It’s easy to forget that First Blood is barely even an action movie at all, given that the Rambo franchise immediately reinvented itself in the sequel to fit the 1980s template of larger than life musclebound action heroes gunning down reams of faceless henchmen to get the job done, and by comparison, the first effort is a small, contained thriller that sees Sylvester Stallone’s hero only resort to violence when he has to.
In fact, the only onscreen death in the entire movie is when Deputy Sergeant Galt falls from the helicopter after Rambo throws a rock at the cockpit, but by the time First Blood Part II had ended, the tortured Vietnam veteran had racked up a further 75 kills. That’s not to say it isn’t a hugely enjoyable actioner in its own right, with the genre dream team of Stallone and James Cameron co-writing the script, but it’s a very different beast from the first installment.
Turns out that it could have been even wilder, though, after one of the ideas discussed during pre-production was to have Rambo team up with a comic relief supporting character named Lieutenant Brewer, with John Travolta being eyed for the role. Stallone and Travolta had only just recently worked together when the former directed the Grease star in awful Saturday Night Fever sequel Staying Alive, but the character was ultimately dropped during the many rewrites of the script.
While Stallone and Travolta teaming up in a mid-80s buddy action comedy would have no doubt been a success at the box office, it could have been a disaster for the Rambo series. Making people laugh has hardly been integral to either the title hero or the franchise, and First Blood Part II was already a huge deviation from the original as it was.