Wednesday, January 21, 2015

the old vietnam's dead

Context: it's still 1985, but we're a few months earlier than we were yesterday. The ex-special ops guy is John Rambo rather than John Matrix. And, he doesn't start in a mountain cabin but in prison.

(I wonder, offhand, who the other two men whose names came up for this mission were? James Braddock? John Matrix? Martin Riggs? All of these movies take place in the same reality, right?)

So, it's 1985, I'm 9. Beverly Hills Cop has been doing well at the box office for a few months, now. Amadeus as well. I've already seen Police Academy 2: Their First Assignment and Witness and Code of Silence. There's a few other movies in theaters I wouldn't see until they show up on cable: Gotcha!, Mask, Desperately Seeking Susan, Just One of the Guys, Ladyhawke (though, I remember really wanting to see that one when it came out in theaters). New movies this weekend are A View to a Kill, the latest Roger Moore James Bond movie. Gotta see that opening weekend. Brewster's Millions, which I would see at a drive-in... some time later. And, Rambo. I never saw First Blood on the big screen, but I'd seen it more than once by the time Part II came out. And, of course, I did not realize that the character of Rambo was being manipulated outside the context of the story almost as much as he was inside the context of the story. (More on that later this week, though. I haven't gotten my pages of notes out, yet.)

(Speaking of box office, Rambo: First Blood Part II was apparently the first movie to be released into more than 2000 theaters.)

The next weekend, we'd go see Fletch. This weekend was all about Bond and Rambo, two very different characters who actually get similar results--a lot of dead people. Bond is obviously more talkative; he can handle big words more than Rambo can...

I'm trying to start off just watching this as a movie, save the subtext for another day, but it's hard. "Sir, do we get to win this time?" It's a pathetic line for the character. It works, and I guess it makes sense, but it's pathetic. And, it makes it impossible to not take this movie as refighting Vietnam on the big screen. How, though, to take Murdock's bit about not covering his ass but "a nation"? And, Murdock even asks Trautman, "What do you want to do... start the war all over again?" It's not exactly subtext.

Rambo has a very simple structure, a brief setup, a simple first act the ends in betrayal, then... a second act full of death and explosions and a lot of running through the jungle. Co Bao dies in the middle of this act--more using the female as a prop/motivation for the male. Her death turns Rambo from fleeing the camp to actively going after the soldiers that are pursuing him. Then, he returns to destroy the camp after he's got the helicopter. The actual transition from act two to act three is hard to pinpoint. After the waterfall explosion and Rambo is presumed dead--John Rambo is so obviously a Christ-Figure with a gun that I won't even bother bringing Kozlovic into this.

Really, what is important to note on this Day 1 is that only one villain in this film (not counting Murdock or his mercenary pals) speaks any lines in English. The enemy here is more an idea of Russians and Vietnamese than actual people. And, Vietnam is portrayed as nothing but jungle with primitive villages, with a sprinkling of monks. The action is straightforward, though the overarching plot gets into some confusing politics. The acting is pretty good for an action movie--though it's hard to tell sometimes if Co's lines are poorly (read: racist-ly) written or poorly acted--and it provides villains worth cheering the death of... assuming such a thing exists at all.

It's nice jingoist fare for the end of the Cold War (not that we knew it was about to end, of course).


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