Controversy Rages over Rambo IV: Holy War Treatment

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Controversy and fervour continue to rage over the plotline for a potential fourth Rambo as found in the high-concept treatment, Rambo IV: Holy War

Widely perceived to have been responsible for reviving interest in the 1980s action film saga amongst demographics worldwide, the treatment developed by London-based media production company, Alpha1Media, has also precipitated corporate discussions between film companies, Dimension Films and C-2 Pictures, regarding the project's viability, production and distribution. The treatment has also attracted praise from best-selling author of First Blood, David Morrell, which first featured the character of Rambo, for its impressive presentation, remarkable research and commendable ambitions to endow the character with spiritual meaning.

As part of a film franchise which has generated $2 billion dollars at the global box office and created an icon in global popular culture, the premise of the equally popular and controversial treatment envisages John J. Rambo now working at the United Nations, when Islamist terrorists hijack the institution holding the world ransom. Rambo tries to take the terrorists down, knowing that his Afghani-adopted son, Hamid, is part of the terrorist mission.

Initial market research regarding interest in the project's is at a peak, equally divided between fervour and controversy, with the topical nature of the film specifically designed to attract an international mass-market teenage and adult audience considering the global box office receipts for all three films considerably outweighed domestic profits.

Industry analysts tend to commend the treatment and the plotline. Clint Morris, editor of the prestigious movie news website, moviehole.net, 'loved the extremely well-written treatment', which has also been featured in Variety, Hollywood Reporter, Empire, Premiere and Internet Movie Database. Considering Rambo's recognition as a global popular icon, controversy about the movie's plotline has led to particularly vociferous debates, including on imdb.com where postings deemed racist and jingoistic were removed. One irate critic of the globally-oriented treatment perceived the treatment as 'an ultra-liberal, European propaganda tool written by documentary-maker, Michael Moore,' contrasted against another's view of it being 'politically-correct Hollywood leftist dogma'. Eminent fans on Stallone Zone, the web's largest Sylvester Stallone website, have found the project to be highly interesting and exciting.

Other have questioned the need to revive a franchise last seen in the 1980s, particularly with such a controversial title. Other have praised the treatment for 'actually linking in a personal way American support for the mujahideen in the 1980s to the current struggle against Islamist terrorism' as well as plot devices: 'Having the sweet little Afghan boy from Rambo III be one of the terrorists is a pretty gutsy way to dramatize the issue.' Some have wondered about making Muslims into villains again and furthering that stereotype, whereas other have thought that Rambo's influence from Sufism is designed to placate any accusations of Islamaphobia. More intelligent commentators recognise the need to return to Morrell's original vision of the character: 'First Blood was really more of an anti-war story or at least a critique of how society transformed its sons into killing machines and then ostracized them rather than healing them. It's an ironic beginning for what's regarded as the archetypal jingoistic, war-glorifying film series of our generation.'

Industry analysts suggest that the global recognition of the Rambo cultural icon necessitates the treatment's international outlook, and compliments Stallone's swarthy portrayal of the character described as being Navajo Indian-German origin. As Morrell states, 'In this century, there have been only four times that a character in prose fiction has then been translated into the movies and has gone on to achieve a kind of world mythological reputation. Sherlock Holmes, Tarzan, James Bond and Rambo. He (Rambo) was approached in such a way that he became a kind of metaphor for America.'

The Oxford English Dictionary deems Rambo to be 'a Vietnam war veteran represented as macho, self-sufficient and bent on violent retribution', which is at odds with the Morrell's original conception of the character in the novel, First Blood. Morrell himself claimed, 'Rambo appropriates hippy, counter-cultural iconography for the conservative individualist the macho man of the Reagan era. He eats natural foods, he blends in perfectly with nature.' The character also became increasingly recognised as the archetypal military hero. In El Salvador for instance, both the rebels and the Government forces wore Rambo headbands as did Israelis and Palestinians.' Rambo: First Blood Part II was a smash hit in Beirut during the 1980s, with Rambo III the most-seen film in Kabul in the 1990s. Though in Britain, the media perceived the character as a vigilante, Ronald Reagan?s presidency coincided with the release of all three Rambo films, where he oft-referred to the character in speeches, claiming him as a fellow Republican: 'You remember in the first movie Rambo took over a town, in the second he single-handedly defeated several Communist armies and now in the third Rambo film ... they say he really gets tough. Almost makes me wish I could serve a third term.' Reagan welcomed members of the Afghan Mujahideen to the White House in 1985, he said about them: 'These are the moral equivalent of America?s founding fathers.'

The treatment opens with the words of Sylvester Stallone, the American film actor who has portrayed Rambo in all three films, from an interview in Interview magazine in July 1995: 'Action movies have become like the movie business's equivalent of The Hunchback of Notre Dame. Just as Quasimodo was the ugly duckling in literature, action films have become the sore spot for critics. In the old days, people talked about biblical scenarios of action films. The Bible is action-packed. The Koran is action-packed. Even Buddha had a few moments of suspense in his life. Yet, when we make action movies now, we're considering moneymaking machines with no esoteric worth, and that's not true at all. There's a lot of artistry that goes into what we do. I tend to think of action movies as exuberant morality plays in which good triumphs over evil.' Currently the co host and executive producer of the hit television boxing reality series, 'The Contender', Stallone has said he would like to begin filming Rambo IV in September 2005.

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