Saturday, February 9, 2008

Some Thoughts on Rambo, and Some Thomas Hobbes Thrown in to Boot

I saw "Rambo" today with Gibbs and the Frater Minor. My personal investment in this film, beyond that of the Abe and a half I put down for the matinee showing, were those of a casual fan of bad action movies, supplemented by the good notice I had read in appreciation of this film by Davis, who cited it as a worthy example of the soteriological theme in modern American cinema.

It was not.

I do not mean to imply that it was a terrible film, but any praise offered it must necessarily dwell on what it was not rather than what it was, and this indicates that it could hardly have been a good one either. In this light, let me say that it did not put on airs of any kind, and it did not take its message seriously enough to make any attempt at plying the audience's conscience as it walked out of the theater; there was no epigraph of the "Dedicated to the Victims" or "Landmine Awareness" variety. The story resolves itself within its own vacuum more completely than any coalition force could hope to do with its factual referent, and moreover, does not concern itself much with the politics of its own backstory beyond a brief collage of CNN footage that serves as an opening credit sequence; shedding illumination on third world mass murder is neither the motive not the excuse for its own body count (a figure which undoubtedly raises the bar for likeminded movies).

If the violence was not pornographic, neither was it especially personal. None of the "developed" characters met with any graphic demise, and the thousand or so extras that get blown away in the films staccato-edited action sequences function more as props than people. War and killing are presented as unrefinable and unavoidable evils; early in the film Stallone says something to the effect that war is the only real fact of life (though even more tersely, if that is possible). The rest of the film exists only as an illustration of the fact, which negates any real chance of developing his character, but then again, this is hardly the point of the movie to begin with. Not only this, but he never suffers for any other character throughout the length of the film, either emotionally (surprise) or physically, removing any chance of his becoming a Christ figure by the story's end (sorry, Davis). And as for the supporting characters who thought to trancend the narrative's sordid circumstance by avoiding violent means even in the service of peaceful ends, well, they learn better, proving that Thomas Hobbes, as adapted for the syllabic capabilities of Mr. Stallone, was right about the state of nature.

1 comment:

Lincoln Davis said...

I essentially agree with you; "Rambo" was not a great movie, it was just not a bad movie in the ways or for the reasons that the mainstream press cited. It was, in may ways, ham-handed, but it deserves a defense in concept; I admire movies that glorify bloody justice, even when they do so without subtlety. And for the record, I wasn't saying that Rambo was like Christ, but rather that the criticism of "Rambo" has been the same kind as the criticism as Gibson's "Passion," partially, I think, because both movies were distinctly Christian.