WARNING: The following contains spoilers Rambo: Last Blood, in theaters now.
Rambo: Last Blood is the fifth installment of the long-running action franchise, with Sylvester Stallone reprising his role as Vietnam War veteran John Rambo, who's now trying to live in peace with his family on a Arizona ranch. However, as much as director Adrian Grunberg tries to stoke the flames of nostalgia, the film isn't being received well, with the character's creator, author David Morrell, also panning the sequel.
Despite Stallone co-writing every film in the series, and directing 2008's Rambo, Last Blood lacks the magic of those that came before it. In fact, Last Blood actually highlights a bigger issue: that Hollywood needs to stop producing sequels to 1980s action films.
While Last Blood is garnering criticism, it is what it is: a rollicking time with Rambo dispensing his bloody brand of justice in gory fashion. However, the draw of Rambo taking to the jungles and embarking on missions to areas like Afghanistan and Burma to rescue prisoners of war or civilians is missing from this film. Having him go to Mexico to retrieve his niece, Gabrielle, might add a personal touch, but it's the same as any ordinary vigilante story, like Death Sentence.
It's only until late in the final act when we get a sense of Rambo as he sets traps and begins to maim his attackers. However, with such an iconic character, he needs to stand out from the beginning and, sadly, you couldn't tell this is a Rambo movie unless he's mentioned by name. It feels as if Stallone is simply churning out a generic action film with a plot that's disconnected from the well-established title character. If it weren't for signature weapons like the knife and bow and arrow, audiences would likely never associate the story with John Rambo.
The problem is, these concepts and character-driven stories have a limited shelf life, and Stallone's Rambo is past the expiration date. Honestly, for how long can Hollywood drag something like this on? We've also seen this with Arnold Schwarzenegger returning for Terminator: Dark Fate, which is also a franchise that has flailed since the second film, in 1992. Basically, everything that needed to be told was already detailed, and Judgment Day was avoided, yet Hollywood insists on churning out more. That also applies to Bruce Willis' John McLane in the Die Hard movies, where sequels keep rinsing and repeating terrorist plots in unbelievable and laughable fashion.
Again, there are only so many revenge or terrorist attacks you can run through and it really is time for these studios to kill the past with these trips to the past and forget the infatuation, all so studios can preserve the classics as timeless action flicks.
Forcing sequels simply dishonors the characters and stories at hand, which is a head-scratching notion given that new ventures in this genre have proved successful. Look no further than John Wick which embodies the spirit of these old movies, not to mention modern flicks like Atomic Blonde. Hollywood should follow through on creating new properties, pulling the pros both from them and from the '80s, while using the failures of movies like Last Blood, Shane Black's The Predator and A Good Day to Die Hard to chart a proper course forward. These weren't meant to be heroes to live on forever, or legacy characters to pass the mantle on, or stories built for decades of expansion -- they were finite and with time running its course, it makes sense for the action genre to look forward, not back on these films.
In theaters nationwide, director Adrian Grunberg's Rambo: Last Blood stars Sylvester Stallone, Paz Vega, Sergio Peris-Mencheta and Yvette Monreal.