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Rambo (Force of Freedom)

Rambo
by yo go re

It's crazy to believe that the makers of GI Joe said to themselves "we need to get a Sylvester Stallone character into our toyline" and chose Rocky over this guy!

When the Army can't, Rambo can! Rambo is America's ultimate weapon - unequaled in courage, unfailing in patriotism, he is a man who knows no defeat. His strength and skill allow him to accomplish dangerous missions that no ordinary man would attempt. Martial arts, weapons, explosives - Rambo is master of all! He fights for America, but most of all, for Justice. Rambo leads a select force of trained experts who risk their lives for Freedom's cause. With Rambo, they fight an age-old battle against evil. But evil wears many faces, and none is more sinister than the face of SAVAGE. This world-wide terrorist group is led by the scheming General Warhawk, a man motivated by greed and the thirst for power. As he lays his plans for world dominance, only one man stands in his way: Rambo!

Like they did with Night Fighter Robocop and Batman, NECA designed this packaging as an homage to an old toy - in this case, Coleco's Rambo: The Force of Freedom line (which was itself based on the cartoon, the first cartoon ever based on an R-rated movie). The front is black at the top, with a big red Rambo logo, then fades to orange because almost the entire background is engulfed in flames. The insert has a cartoony drawing of Rambo and the phrase "Brave. Daring. Heroic. Nothing can stop him!" The back is white, with a large picture of the figure and cross-sell of all the other figures in the "line" (really the other Rambo toys NECA has made).

Actually, I don't have any of their Rambo figures yet - this is my first one. Fortunately, it's a pretty vanilla offering. Based mainly on the First Blood Part 2 figure, it's just bare-chested Rambo in black pants and combat boots. He's also got his tiny Buddha necklace, which was in fact part of the animated series' design (though it was never anything more than a vague green shape there). But why, we must ask, is his headband not bright red?

The head is a new sculpt - at least, it's not one that has been released before. The odds that they sculpted a new head just for this exclusive are slim. His mouth is open in a sneer that shows off his teeth, but in a different way from the First Blood figure. The back of the package shows a "Bow Attack Rambo" that looks like it might use this head.

The Rambo figures, like the Rocky figures, use NECA's proprietary method whereby the exposed parts of the body are cast in a semi-translucent skintone plastic, rather than just being painted pink. This one keeps that alive, and it looks great. The plastic looks like real skin, and even has a slight wash to help bring out the details and create some shadows. He's not only sculpted with all his scars (which do get a solid paint app, to make them look more like scar tissue), but his rippling muscles have a slight texture to really sell the idea that this is skin, not plastic. His clothes are detailed just as well, of course, but really - dat skin!

Rambo has a balljointed neck, swivel/hinge shoulders and elbows (which are both worryingly stiff), balljointed wrists, balljointed torso, swivel/hinge hips, swivel thighs, swivel/hinge knees, swivel boots, and swivel/hinge ankles. Other than the arms, everything moved just fine, though I know some people have reported breakage, and at least one fan got a Rambo with two right hands. Which is especially bad, since Sylvester Stallone (and subsequently, whatever character he's playing) is a lefty.

Rambo comes with three sets of hands: one with trigger fingers extended, one with a loose grip, and one with a tight grip. He comes with his knife, because Rambo's knife is as much a part of the character as Indiana Jones' whip is. It fits in the sheath on his hip, and there's a flexible strap to help hold it in place (not that it needs it). He comes with an AKM rifle, an M67 "baseball" grenade, and his iconic bow. The bow is the same Rustin raved about, just done in normal colors. We also get two arrows: the razor-tipped "Ripper," which was a commercially available arrowhead polished and painted black; and the "exploding" tips, which were actually just Razorbak 5's with their plastic safety covers left on. The toy that this one is homaging came with a rocket launcher, an M-60, and a strap of bullets to go around his chest, so you have to wonder how NECA decided what to give him. Taped behind the figure is a small black card with biographical info, just like the old toys came with.

Rambo was pretty much the quintessential '80s American power fantasy: he was living proof that American soldiers could have won Vietnam if only they'd been "allowed" to, and part of his sad sympathetic backstory involved protestors at the airport yelling and spitting at him (a popular image among chickenhawks looking to discredit anyone with anti-war sympathies, but a total lie and not something that ever happened to anyone anywhere ever). Plus, he fed in perfectly to the surge of conservative patriotism that tried, in some ways, to retroactively re-fight the Vietnam War in an effort to undo the cultural changes the war had brought with it.

The first movie at least attempted to portray Rambo's PTSD with some measure of reality - diegetically, he was a victim, not a hero - but the sequel dived right in to the conspiracy theory that there were huge numbers of US POWs still being held captive years after the war. Yes, there were 2,646 Americans listed as MIA, but compare that to the 73,515 US serivcemen missing after WWII, or the 300,000 missing North Vietnamese, and you'll see that it's not really that large a number. People die in war, and their bodies are not always recoverable. But Nixon used the issue to justify prolonging the war, to serve as a substitute victory in lieu of actually winning the war, and because "missing" soldiers wouldn't criticize the war the way real returning soldiers did. For a popular movie to pretend this issue had merit would be the equivalent of the next Taken saying that Planned Parenthood sells embryos or that jet fuel can't melt steel beams. A real character was turned into a superhero because that's what America's national psyche craved, and the cartoon took things even further.

But while the transition from a psychologically scarred veteran to a privatized (but government-run) patriotic warrior may be ridiculous, none of that lessens the quality of this toy at all. The only thing retro about it is the packaging, so if you're looking for a generic Rambo for your collection, this is a perfect choice.

-- 08/16/15


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