First Blood, a very different and basically admirable thriller, had become Stallone's biggest hit since Rocky in 1982, and he responded to its success in exactly the same way. In both films he had bravely offered audiences a hero who was basically a loser, and allowed them only the most ambiguous of victories at the end.
When the public embraced them, he rewarded them with radically re-inventive sequels, in which the same characters suddenly turn from losers to the exact opposite: pure comic book heroes, one dimensional and indestructible. It's hard to decide which is the least likely: that loveable dope Rocky Balboa could genuinely become the heavyweight champion of the world, or that the mentally ill war casualty John Rambo could be successfully re-enlisted on another top secret military mission. But in Stallone-land, that's what happened.
Strange, that all of the innate good creative sense (and taste) that Stallone displayed in creating both characters in the first place was so spectacularly abandoned when it was rewarded with box-office success. But then, he did know his audience: Rocky II and First Blood Part II were both box-office smashes.
Thirty years on, Rambo plays inevitably as a period piece, and in the extent to which it spoils the sincerity and seriousness of the first film it is basically to be regretted. On its own terms, however, it remains a blazingly vigorous and pacy action caper for those whose tastes run that way, and of much historical interest as a reminder - in these days when even Batman is portrayed as divided and tormented, in pretentious epics praised for their moral ambiguity - of how a film much condemned for its prurient violence and sensationalist appeal still upheld establishment ideals.