Stallone: Wrapping Up
I recently had opportunity to watch both Rocky Balboa and Rambo IV. These two films were alike in an important manner- they were wrap-ups of Stallone's two major film series. In both, Stallone explored the issues of aging and continuing self-discovery into older age.
In Rocky Balboa, Rocky tries to meet his age by leading a more sedentary lifestyle than his previous boxing lifestyle. As a restaurant owner and manager, he has enough to do to keep himself busy and out of trouble. However, as we the viewers expect, he soon finds himself wanting one more fight. As he tells his old friend, he still has something left in the basement of his life. Rocky believes that one more fight will empty out the basement of his former life and allow him to get on with aging.
Along the way, we observe Rocky trying to overcome the death of his beloved Adrian. She has been dead for some time, but Rocky's loyalty to her memory drives him, at regular intervals, to her grave to talk to her.
Into the mix comes Rocky's son, Robert, a somewhat bitter young man who feels that his average life is his father's fault. Instead of seeing him for who he is, everyone who looks sees the son of the great Rocky. The boy wants little or nothing to do with his father.
As Rocky begins training for his exhibition fight, his son finally realizes that his life is his won doing, not his dad's. He quits his job and joins Rocky's team, thereby finding some purpose for himself and healing a wound in his father's heart.
Rocky's training is characteristically triumphant in nature. Rocky overcomes both the limitations of his age and the stipulations of the boxing board to be ready for the big event.
The fight is more than an exhibition. Both fighters need to leave their mark on the sport's history. The official outcome has Rocky losing to the younger man. I understand that Stallone (the actor) is using the Rocky character to pass the baton to the next generation. However, I also watched the alternate ending, the one where Rocky beats the younger fighter. Because of the history of the series, I prefer to remember this alternate ending.
The Rocky character learns how to age by discovering what remains within himself. He shows us, the viewers, what is possible as age sneaks up on us.
Rambo 4 also deals with the issues of aging and self-discovery. Rambo's age is catching up to him, although he is still quite a capable warrior. His new 'employers', although they do not pay him, include a woman with a missionary medical group. She appeals to Rambo's heart to give them the help they need. Her insistent manner and naive nature eventually convince Rambo to help the team.
During the film, Rambo struggles with his identity as a warrior. After all the years he spent both fighting and hiding from the fight, he still has not come to grips with himself. He is a killing machine, trained to 'eliminate the enemy', as Colonel Troutman once stated. His attempts to deny his nature have all failed, until now he is questioning his own purpose.
Once particularly intense scene has Rambo confronting a mercenary leader. Rambo explains to the man that they are both killers, because that's what they are and that's what they do. It is then that Rambo begins to accept himself for who he is.
Rambo does assist the missionary team, kicking some major butt in classic Rambo style. That is to say, he almost single-handedly faces down nearly unbeatable odds and emerges as the victor. The final battle allows Rambo to finally fully accept himself.
The lady survives the fight and encourages Rambo to go home. As a viewer of all four Rambo films, I never once, until that moment, considered that Rambo had a home anywhere. The final scene is quite poignant. Rambo is trudging along an American highway, characteristic green Army duffle bag over his shoulder. He pauses at a mailbox along the road, and the camera shows us the name- 'Rambo'. He has come home. The credits roll as he walks the long drive to the family farm. Rambo has finally discovered and come to turns with himself. He returns home to grow old.
Stallone, the actor, has used his characters to explore the issues of aging and self-discovery. As Stallone grows old, he is likely facing similar issues in his own experience. I appreciate that he has allowed the public to catch a glimpse of the private man in the message of these two films. If we aren't already, we will all, someday, have to face these same issues. Hopefully, each of us can overcome the fear and effects of aging and accept who we are and who we are becoming.
I would like to see other actors and actresses follow this theme. Immediately to mind come Clint Eastwood and Harrison Ford. I'm sure there are others that you can think of, as well.