Friday, January 25, 2008

Rambo By the Numbers

This is the Rambo Kill Chart from L.A. Times writer John Mueller. Click on it to make it bigger. Note the number of sex scenes in each of the four Rambo films. Note the rate at which the killing increases from film to film. And note the fact that Rambo doesn't kill anyone without his shirt on in the latest installment.

"I'm not sure how to respond to this chart: is it good, is it bad?" asks's Alex Billington. "Do more deaths in this latest Rambo movie mean it will be better?" I'm not sure either, but more killings may mean safer streets at home.

The chart reminds me of two things. First, the outrageous violence of the 1,000-year-old Icelandic Sagas. The Sagas are the histories of the Norwegian Viking families that settled in Iceland, and they are full of Bible-style so-and-so begat so-and-so, as well as phrases like "And then Thorstein dealt Thorarin his death blow." It's gruesome stuff, and I had always meant to try to create a sort of family tree-like chart showing who killed who along with who sired who.

But this Rambo business also reminds me of the gleeful bloodsport of zombie movies. When Rambo kills 83 people in about 90 minutes, and I see it boiled down into a plain chart, I start wondering -- ironically -- if they all deserved it. Could the "bad guys" all be so bad?

This question never comes up in zombie movies, and in that way, they are the perfect modern American film genre: they are full of guilt-free carnage (not even killing -- they're already dead!). Human beings are distilled down into mindless, soul-less -- even lifeless -- menaces that living human beings must destroy. How like a video game.

Other genres have tried. Commies are soul-less, right? Or crazed drug addicts? But no one has been able to "comfortably" de-humanize the living in film -- not after WWI, WWII, and assorted regional genocides.

I've never seen any of the Rambo movies (nor any of the Rocky movies, for that matter), but I can't imagine a better time to bring the character back. As you can see in the National Threat Advisory on the right column of this blog, we're on orange alert.



Anonymous Sarah said...

As an interesting side note, did you see that Stallone is admitting that he used HGH to get in shape for this movie?

11:33 AM  

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