that you would like that movie. I injected as much unabashed hatred as I could into that review in the hopes that you’d somehow be more forgiving than I. Alas, it was not meant to be, and so when I read your negative reaction to the second chapter of the Rambo series, there was a small voice in me that made a comment along the lines of: ‘We’re half way done with this marathon and Bill is recognizing what’s good and what’s atrocious. This is going to be far too friendly.’ I reiterate my request to do another joint marathon (mainly because they’re fun and I enjoy reading your thoughts on film), but insist that we agree to choose something for which we have at least slightly differing opinions.

We’ve done it, Bill. Like the titular character himself, we’ve gone through a long journey that had its share of shocks, disappointments and uncontrollable fits of violence. Let us not be disillusioned by our fates, for it is we, the movie buffs, who carry our destiny in our own hands. Cheesiness can be thrown at our television screens, but we’re man enough to eat it up, not just because we like eating cheese but for its great entertainment value. We can recognize good storytelling from a mile away, despite what the stereotypes attached to a franchise might be. No, they can’t fool us.
Live for nothing or die for something. I’ve found my ‘something’: movies*.

*But I ain’t ready to die for them. Heeelll’s no! I mean, that was just a figure of speech, you know?

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