In Conclusion: Or Why I love the Rambo Series

Sylvester Stallone Rambo First Blood movie image

Going against my normal blogging schedule, I spent last week reviewing the Rambo series. Let me sum up.

First, I’ll admit that some of my love is due to my proclivity for melancholy movies. I don’t need a movie to be completely happy to enjoy it. In fact, I like movies and stories that leave you feeling resolved but a bit haunted. I blame this on too much Tolkien as a child. One of the reasons I enjoy a good war movie—amongst many other things—is the sweet sense of the long battle’s end mixed with the bitter taste of those who didn’t make it. Why? Cause this is life, and this is the Christian life.

Rambo deals with a more subtle and subconscious concept of those who don’t make it. Some heroes make it off the battlefield but not out of the war. I enjoyed this aspect of the storytelling. We can all think of scars we bear that haven’t healed. Some of us, some of those around us, are still fighting battles we can’t see. The Rambo series takes this concept, gives it a body, form, and setting, and then sits back and lets the sparks fly.

Second, I like the conclusion. First Blood introduces a broken hero and doesn’t heal him. First Blood II shows him harnessing his broken-ness for the sake of others like himself, but again, due to betrayal Rambo is left without the salvation he brought to them. It’s not until Rambo (4), when he fights for American citizens, when he fights for the weak, when he uses his warrior-ness to protect, defend, and save, when he comes full circle and is acknowledged by the people he saves as having a place in society, that he heals.

Third, though it may sound trite, we need to deal with and not forget Vietnam as a nation. It’s important that we understand how it was to fight in that war and come home to rejection. If we forget what happened we might do it again. Don’t look at the Rambo movies as us fighting the war over so we can win this time. Look at it as an exaggeration of what the warriors endured. They fought and left brothers on the battlefield. They came home and were rejected. They were left behind and abandoned by their government over and over. They felt dirty and wrong for what they were. Rambo shows all of this in a riveting fashion. Don’t miss it for the bits of cheese. (Again, I’m ignoring Rambo III.)

Fourth, they show the common struggle of many young men in our own generation. Women have it easy right now. We know who we are, what we’re good at, how we can use that, and we have options. We can be anything we want right now. We are living in the post-feminist era. In our rush to get women out to the front, we’ve unbalanced our society. Instead of men and women standing shoulder to shoulder sharing strength and mitigating weaknesses, we have become a very feminine society. What does that mean? We are more concerned about feelings and safety than is healthy. It’s like little boys raised without fathers by overly protective mothers. See, women want to make sure everyone is happy and at peace, but sometimes peace and happiness aren’t what’s most important. Sometimes hard and uncomfortable work needs to be done. Kids are going to get hurt and protecting them from everything may not be in their best interest.

Rambo shows, again in an exaggerated form, a man struggling to come to grips with who and what he is within a society that has rejected him, called him dangerous, and attempted to deal with him in a violent manner. In a more subtle way, I think many men can relate to this. Instead of being disciplined, trained, and taught, we medicate them, belittle them, and tell them everything about them is wrong. We tell men that they are only worthwhile when they’re as much like women as possible. We’ve neutered our own society. Rambo does what all good stories do. It showcases a common human element without preaching.

Now, I know that the original writers and actors probably never had any of this in mind, but my husband—a man—tells me this is what’s appealing to him about the Rambo story. And I see it too. I’m a homemaker in a day and age where that is the most underappreciated job. I can watch Rambo and see myself. I can feel his frustration with being something that is no longer valued. I think any person has experienced this at one time or another in their life. It is a common human experience.

Granted, I’m watching these movies through some fairly conservative moral sunglasses. But, we all bring what we believe to the table when we watch movies and read books. That’s life.

Finally, the last thing about my love for Rambo is spiritual. We are often described in the Bible as soldiers in the great Spiritual War. Most analogies and illustrations break down when examined closely. This one does not. Meaning, I know we are in the middle of a real spiritual war, but we don’t wear specific metal pieces of armor. We do have spiritual armor. The idea of being like a soldier training, standing, battling is a good illustration because it is true, and because it doesn’t break down. The more I learn about war, battle, and soldiers, the deeper the idea becomes. For me, warriors are like our pastors. The men who dedicate everything they are to defend us and feed us are like warriors who repeatedly return to combat. Warriors give up on everything ‘normal’ about this life and so do pastors. Pastors make other people uncomfortable. They pass on careers. They pass on high paying jobs. They give up on so much of life to do what? Study the Bible and preach? Don’t let the commonality of pastors and churches in our country make you take what they do for granted. They are our warriors. And like Rambo, they often face rejection, hatred, disrespect, and abuse. Pray that your pastors will not cave, but stand. Pray they will have confidence not in themselves but in the Lord who gave them gifts and set their feet on this course.

These are the reasons behind my love for the Rambo movies.

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Quote of the Weekend

“My Jesus, as thou wilt!

Though seen through many a tear,

Let not my star of hope

Grow dim or disappear.

Since thou on earth hast wept,

And sorrowed oft alone,

If I must weep with thee,

My Lord, they will be done.”

– by Benjamin Schmolck

“Not as I will, but as thou will.” Matthew 26: 39

 

(This is a beautiful hymn for those suffering in this world, be it great or small. I also loved it because I had recently named a character Star and I was really struggling with her name choice. I just wasn’t sure if it suited her or not. The line “star of hope” made up my mind. The name is perfect for her and I can’t wait to see how she develops. This is a first class example of a writer’s mind doing several things at once: being encouraged by a great hymn and sorting out a character at the same time.)

Special Agents: The Mysterious Case of the Monsters under the Bed (Part 11)

SpecialAgentsPart 1

Part 2

Part 3

Part 4

Part 5

Part 6

Part 7

Part 8

Part 9

Part 10

Lauren looked over the top of Rachel’s blonde head as they peered around the door frame into Jane’s laboratory. Everyone, like they thought, had gone to breakfast.

“Is it clear?” Peter hissed from behind them.

“Clear,” Rachel said.

Lauren pressed her lips together to keep quiet. The last thing they needed was to sound off an alarm, which is exactly what would happen if she opened her mouth.

The three kids crept inside keeping low as they wove through tables, around chairs, and headed for the supply cabinet in the back.

“Can you pick the lock?” Rachel asked.

With a sharp nod that sent her curls bouncing, Lauren pulled her lock-picking gadget from her bag. She selected a padlock from the tiny touch screen on the top. A small toothpick like blade flicked out and the gadget hummmed to life. Lauren stuck the blade in the lock, gave it a twist, and the lock popped open.

“Now it shouldn’t be too hard to find,” Rachel said scanning the different containers lining the shelves.

Lauren nudged her and pointed to a ghostly cylinder in the corner with her white, scale covered hand. A bright red label warned of possible color changing effects.

“What’s your favorite color, Peter?”

“Blue.”

“Well, don’t freak out if your hair turns blue.”

“Wait, what?”

Lauren hefted up the cylinder and popped off the end. Smoke drifted out and wrapped around her. Rachel covered her mouth and closed her eyes. After a full Mississippi-counted-out minute, Lauren closed it. Rachel opened her eyes.

The strange white scales covering her arm and part of her face were no longer white, but Lauren’s normal deep tan. Her hair had turned a bright, sunshine yellow. She raised a questioning eyebrow.

“You look a little bit like your old self,” Rachel said. “Minus the hair of course.”

“Rachel, you’re hair’s blue,” Peter said.

“Yep, this stuff changes your hair color. I don’t know why it worked on Lauren’s skin. Doesn’t matter as long as it did. That’ll keep us hidden for a while.”

“Is blue your favorite color too?”

Rachel felt her face warm. She nodded. “Yep.”

Lauren sighed through her nose.

“What do you think you’re doing?”

All three of them jumped.

Sam stepped out of Jane’s office.

“None of your business,” Rachel said tucking her now blue hair behind her ears.

“None of my business?” Sam said. “I’m your handler. Everything is my business.”

Lauren started to stick her tongue out at him but remembered it would only result in the sounding-off of the creepy siren. She signed again, through her nose again.

Sam glared at them and then started.

“You’re going back out in the field.”

“I said it’s none of your business!”

While they argued in loud voices guaranteed to bring every adult down on them, Lauren woke up her tablet and held up the picture of The Woman.

Sam stopped.

“Why do y’all have a picture of her?”

“Cause that’s who’s behind this. Peter ID her and we think we know where she is. There. Happy?”

“No. You just got pulled out of the field cause of that thing biting Lauren. You think you should just head back out there?”

“We want to go look.”

“Y’all are crazy!”

Peter backed away. “Maybe Sam’s right.”

“We’re just going to look so we can prove to Carmichael what’s going on,” Rachel said. “We promise we won’t do anything foolish.”

“Like breaking into Jane’s locker and breathing in that strange fog stuff.”

“We knew what it did.”

“Yeah, I bet.”

“Come on Sam, it’s The Woman.”

Sam shifted from one foot to the other and studied the floor.

“Fine,” he said. “But I’m going with you.”

Lauren shook her head and Rachel said, “No.”

“You bet I am. You think I’m going to let you back out in the field with a civilian and Lauren looking like that?”

Both girls sighed. A siren filled the room. Lauren clasped her hands over her mouth.

“We should get you a scarf or something like a mask,” Sam said. “Are we agreed?”

“Yes. But only because we need to hurry and I’m not going to argue with you anymore.”

Sam nodded. Relocking Jane’s cabinet, Sam led the way to the supply room. They took the long side tunnel with the exposed wires and pipes. Few Agents or crew members used it. A pile of boxes blocked the door into the supply room, from the inside. Peter and Sam pushed with all their might, grunting and groaning, to get the door open. Once inside, they gathered weapons, jet packs, nets, any odds and ends, and gadgets and gizmos they might need including roving cameras, flash bombs, and robot roaches.

“Here,” Sam held up a black mask once attached to a motorcycle helmet.

Lauren buckled it around her face. She opened her mouth. The siren hissed out in a muffled low whine. She smiled and gave Sam a thumbs-up.

“That doesn’t mean just go around with your mouth open, but it should keep any accidents from happening.” Sam said with a huff.

Lauren shook her head at him.

“I’m going. I didn’t promise not to grumble,” Sam said.

Geared up, they made their way further down the long, side tunnel until it emptied out into a creek. Getting their bearings with their tablets, Rachel, Lauren, Peter, and Sam cranked on their Jet Packs and flew off into the night to see if they could find proof The Woman was free and creating new monsters. Lauren just hoped they found a cure for the white scales along the way.

 

They did warn Peter that his hair would turn blue.

They did warn Peter that his hair would turn blue.

Movie Series Review: Rambo (4)

http://www.amazon.com/gp/product/B001BNZRUS/ref=as_li_qf_sp_asin_il_tl?ie=UTF8&camp=1789&creative=9325&creativeASIN=B001BNZRUS&linkCode=as2&tag=genandquispi-20&linkId=K4LCRWJXYI5GKAI3

Rambo 4 is not only my favorite Rambo movie, it’s my favorite movie all together. Why? Lots of reasons. 🙂

Despite the overall lack of cheese in First Blood, and even in First Blood II, Rambo has become synonymous with the epitome of cheesy movies. I’m not immune to this idea, or I wasn’t when I went to see Rambo (4) in the theater with my husband, my brother, and my sister-in-law. I looked forward to this movie and watched a fair amount of previews for it. Settling in, I readied myself for a fun evening.

Within the first oh, three seconds, any thoughts of cheese were dispelled. Everyone, myself included, was stunned. At one point, I glanced at my extra sister to see how she reacted to the film. Both her hands were pressed to the sides of her face in shock. Funny, I was doing the same thing.

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I left the movie sick to my stomach.

This was not a cheesy action flick. This was not the kind of movie, like Die Hard, that you left jazzed up. This is a Rambo movie, and so like the other Rambo movies, (excluding Rambo III) it left you feeling haunted, broken, beaten down. At the time, I told my husband I hated it.

We went and saw it again after talking about it for Valentine’s. Yes, my pick. See, I love warrior movies, and after getting over the initial shock of the violence and story, I realized this was a great movie. Walking into the theater for the second go around, it appalled and shocked me that so many little kids where there. I expected a lot of guys and a few gals who didn’t have dates, but I didn’t expect so many kids. Everyone, except my husband and I, was laughing and joking around. We weren’t. We knew what trials we were about to endure watching this film again. The previews came on. Everyone continued to laugh and joke like they were about to enjoy Terminator. The movie opens. The theater went silent in under three seconds. Parents quickly started removing their children. Why?

This movie is violent.

It is violent on a visceral level.

It’s violent on a level that still shocks me even after I’ve seen it multiple times.

Why is the violence so shocking?

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Two reasons: 1) Stallone—who wrote and directed the film—wanted it that way. He needed the violence to tell the story. 2) The violence is enacted on Christians.

See, about the time Stallone made this movie, Burma—you know, where Adoniram Judson went—was in the middle of genocide. The world sat silent about the horrors going on just like they sit silent about the sex trafficking, and the Christians persecuted by Muslims all over the Middle East and Africa. The Burmese government was murdering Christians. Watching this movie, Stallone makes it very clear from the beginning that the people under attack are Christians. He leaves no doubt in your mind that this is what is happening. Knowing my history, the history of the church, and the martyrdom faced by so many of my fellow believers made this movie hard to watch.

Stallone specifically said he left the movie violent so that we could see and know what was happening. We need to know, not be sheltered. And the sad part? This was the toned-down version. What was really happening to those people was the much much worse.

So, Rambo (4) takes place twenty years after Rambo III. Rambo is now in his early sixties. The Vietnam War has been over for decades and Rambo has settled in Thailand along the Burmese boarder. He never went home. At this point, he is filled with bitterness. He cares about no one and nothing. And why should he? At every point, the people who should be backing him have betrayed him. They’ve made it clear he’s expendable, and that what he is is wrong even while they use him like a tool. (Sound familiar to what every man in our day and age is facing?) Rambo has failed to “Come full circle” and accept that being a warrior is part of who he is, not just what he was made.

A group of missionaries asks him to take them to Burma. He refuses knowing Burma is a dangerous war zone. Sarah, one of the missionaries, reaches out to him in friendship and convinces him to take them up river. Once there, the missionaries are captured by Burmese soldiers and tortured. Their sending church hires a group of mercenaries to free them. Rambo takes these mercenaries up river to the same spot he left the missionaries. They refuse his offer of help, but Rambo follows anyway. By the end of the movie, only two out of the six missionaries survive and only three out of the five mercenaries. But, in the end, Rambo comes full circle and the story closes with him coming home.

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There are three reasons I love this film:

1) Justification of Violence: Violence is justified in two ways in this film. First, it’s used to tell the story, not to glorify itself. It’s not wasted, but used to create the necessary horror of the situation. The violence is visceral, but not indulgent. There is a time and place for violent stories. Second, Rambo doesn’t shy away from the proper place of self-defense and the defense of the helpless. It combats head on the notion that guns cause violence. Rambo asks the missionaries if they’re bringing any guns with them. They are shocked by the idea. Rambo tells them that if they aren’t bringing in guns, they’re changing nothing. One of the missionaries chews Rambo out for killing some pirates even though the pirates wanted to rape his fiancé. “Nothing justifies killing,” is his comment. By the end of the movie, that same missionary kills to defend the life of a mercenary who had sacrificed everything for him. He realized that killing can be justified. The Bible doesn’t say Thou Shall not Kill, it says thou shall not murder. Murder is wrong. Not killing. Killing to save a life, to defend a life, is not wrong. This movie makes a strong case for the idea that there are things worth fighting for.

2) Full Circle: Rambo realizes he was made for defending, and defending with violence if necessary. He is a warrior. He has all the mental and physical fortitude needed to make him an effective killing machine. Accept it. But what does he do with that? As an old man he finally realizes, “live for nothing, or die for something.” It’s time to sacrifice his life for those weaker than himself and in need. It’s time to take up his bow and defend life from those who would violently take it from the defenseless. Interesting note, Schoolboy, one of the mercenaries, seems to have a grasp on this concept at a much younger age than Rambo. Sarah challenges Rambo to sacrifice his life. Rambo takes up his .50 cal machine gun to do just that. Only after he gives himself, uses what he is for others, can he make peace with himself and go home. I think this is a huge way our overly feminine society hurts men. We don’t let them be who they are and direct them to use that strength for others. We drug them and tell them to be quiet. We don’t like manly men. We don’t like warriors. But, we need them. We need them as computer programmers, teachers, and pastors. We need men who know who they are, what they can do, and then to do it for the sake of others. Rambo is an exaggerated story that teaches this point.

3) The main thing I love about this movie is the way Stallone used Rambo to bring to light what was happening to Christians in other countries. It’s easy for us to think persecution is in the past. We believe we’re somehow more evolved and enlightened than the Romans. We think persecution was something faced by Christians during the Inquisition. We don’t believe it’s something Christians face today. But it is. Christians face as much or more persecution today than the past. I’m so very thankful God uses a man like Stallone, whose personal beliefs I’m unsure of, to showcase what was happening. I’m thankful there are men who are man enough to make this violent film. This world is a violent place. There are wars, and rumors of war. We can’t escape that. We can’t somehow, by just loving everyone enough, escape the violence. Sometimes Violence must be met with violence. A gun, rock, or stick must be picked up and used to protect the young, the weak, and the innocence from them that would murder.

I’m thankful for warriors.

And I’m thankful for spiritual warriors. I’m thankful for saints, who day in and day out, look to Christ, because they are dependent. I’m thankful for men who faithfully lead their families, lead in their churches by sacrificing everything that they are or could have: fun, more money, more respect, more prestige. They sacrifice the world for a kingdom not of this earth. They stand shoulder to shoulder and I’m grateful to stand with them.

If the Lord ever blesses me with a son, I want to raise him to understand his strength, not view it as distasteful. I want him to harness it, and hone it like a weapon, not try to batter it down. I want him to be like Schoolboy and come full circle at an earlier age, not like Rambo who didn’t accept who he was until he was an old man. This is going to make me counter culture. We live in a day and age that tells boys to be like girls. It tells girls to be like boys. It disrespects everything that God designed. Women are told to be fierce but not how. Boys are told to be in touch with their feelings, but not how to respect their ability to box things up in a way that women can’t and shouldn’t.

I’m thankful for the Rambo series, probably in a way the writers never expected, because it is the tale of a broken man, lost and alone, who finally comes to terms with who he is, is given the opportunity to use that to help others, and thus saves himself by losing himself.

If you haven’t seen the Rambo series, I highly recommend watching it.

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Movie Series Review: Rambo III

http://www.amazon.com/gp/product/B00HAKT73O/ref=as_li_qf_sp_asin_il_tl?ie=UTF8&camp=1789&creative=9325&creativeASIN=B00HAKT73O&linkCode=as2&tag=genandquispi-20&linkId=75DPCRNDKBLX2CWG

 

This is my least favorite of all the Rambo movies. When you take all four of them as a whole, this one sticks out like a sore thumb. Not only does it step away from dealing with Rambo’s Vietnam history, it adds so much cheese that it’s like watching a different story entirely. I mean, shockingly Rambo has a sense of humor in this movie, which isn’t even close to appropriate in the other films.

First Blood I and II and Rambo (4) all have this overarching sense of sorrow to them. They’re the story of a broken man trying to sort his life out. First Blood I and II show his struggle with his history and other people. In Rambo (4) he finds healing and peace with himself. Rambo III is supposed to be the part of the story where Rambo realizes that the war is not out there but within. They hint at this in the opening of the movie when Trautman tells him he needs to come full circle. The Army didn’t make a warrior. Rambo is a warrior. The Army just honed his skills.

Until he accepts his own warrior-ness the war inside him won’t stop. If only they ran with this idea in the movie instead of sending him to Afghanistan. In fact, Rambo (4) does this so effectively it makes Rambo III unnecessary. The haunted tone that lifts First Blood I and 4 above the normal cheesy action flick, and even First Blood II, fades into the distance as Rambo goes to save Trautman from the Russians.

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In a post 9/11 environment, I approached this story with great distrust and questions. I have no problem fighting Russians. (I did grow up in the 80’s after all.) But, I had a hard time working up an emotional connection with the brave Afghan people. I need to do a little more research. These might be the same people who helped Marcus Luttrell escape the Taliban, but I still view them with a hint of suspicion. If I understand my history right, these are the same people who later attacked us. I am also struck, yet again, by how much of the earth’s history has been caught up in fighting over the sand of the Middle East. We’ve been over there so many times, Not as Americans, but just as human beings. And it’s not just invading white colonists. When we’re not fighting over there, they fight themselves. And they’re doing it again.

Anyway, how’s that for a rabbit trail?

The cheese level of Rambo III is up there with some of the most cheesy movies of all time, like Commando. In First Blood II, the cheesiest part of the movie is the idiotic sound effect they use every time Rambo shoots his bow. They have this whip cracking noise go off and it’s distracting and annoying. Bows don’t sound like that, and Rambo uses it because it’s silent. In Rambo III, you can enjoy cheesy lines, humor, and if your DVD tries to supply you with Russian subtitles, you can giggle at the completely stupid conversations going on in the background. I don’t think the Russian was ever supposed to be translated . . . or maybe whoever did the subtitles did a really bad job. It is awful. I got to a point where I had to stop reading them altogether. Russian soldiers greet one another with questions about dinner only to get answers about the dogs, or guard duty. At one point, they yell “Charge, charge, charge” in a scene where charging made no sense and no one was charging. You can tell that the director just wants Russian background chatter and never intends (or, shouldn’t have intended) for anyone to actually know what the Russian soldiers talk about.

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There are some themes in Rambo III that echo in Rambo (4) just as there are echoes of First Blood II in Rambo (4). We see the concept of a rebel uprising against an abusive tyrant in both III and 4, but Rambo (4) uses this idea to much greater effect.

In many ways, this is the movie that could have been left out. The only application that can be made from it is no man left behind, even if that means going in alone. But that’s just an outflow of self-sacrifice. If I may make a suggestion? Skip this movie. They had plenty of room to show us Rambo’s inner battle and set the stage for Rambo (4) but this gets lost. What could have been another powerful film in this saga, turns into a cheese fest worthy of Mystery Science and the Riff-trax.

Next up . . . my favorite movie, not just of the Rambo series, but of all time: Rambo 4. The story, and Rambo, come full circle.

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I swear Rambo is almost smiling. Rambo doesn’t smile.

 

Movie Series Review: Rambo First Blood II

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Trautman: John, where are you going?

Rambo: I don’t know.

Trautman: You’ll get a second medal of honor for this.

(Rambo looks over at the rescued POWs)

Rambo: You should give it to them. They deserve it more.

Trautman: You don’t belong here, why don’t you come back with me?

Rambo: Back to what? My friends died here, and a piece of me did too.

Trautman: The war, the whole conflict may have been wrong, but damn it, don’t hate your country for it.

Rambo: Hate? I’d die for it.

Trautman: Then what is it you want?

Rambo: I want what they want, and every other guy who came over here and spilled his guts and gave everything he had, wants! For our country to love us as much as we love it! That’s what I want!

——

We left Rambo arrested and responsible for injuring a small town sheriff who pushed him too hard. This violence poured out of Rambo after he found out the last man in his unit besides himself had died. The cold shoulder Rambo got from the country he bled for, the country they died for, aggravated and irritated his war-damaged psyche.

Rambo II is the start of the Cheese of this series. Rambo II and Rambo III leave behind the true drama of First Blood and become a set of cheesy action flicks. Enjoyable? Yes! As strong as First Blood and Rambo (4)? No. But even in the middle of the cheese, we see the continuation of the idea of the silent war going on in America that couldn’t be won. The government drafted young men and sent them to die. The ones that made it home faced rejection by their country. The soldiers couldn’t win this war because they couldn’t even fight it. They knew about blood and guts. They didn’t know how to combat the hatred they faced from their fellow Americans.

In a way, as much as First Blood shows us what the men faced, First Blood II is almost an apology from the people. It’s the war in microcosm with a chance for the warrior to have his say at the end. I was always told that Rambo was made so that we could feel like we’d won the war in Vietnam, but I don’t think it was. Granted, Rambo “wins” in that he defies the politicians and gets the POWs home, but he didn’t really win. He was still betrayed and he still had no home to return to. The government still didn’t respect they warrior they had made leaving Rambo still viewing himself as a societal misfit. First Blood shows how we lost that war, and First Blood II shows what we left behind. It shows that the men we trained are more at home on the battlefield than in the city. “What you call hell, he calls home.” It makes Rambo the spoke person for POWs and for all soldiers who were spit on and insulted by their country.

The interesting thing about this movie is that in a way it mirrors the entire Vietnam War. Rambo is sent on a mission. Granted he doesn’t just take pictures, he goes into the camp to investigate, but once a mission gets started it’s really in the hands of the man carrying it out. Rambo discovers American POWs and tries to rescue at least one of them. At this point, he’s betrayed by his own government and left to die. In reality, we never fought the Vietnam War to win. We got involved in it, but due to politics and the confusion of Communism, we never won that war. We could have, but we didn’t. We never went all out. Soldiers took a hill and gave it up, took a hill and gave it up. They fought in hot stinking jungles for land we then retreated from. So, in a way, I guess First Blood 2 is us repeating the war, but this time Rambo saves the men and returns home to confront the politician that left him there to die. It is a bit cathartic, but I don’t think the movie is entirely there to make us feel better. It’s more there to let us get a taste of the betrayal and frustration experienced by our soldiers. It’s there to remind us that it is us who betrayed them, not the other way around. The lasting effects of the Vietnam War, for Americans, is not so much the War as it is us forever haunted by the men we betrayed.

With this concept, I think First Blood II can be a very important cultural film. It’s important to be challenged to think not just about whether you agree or disagree with the Vietnam War, or if you agree or disagree with how it was handled, but to remember that men, boys, battled, bled and died there. Did they do it for nothing? We need to remember, even in this slightly cheesy small way, that at every turn our soldiers were betrayed by politicians, and then hated by citizens. This was a dark point in America’s history and one I pray that we never repeat.

Rambo is in his late thirties by the time he gets sent to rescue POW’s in Vietnam. These men had been left to die by their country. Of course, Rambo wants to get them out. In many ways, they’re analogous to how Rambo felt when he came home. He made it home but he was left to die like a tool no one needed. His friends, the ones who made it back, died because of the chemicals used by the government. In every way, Rambo is still a POW. I think on a certain level, in rescuing them, he rescues himself, just not completely. His healing doesn’t come until the fourth movie. But, he is pardoned and allowed to go his own way.

First Blood II is the only Rambo movie where he kisses a girl. Another woman appears in Rambo 4, but there is no romantic involvement. I think this is part of the reason he doesn’t return home. The only woman he loved lived and died in Vietnam. Again, “What you call hell, he calls home.”

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Stallone might be mocked or called a bad actor for his portrayal of Rambo. He spends most of the movie just staring a people and has maybe 12 lines total with most of them coming in the last few minutes of the movie. I don’t think this is due to bad acting, but purposeful directing. Rambo isn’t a typical man. He is a hardened warrior trained to do one thing: kill. Trained and discarded by a government who didn’t want to deal with what it had made doesn’t lend to excessive communication. I think the “mile-long stare” of Stallone is perfect for this character. I also think it showed how uncomfortable Rambo is on base contrasted with his easy and comfort in the jungle. My only problem was my surprise to learn that by First Blood II Rambo is almost 40. Stallone looks younger than a man in his late 30’s, but a little research proved that Stallone was born the same year as his fictional character, so once again, Stallone was the perfect choice for Rambo.

I think, finally, that the cheese level of this movie is important because it keeps the story simple. In keeping it simple, the message isn’t mixed up with lots of other themes, it’s…well…simple: We just want our country to love us like we love it. We want them to love us enough not to leave us behind, and not to waste our lives.

This movie doesn’t so much let Americans feel like they won the war, as it uses Rambo to reminded us of what it felt like to fight in a war where the government betrayed its soldiers. At the mid-point of the movie, Rambo and one POW are surrounded by enemies and the American chopper is not 10 feet over their heads. It can save them. It still has time. But for political purposes, it’s ordered to leave them there. That is the moment where you realize that Rambo has been betrayed again by the very government he’s willingly bleeding for. They left him in Vietnam, again. Even with a certain level of cheese, there is no denying the powerful theme in this movie.

I recommend not watching it as just silly Rambo cheese, but as a simple and clear invitation to emotionally and visually put yourself in the shoes of the soldiers who fought the Vietnam War.

Watching this movie with my ‘Christian-colored’ glasses on and thinking of our pastors as warriors—those front line men who sacrifice much in this life that we call normal—I came away with two thoughts:

One, we are reminded of Christ’s great power and beauty. He is the King who will never leave us behind. He will never betray us. He will win the war against Satan. In contrast to the hopelessness we see in Rambo’s story, we are never without hope.

Two, we need to pray for our pastors. They wage war, wade into battle to rescue those in need, and stand scarred and broken. The very people they seek to protect can betray them. Pray that your pastors wouldn’t trust in men, their popularity, or level of acceptance, but that they would have courage to preach the truth and grace to trust Christ.

RAMBO: FIRST BLOOD PART II

On a side note, this is the movie where Stallone calls himself Expendable. I wonder if that gave him the idea for the Expendables movies?

http://www.amazon.com/gp/product/B00AR5AMBU/ref=as_li_qf_sp_asin_il_tl?ie=UTF8&camp=1789&creative=9325&creativeASIN=B00AR5AMBU&linkCode=as2&tag=genandquispi-20&linkId=PJURTYGXHNJNMF6P

 

Happy Autumn

autumn-fall-wallpaperIt’s the first day of fall, and thus it’s my favorite time of the year!  Now for leaves and crisp mornings! Now for long dark nights, sweaters, hot chocolate, fires, and leaves, leaves, leaves. Soon the chill will increase and the coats will come out. Soon the days will be short and sweet and Christmas will loom on the horizon. But now pumpkins will turn the world orange and one scary night will herald in the holiday season. Soon we will have a day of Thanks and over eating. Happy First Day of Fall!

(Yes. I know it’s still hot down here in Texas, but a girl can dream, right?)

Movie Series Review: Rambo: First Blood

Sylvester Stallone Rambo First Blood movie image

I’m going to do a four part series on the Rambo movies. This may seem like an odd thing for a blogger who titles herself a gentle and quiet spirit, but I think women play a significant role as memory holders. I think it’s important for all of us to remember. And, I think it’s important for women to have a heart for warriors because we’re the ones who raise them. Women can make or break the children they have. Many of our best officers will tell you their mothers influenced them the most, and serial killers will say the same thing. Thus, I think it’s important to study these things. Even though I don’t have sons, I do have nephews. On the other side of my love for warriors is the Bible’s teaching about spiritual warfare. We’re at war, as Christians, and it doesn’t do to forget that—whether we’re pastors on the front line or housewives. These are purely the thoughts of an amateur theologian and amateur modern military historian. If any pastors or soldiers would like to weigh in, please feel free.

I found a love for action flicks in the mid-to late ’90s as a teen. I regularly watched Terminator 2 and Predator. For years I disregarded anything and everything Stallone ever made. I constantly thought of him as the Arnold wannabe. For a few years in my early-married life, I moved away from action flicks thinking I should watch deeper and more artistic films. Jason Stathem’s Transporter movies reignited my love of cheesy action flicks, and warrior stories. There’s been no going back since. Once my husband and I started watching action flicks again, he suggested we watch Rambo. I made my usual snide remarks about Stallone being an Arnold wannabe and dismissed the idea. He kept pressing, sighting it as a necessary point of Action Flick Education. Finally, I caved and we got our hands on First Blood.

I was in for a big surprise.

First Blood is not a cheesy action flick.

First Blood is a true and real drama.

It has real people with confused and mixed up morals. It raises interesting questions. It tracks the life of a man abandoned by his country and pushed to the breaking point. First Blood isn’t about big explosions, big guns, or body count. It’s about a part of our society which wasn’t popular than and isn’t popular now.

I’m not talking about soldiers.

We live, thankfully, in a day and age when it’s very in vogue to support the troops. It only took Vietnam for us to realize how much these men and women need civilian support. It only took that war to make us realize how sick a country is that spits on its soldiers. To this day, it nauseates me to think about what our boys—and I say boys because most soldiers are boys—went through in Vietnam and what they went through when they came home. I’m very thankful we live in a society that goes out of its way to show support for our troops.

But I’m not talking about our everyday soldiers.

I’m talking about warriors.

I’m talking about the men who give up everything that seems normal and safe to do all the hard things none of the rest of us want to do. Many of the everyday citizens must appreciate these people or shows like 24, Vince Flynn’s Mitch Rapp novels, and action flicks wouldn’t be popular. I think it’s our media and our elite academia who don’t appreciate these people. How can I say this?

Try reading a novel called Lone Survivor and you’ll see why we lost four of our warriors due to their fear of the liberal media. There I said it. Done soap boxing. Back to Rambo.

So, what happens to a society that pats itself on the back for supporting its troops, but doesn’t understand the blood and guts on its warriors’ hands? What happens when a man is trained to do one thing, wired to excel at that one thing, used to do that one thing, and then told what he did and what he does and what he’s good at is wrong?

What happens to a society when we start doing this at the earliest stages of boyhood? When we teach boys to be gentle to the point of emasculating them? I’m all for teaching boys to control their strength, but I still want boys to be boys. Instead of understanding that boys are uniquely different from girls in the area of physical and mental strength in a way that allows them to go and fight wars, evil, and meet violence with violence, we teach boys that they need to be medicated. We teach them that they need to be safe. Oh safety, you dangerous dangerous thing.

Do we do this only to our men? Nope. We do this to women too. Women are taught that the one thing we do in an amazing and only female way is valueless, or just not that important. Hello! Women have children. We create life in our bodies. We nurture. We sacrifice the ‘best’ years of our lives to raise up the next generation. Could we have a higher calling? Even I, a woman without children, count herself blessed to aid and help women who do. I still believe I’m strongest in my ability to support my husband, cherish life, nurture, and instruct. Just because I haven’t created a life in my own body yet, doesn’t mean I don’t have intrinsic female uniqueness. Same for a man, you may not get called to creep through jungles or fight in the sands of the Middle East, but you are still called to defend. You are still called to use your strength for truth and justice.

Now, back to Rambo First Blood.

John Rambo comes home after fighting in Vietnam. The movie opens with him finding out that the last man in his elite unit has died. Vietnam killed him too. He may have made it home, but he couldn’t escape the long dark reach of war. This information demoralizes Rambo. He hoped to find one of his brothers. Instead, he found he was truly and finally alone.

The sheriff picks Rambo up on the side of the road and encourages him to stay out of his town. Sheriff Will Tease is not a completely evil character. Imagine the whirlwind of emotion he struggles with as he does what he thinks is right for his quiet little town only to have it blow up in his face. Repeatedly, he gives into his own pride even at the cost of his men, but he does try to do the right thing. He tries to keep his men under control so Rambo isn’t killed. He tries to patch things up with Colonel Trautman. The Sheriff tries multiple times to do the right thing. He’s not a flat character. This movie could easily be told from his POV with him as the underdog hero instead of Rambo.

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Rambo gets pushed by Sheriff Tease and he pushes back, but it’s the moment he’s arrested that clicks Rambo’s training into high gear. In a way, Rambo looks for this fight. He could have avoided it. He could have kept walking and just shrugged the Sheriff off. But without hope, he goes back to the only thing he knows: fighting. Unfortunately, the Sheriff’s men don’t realize who they’re dealing until they’ve already shed first blood. They’ve already fired the first shot. If the Sheriff had kept his men in control, done a little research on the drifter they picked up, and had a little less pride on the line, Rambo could have been defused easily. Blinded by their arrogance, and the spirit of the day and age that hated both hippies and soldiers, Rambo’s training is switched on. The treatment Rambo experiences in the county jail makes him flash on his time as a POW. Escape becomes paramount in his mind.

The situation escalates. Rambo tries at one point to diffuse it after the first civilian dies. The Sheriff’s men open fire on him settling in his mind that he is at war.

The tension continues to build with the civilians bumbling around, Trautman trying to explain that it is the Sheriff and his men who are in danger not Rambo, and Rambo doing exactly what he was trained to do: fight.

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Then you reach the end. This is the moment you realize this movie isn’t an action flick but a real drama. When Rambo’s about to kill the Sheriff, Trautman finally stops him. Rambo yells at him, “It’s never over.” And then, surprise of surprises, this great warrior breaks down in tears.

Why?

He’s alone. Rambo’s terribly and horribly alone. None of his friends made it out of the war. The nation he sacrificed so much of his humanity for does things like throw him in jail, rough him up, deny him food and work, shoot at him, and tries to kill him. They don’t honor, respect, or even care what he did. (Christian-colored Glasses: Many pastors face the same thing. They battle. They fight. They seek to defend their churches. And many times they aren’t respected, loved, or supported.)

I think this is why we see so many soldiers in our special forces go back. They go back to where they’re respected. It may be hell on earth, but for them it’s where their families are. It’s where their skills are used. It’s where they can do what they were made to do.

The question posed by Rambo, that I think we’re still asking ourselves today, is what do you do with the warriors when the war is over? Where do you put them? How do you utilize their skills so that they’re respected and honored?

What do we do with our warriors?

I found this video very interesting. Every mother, especially if you have sons, should watch this: Why do Veterans Miss War? https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=TGZMSmcuiXM

This video asks a similar question to Rambo First Blood. I don’t believe, as a Christian, that by understanding war can we eradicate it. War is a result of sin. We can help our warriors, or soldiers, return to civilian life in a healthy way, giving them a chance to use their skills instead of telling them that what they do is unimportant or downright bad, if we understand that they were made to do this and that part of them loves doing it.

Watch First Blood. It is a well-done and amazing movie.

It made me finally place Stallone over Arnold. I’ll take a Stallone movie any day! Join me tomorrow for my thoughts on Rambo 2.

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Movie Quotes:

Trautman: Company leader to identify Baker Team – Rambo, Messner, Ortega, Coletta, Jurgensen, Berry, Krakauer confirm! This is Colonel Trautman. Talk to me, Johnny.

Rambo: They’re all gone Sir.

Trautman: Rambo! Are you all right?

Rambo: Baker Team. They’re all dead, sir.

Trautman: Not Delmar Berry, he made it.

Rambo: Berry’s gone too Sir.

Trautman: How?

Rambo: Got himself killed in ‘Nam, didn’t even know it. Cancer ate him down to the bone.

Trautman: I’m sorry, I didn’t know.

Rambo: I’m the last one Sir.

______________

(Language warning!)

Rambo: We were in this bar in Saigon and this kid comes up, this kid carrying a shoe-shine box. And he says “Shine, please, shine!” I said no. He kept askin’, yeah, and Joey said “Yeah.” And I went to get a couple of beers, and the box was wired, and he opened up the box, f–king blew his body all over the place. And he’s laying there, he’s f–king screaming. There’s pieces of him all over me, just…

[Takes off his bandolier]

Rambo: like this, and I’m tryin’ to pull him off, you know, my friend that’s all over me! I’ve got blood and everything and I’m tryin’ to hold him together! I’m puttin’… the guy’s f–kin’ insides keep coming out! And nobody would help! Nobody would help! He’s saying, sayin’ “I wanna go home! I wanna go home!” He keeps calling my name! “I wanna go home, Johnny! I wanna drive my Chevy!” I said “With what? I can’t find your f–kin’ legs! I can’t find your legs!”

http://www.amazon.com/gp/product/B0004Z33EG/ref=as_li_qf_sp_asin_il_tl?ie=UTF8&camp=1789&creative=9325&creativeASIN=B0004Z33EG&linkCode=as2&tag=genandquispi-20&linkId=GLCNQKHVIK4CUUIC

Quote of the Weekend

“It was a bitter night. The thin snowfall had stopped at dusk and gradually the clouds cleared in the eastern sky to reveal a brightness of cold stars. A fitful wind whipped the fallen snow into airy and fantastic shapes that curled and glinted above the path on which the men trudged like doomed animals.” – Sharpe’s Rifles by Bernard Cornwell

(I love the beauty of this scene mixed with the pain of marching through a cold winter. Cornwell is one of the greatest historical fiction writer of our age, in my humble opinion.)

A Texas Cousins Adventure: Rook is Here…and he’s Huge!

Texas Cousins (Picture stolen from Liz)

Texas Cousins
(Picture stolen from Liz)

The wind whipped up the leaves tossing them across Grammie and Grandpa’s pasture. It tugged at scarves unwinding them from around little faces. It played with the pom-poms on top of hats and at the end of strings.

“Get more leaves!” Aunt Abby said swinging her arm. “Make a big pile.”

“Aunt Abby,” Bruce said. “It’s a very blustery day. Is it Winds-day?”

“No, today is Sunday. It’s Family Day, Bruce.”

“Aunt Abby,” Jules said. “Why are we gathering all these leaves even though the wind doesn’t want us to?”

“Look at me!” Ellie screamed dive-bombing face first into the growing pile of leaves.

“Wait!” Aunt Abby said before everyone else also jumped in the pile. “We have to make it bigger before we can jump in it.” She fished Ellie, giggling delightedly, out of the leaves.

“But, why are we making it?” Constance repeated Jules’ question.

Aunt Abby squatted down in front of them, eye to eye with seven inquisitive faces. “Because Rook is coming.”

“Who’s Rook?” Joshua asked.

“Yeah,” Jude said crossing his arms and trying to look tough. Imogene threw a handful of leaves in his face spoiling the effect.

“Who IS ROOK?” Aunt Abby straightened up and put her hands on her hips. “Dear children, do you not know you’re own cousin?”

“OH! Is he Miss Fizzle’s baby?” Bruce said pushing more leaves in the pile.

“If by Miss Fizzle you mean Michelle, then yes.”

Constance took Aunt Abby’s hand. Wide-eyed she asked, “Did she have her baby?”

“Yes! And he’ll be here soon!”

“Is that the only thing we’re celebrating today,” Jules asked.

“Why no!” Aunt Abby said scooping her up in a big bear hug. “We’re also celebrating your birthday Julie-bear.” She set Jules down and gathered Joshua up. “And Joshua!”

“And my Daddy!” Imogene squealed as Jude dumped a huge armful of leaves on her head.

“And my Dad, too,” he declared.

“That’s right.”

“It’s all of our birthdays?” Jules gasped.

“Yes.”

“What a busy month.”

“Yes.”

“When will Rook get here?” Constance said.

“Soon, so let’s finish the pile.”

“He can play with my Cicero if he wants,” Joshua said. He held up his favorite puppy with sad blue eyes.

“Oh Joshua, that’s so sweet,” Aunt Abby kissed his freckled face. “I’m sure he’ll appreciate that, but you may need to wait until he’s a little older. Now, how about we finish this pile.”

The seven cousins raced against the wind gathering as many leaves as it would give up and made a Texas-sized pile of leaves in Grammie and Grandpa’s yard. Before too long, James and Michelle arrived carrying their new little bundle wrapped up tight against the chill. Michelle, positively glowing, brought him over to the children. She unwrapped him to let them take a look.

Constance and Ellie immediately started cooing and stroking his chin. The boys—Bruce, Joshua, and Jude—gave him a cursory look and turned back to the pile of leaves. Imogene kissed his head of dark hair. Jules studied the baby.

“Michelle?”

“Yes Jules?”

“How old is he?”

“He’s almost three weeks old.”

“But he’s almost as big as Imogene.”

Aunt Abby laughed. “Yep. Rook is huge!”

“He is.” Jules said. “Does that mean he’s gonna be bigger than all of us?”

“You’re Daddy was about this size when he was born,” Aunt Abby said, trying to help give her perspective.

“He’s gonna always be huge!” She said, her eyes wide.

“But so was your Uncle Price.”

Jules cocked her head. “Maybe he won’t be.”

Michelle laughed. “We’ll just have to wait and see.”

“Aunt Abby, is it time to jump in the leaves?” Bruce said.

“Rook can’t,” Constance said. “He’s a baby.”

“You’re right,” Michelle said. “But he can watch.”

“Ready?” Aunt Abby said.

“Ready!!” screamed seven crazy cousins.

They dove into the extra-big pile of leaves. Hats flew off. Rubber boots tangled. Giggles and screams of joy came from the intermixed faces peeking out of the leaves. Blonde and brunette hair went flying free of braids and clips and pony-tails. Pockets of rocks and sticks emptied to mix with the leaves. They tumbled free covered with the sheddings of trees. Rook jerked, awakened by the wild screaming. A slow smile spread over his face. He had heard these voices before.

“Again,” yelled Ellie.

Until Grammie called them in for dinner as the night came early over the family gathering, the seven cousins jumped in the leaves, rebuilt the pile, and jumped again. They covered each other, they battled with fists of leaves, and they hid deep inside in little caves. Aunt Abby watched over them tossing the little ones in, covering the bigger ones, and gathering more leaves.

Lights came on on the porch. Grammie called everyone in for dinner. They sang Happy Birthday, slightly off-key, to the new Rook, Brian, Brad, Joshua and Jules. Rook slept in his Mother’s arms surrounded by just a small number of the people who loved him already and sharing a birth-month with some of the most wonderful people in the world.

The End

Welcome to the family Rook!

Welcome to the gang, Rook!

Welcome to the gang, Rook!

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What a mess of trouble! Love all my nieces and nephews. (L to R) Imogene, Constance, Me, Joshua, Bruce and Jude. Lord willing, I’ll get one of all of us together at Christmas.

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Jules and Ellie. My two beautiful, smiling nieces! And the stars of many a story!