Morrell wasn’t a huge fan of the original First Blood adaptation either when it was released. “My intent was to transpose the Vietnam War to America,” he said in an interview. “In contrast, the film [adaptation]’s intent was to make the audience cheer for the underdog.”
The audience I knew wasn’t cheering for Rambo in the original First Blood because he was an underdog but rather because of who he was fighting, the police. Their was a great deal of ill will toward the police of the time Rambo was released, just as it remains today. In contrast to the military who most people rarely interact with, almost every citizen has had some interaction with the police, and more often then not these experiences are highly negative. I don’t blame the police (mostly) as it is the nature of their jobs to uphold the law, even when the laws are ill conceived (many speed limits and other traffic laws) or completely nonsensical, illogical, and idiotic (virtually all drug laws). The police torture scenes with Rambo also represented something I think many people believe to be true about the cops, that they hold a general contempt for the citizens whom they police, and have little regard for human dignity or human rights. I think this is probably (somewhat) unfair but it is impossible to say it is not true of some or maybe even many police officers. Certainly some of the people who saw the movie had experienced similar abuses at the hands of the cops and the movie brought that reality to the masses. We wanted to see the police taken down a notch, and Rambo delivered on that score in spades.