Follow TV Tropes


Western Animation / Rambo: The Force of Freedom

Go To
Left ro right: Colonel Trautman, (John) Rambo, Turbo and Kat.

Anywhere and everywhere the S.A.V.A.G.E. forces of General Warhawk threaten the peace-loving people of the world, there’s only one man to call. [Colonel Trautman: "Get me Rambo!"] From the canyons of skyscrapers, to the canyons of remote mountain peaks, liberty’s champion is unstoppable. Rambo! Helped by the mechanical genius know as Turbo and the master of disguises named Kat, the honor bound protectors of the innocent! Rambo, the Force of Freedom!"

Rambo: The Force of Freedom was a syndicated 65-Episode Cartoon produced by Ruby-Spears in 1986. The cartoon was (loosely) based on the character of John Rambo, from David Morrell's book First Blood, and the subsequent films First Blood and Rambo: First Blood Part II.

In the cartoon, John Rambo (Neil Ross) was the leader of a G.I. Joe-like team called The Force of Freedom. They went on missions around the world battling against a paramilitary terrorist organization named S.A.V.A.G.E.note ), which was led by a maniacal military man named General Warhawk (Michael Ansara). Fictional countries and back-stories would frequently be featured, some of them echoing historical or current events.

The cartoon was filled with hand-to-hand combat and gunfire, with accurately-illustrated guns; yet unlike the original R-rated films, there was never any sensational violence, blood or gore, since this series was intended for family viewing. Moreover, no one ever died or got (seriously) hurt. The only real injury on the show happened when Rambo broke his arm in a survival episode. Rambo (who was seldom called by his first name, even by Trautman) used violence as a last resort and relied on his resources and guile to outwit his opponents — a trait less than characteristic of the later films (although Rambo does avoid deliberately killing anyone in the first movie). Additionally, there were no references to The Vietnam War, POWs, or Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder.note 

Rambo: The Tropes of Freedom:

  • 65-Episode Cartoon: There was a Five-Episode Pilot followed by 60 regular episodes.
  • The Ace: The back of Rambo's action figure package makes it plain:
    "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!"
  • Action Figure File Card: The toys had both character descriptions on the packages and trading card-like inserts with additional info.
  • Action Girl: Kat, who can fight as well as any of the men.
  • Alternate Continuity: This continuity is based on a Broad Strokes version of Rambo: First Blood Part II.
  • An Ass-Kicking Christmas: "When S.A.V.A.G.E. Stole Santa" combines this trope with Kidnapped Scientist. A retired rocket scientist in a small Colorado town plays Santa Claus during the holidays; Rambo's team has to protect him when S.A.V.A.G.E. tries to force him to work for them.
  • A-Team Firing: While the show got away with real firearms that fired actual bullets, no one ever got hit by them (the vehicles and the scenery usually took quite a pounding, though).
  • Badass in Distress: It's a 80's Western Cartoon, so Rambo often finds himself in a bind. But he always turns around that distress to showcase how much of a badass he is, breaking free on his own.
  • Beard of Evil: Snake Bite has one.
  • Big Bad: General Warhawk, leader of S.A.V.A.G.E.
  • Bloodless Carnage: A constant throughout the series, but a particularly notable example occurs in the pilot "First Strike". Several scenes from Rambo: First Blood Part II are re-created, but altered so Rambo dispatches his foes non-lethally. For instance, the mud camouflage scene has Rambo merely knocking out the patrolling guard rather than stabbing him like he did in First Blood Part II.
  • Bond Villain Stupidity: General Warhawk very commonly captures Rambo, only to put him through some strange torture or death trap instead of killing him right away.
  • Bulungi: "Rambo and the White Rhino" involves two fictional African nations called Namboola and Ombasi.
  • Canon Foreigner: Everyone except Rambo himself and Colonel Trautman. The rest of the cast consists of new characters created specifically for this series.
  • Casino Episode: "Raid on Las Vegas", in which S.A.V.A.G.E attempts to rob all the city's casinos while trying to blow up Boulder Dam as a distraction.
  • Charles Atlas Superpower: Although Rambo is always presented as a Badass Normal, he fairly commonly performs obviously superhuman feats of strength, such as breaking thick chains or throwing huge blocks of concrete.
  • Concussion Frags: Sort of zigzagged in the second episode. Rambo throws a grenade down the open hatch of a tank, which causes it (the tank) to explode, break to pieces and catch fire — but the crew still climb out of the wreckage unharmed and run away.
  • Christmas Episode: "When S.A.V.A.G.E. Stole Santa".
  • Cyborg: Dr. Hyde (S.A.V.A.G.E.'s Mad Scientist) and his Sidekick X-Ray, thanks to an Emergency Transformation.
  • Dated History: The crux of General Warhawk's plan for naval superiority in the pilot miniseries is to raise the World War II era battleship Yamato and retrofit it for battle. This was before modern sea mapping technology confirmed the Yamato was severely damaged when it sank and split in two pieces. To be fair, Rambo wasn't the only show that made the mistake.
  • Demolitions Expert: When SAVAGE plot to blow Rambo up, Sergeant Havoc assures General Warhawk that the bomb cannot possibly fail — because he built it himself.
  • Do-Anything Soldier: In addition to his infantryman heroics, this version of Rambo is also an Ace Pilot, expert tanker, and has various other unexpected skills as well.
  • Drugs Are Bad: The Aesop of "Just Say No", which has S.A.V.A.G.E. joining forces with a gang of drug dealers to smuggle crack cocaine.
  • Enter Eponymous: "Enter the Black Dragon" and "Enter the White Dragon".
  • Episode Title Card: As usual with Ruby-Spears series of this era.
  • Even Evil Has Standards: In the episode "Crash", Mad Dog and his men willingly take Rambo's young travelling companion Nicky (who is in desperate need of a kidney transplant) to the hospital, and react to Rambo's warning that they'd better not hurt the boy with disgust that he'd think they'd do such a thing.
  • Evil Former Friend: In "The Doomsday Machine", Rambo's old pal Mike Flynn does a Face–Heel Turn and steals a fighter jet to help with Warhawk's latest plot.
  • The Evil Prince: A Duke instead of Prince but it's the same idea. See below.
  • Evil Uncle:
    • "Reign of the Boy King": Black Duke Lucan wants to usurp the throne of Morovia from his nephew King Alexander.
    • "Robot Raid": Merick wants to prevent his niece Jennifer from inheriting the family's company.
  • Expy:
    • Mad Dog and his band of evil bikers have no counterpart in the Rambo movies. Instead, they are very obvious substitutes for the Dreadnoks in G.I. Joe: A Real American Hero.
    • White Dragon and his brother Black Dragon are color-inverted versions of Snake Eyes and Storm Shadow.
    • Kat is clearly one of Co-Bao from First Blood Part II.
  • Eyepatch of Power: Gripper has one.
  • Family-Friendly Firearms: One of the very few 80's cartoons from the West to completely avert this. Everyone is carrying real guns (or weapons resembling real guns) and they all fire bullets, not lasers. Rambo himself uses his trademark M60 on numerous occasions.
  • Four Eyes, Zero Soul: General Warhawk, who's never seen without his mirrorshades.
  • Halloween Episode: "Return of the Count".
  • Hook Hand: Instead of a hook, Gripper from S.A.V.A.G.E. has a big clamp.
  • Last-Name Basis: (John) Rambo is rarely referred to by his first name.
  • Lighter and Softer: It's a more family-friendly version of Rambo. As stated above, First Blood's darker elements were omitted, and the show goes to become a derivative of G.I. Joe: A Real American Hero except with a Lighter and Softer Rambo as the main character.
  • Master of Disguise: One of Kat's skills.
  • Merchandise-Driven: The toyline actually outlasted the show.
  • Middle Eastern Terrorists: S.A.V.A.G.E desert warrior Nomad was one. When Arab-American groups objected to him, he was dropped from the toy line and its advertising.
  • Mind Control: The subject (and title) of one episode.
  • Mix-and-Match Critters: In "Monster Island", Dr. Hyde goes into Dr. Moreau mode and creates several ferocious hybrid animals for S.A.V.A.G.E.
  • Nebulous Evil Organization: S.A.V.A.G.E. is one in the style of GI Joe's Cobra: an international criminal paramilitary organization that engages in various illegal activities for power and profit.
  • Never Say "Die": One way this series is Lighter and Softer than its source material. While the ban on the words is occasionally subverted (or written around), no one actually dies.
  • Ninja: Force of Freedom member White Dragon is a ninja.
    • Evil Twin: His twin brother Black Dragon works for S.A.V.A.G.E. (Conveniently for the toy company, who used the same molds to make both characters and some of their accessories.)
  • Non-Lethal Warfare: Despite being based on a rather violent franchise, and using a military theme for its stories, the cartoon plays this completely straight. Neither Rambo, nor even the villains ever kill anyone.
  • Not the Nessie: S.A.V.A.G.E. creates a fake Loch Ness Monster in "Horror of the Highlands".
  • Putting on the Reich: While General Warhawk's country of origin is never specified, and his uniform doesn't quite match those of any real military, it bears a suspicious resemblance to Soviet dress uniform patterns. This may have been intended to invoke Rambo's iconic enemy from the movies, Colonel Podovsky.
  • The Quincy Punk: S.A.V.A.G.E. agent Mad Dog, with his mohawk and perpetually bare chest, has this vibe.
  • Rated M for Manly: Plenty of explosions, even more bare-chested muscular action, creepy European villains to be beaten, damsels to be saved, and very unusually realistic guns for a 1980s cartoon.
  • Recycled Soundtrack: The credit "Music by Jerry Goldsmith" is due to the series making heavy use of his score for Rambo: First Blood Part II (supplemented with "Additional Music by Shuki Levy and Haim Saban"). The series' opening and closing music is the film's specially composed trailer music.
  • Reptiles Are Abhorrent: And so is Snake Bite, the swamp-dwelling S.A.V.A.G.E. member who uses snakes, rats, spiders and scorpions to help him commit crimes and torture his victims.
  • Royal Brat: Boy King Alexander before Rambo gave him a speech about earning respect.
  • Scary Shiny Glasses: General Warhawk has the big aviator sunglasses type.
  • "Scooby-Doo" Hoax: In "Swamp Monster", S.A.V.A.G.E. creates the (phony) titular creature in order to take over a small town as part of their latest scheme.
  • Sixth Ranger: Chief and T.D. Jackson for the Force of Freedom; Dr. Hyde, X-Ray and Snake Bite for S.A.V.A.G.E.
  • The Smurfette Principle: Kat is the only major female character in the series.
  • The Squad: The Force of Freedom, comprising Rambo, Turbo and Kat.
  • Super Soldier: The titular villain in "Supertrooper" is a genetically-engineered example.
  • Temporary Blindness: Happens to Rambo in "Blind Luck".
  • Token Trio: Rambo's new squad numbers an African-American, an Asian woman, and a disabled veteran.
  • Transformation Sequence: Played with. While not a true henshin sequence, the series has a frequently reused bit of stock footage where Rambo gets ready for battle, flexing his muscles and putting on his bandana, that works in an equivalent way.
  • Twin Switch: In "The Twin Within", Black Dragon poses as White Dragon to inifiltrate the Force of Freedom.
  • Unexpectedly Dark Episode: Episode 3. Rambo is captured in a condemned building by sadistic gangbangers, who have chained him in place and use rats to torture him, like the famous Room 101 in Nineteen Eighty-Four. Also, they're filming it to record it for posterity.
  • Villain Exclusivity Clause: S.A.V.A.G.E. was always behind whatever Evil Plan Rambo and company had to stop, although General Warhawk brought in several episode-specific guest villains to add a little variety.
  • Walking Shirtless Scene: With Rambo as the main character, what else would you expect? Mad Dog provides a villainous example as well.
  • Why Did It Have to Be Snakes?: When Snake Bite is introduced in "Skyjacked Gold", he captures Kat and torments her with his snake collection. She's not too thrilled about it, although her reaction is equal parts fear and anger.

Alternative Title(s): Rambo