Rambo: First Blood Part II – Special Edition
To celebrate the twentieth anniversary of First Blood, Artisan has remastered and remixed the Rambo Trilogy, releasing them both separately as special editions and packaged together as part of a special box set that includes a bonus fourth disc of extras.
After the success of First Blood, a sequel was inevitable and a franchise began. Hence, Rambo: First Blood Part II was released in 1985. Directed by George Cosmatos, the film stars Stallone (Rambo), Crenna (Trautman), Charles Napier (Marshall Murdock), and Julia Nickson (Co), with Martin Kove in a smaller role.
In prison for the events in Oregon, Colonel Trautman approaches Rambo with a special covert recon mission to find and photograph missing POWs in Vietnam. Rambo accepts, and with the help of Co, a Vietnamese woman, he finds a POW. Making it back to the extraction point under heavy fire, Murdock, a bureacrat, orders Rambo's mission aborted, as he doesn't want any POWs recovered. Now his mission truly begins, as Rambo sets out to free the rest of the POWs, escape Vietnam, and get revenge on Murdock.
While First Blood is, in my mind, the best film in the series, Rambo: First Blood Part II is definitely an entertaining sequel. Choosing to focus more on action and, for the most part, neglect character development, Rambo: First Blood Part II turns Rambo into a super-hero of sorts who is able to avoid most injuries and has impeccable aim leading to some incredible, and often imitated, action sequences.
Rambo: First Blood Part II is presented in 2.35:1 anamorphic widescreen and 1.33:1 full frame, each on opposite sides of the disc. The transfer is, for the most part, amazing, with nary a blemish. The print does seem a bit cloudy or hazy, especially in the scenes with Rambo and Co. Colors are vibrant and bold, flesh tones are accurate, though blacks do, at times, exhibit some poor shadow delineation.
Rambo: First Blood Part II is presented in DTS 5.1, Dolby Digital 5.1, and Dolby 2.0 Surround. Previously, the film was only available on DVD in Dolby 2.0 Surround, and as expected, the newly mixed DTS and DD5.1 tracks sound much more rich and full. The DTS and DD5.1 soundtracks are still mainly anchored in the front soundstage, with the rears employed for ambient effects and occasional surrounds. The film certainly could have really benefited from a more aggressive surround mix, as it is more action-oriented. Gunfire, of which there is quite a bit, lacks directionality. Thankfully, with the addition of the LFE channel, explosions sound much deeper. Dialogue is crisp and clean throughout with no distortion that I detected. Optional subtitles are available in Spanish.
The main extras on the disc are the commentary with director George Cosmatos and the new documentary, We Get to Win This Time. The commentary is probably one of the more boring commentaries I've listened to. While the track is mainly focused on the technical aspects of the film, such as how certain action scenes were staged, Cosmatos does provide a few interesting anecdotes from filming. However, he does have several long pauses and his monotone voice does little to engage the viewer. The documentary runs about twenty minutes in length, and features new interviews with Morrell, Stallone, Crenna, Cosmatos, Napier, Nickson, the film's editors, and executive producers Mario Kassar and Andrew Vajna. The documentary begins with a discussion of the original script treatment by James Cameron, and while the script's main ideas were left mostly intact, a few, like Stallone and John Travolta teaming up and Stallone being in a mental hospital at the film's beginning instead of a prison, were scrapped. The participants also talk about the problems with shooting in Mexico and explore the Rambo phenomenon. There are also some brief interviews with the stars from filming and the editors discuss a few changes made to the film after early screenings.
Also available on the disc are extensive cast and crew biographies and filmographies, informative production notes, and the film's trailer and teaser.
Artisan has re-released Rambo: First Blood Part II with improved picture and sound quality, retained the original release's commentary, and added a new and mostly interesting documentary. While the film isn't as good as First Blood, it makes for a terrific "popcorn" action movie that even those unfamiliar with Rambo should enjoy. Recommended.