Revisiting Rocky: A Final Word on the Rocky Series

Rocky IV Review

Rocky V Review

Rocky III Review

Rocky II Review

Creed Review

Rocky Balboa Review

Rocky Review

 

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Simply said, the Rocky series provides inspiration to many people.  With its underdog story, the iconic characters, the motivational music, and quotable lines – the film series has become the “role model of movies”.  Not just in the US, but around the world, the films have become an example of great storytelling with uplifting themes.

I was in Germany when I first started watching the films and I remember how big of a star Sylvester Stallone became.  In fact, his portrayal of his character in Rocky IV was so realistic that I remember there being a big story about how East Germany wouldn’t let him into their country.  They felt that the actor had anti-Russian feelings (which of course wasn’t true).  To many people, the Rocky story is similar to their lives.  For those of us striving to prove that we can “go the distance” in whatever we do, the inspiration is Rocky Balboa.

The character arc of Rocky Balboa is exactly what many of us go through – we live our lives at crossroads, personally and professionally.  When many others don’t believe in us, whether it’s our bosses, our co-workers, ourselves, some do and it’s that one moment of belief that helps us to get motivated to live the best life we can for ourselves.  Men and women will find inspiration in the love between Rocky and Adrian.  After a few times of awkwardness, they finally realize they love each other.  Then, Adrian is rushed to the hospital during her pregnancy and into a coma.  With Rocky by her side, Adrian comes out of it and together they have a baby boy.  When Rocky is down and out, Adrian is the one that lifts him up and reminds him that they’re in it together.  She’s there for him as a wife, but also as his best friend.  And even when Rocky’s relationship with his son goes sour, Adrian is the one to bond them together again.  All the way to her tragic death, she stands by Rocky’s side and even after she’s gone, she still provides the spark he needs in his life.

Rocky’s life is filled with various characters, besides Adrian.  He has a mentor in Mickey Goldmill and a friend in Paulie.  He also has a friend in Apollo Creed (eventually grown out of respect) and Gazzo (sparingly).  And even through his enemies, he learned valuable lessons.  (“You ain’t so bad” to Clubber Lang and he learned that people change fighting a Russian – who knew?).

The Rocky story is the ultimate story.  It blends themes of “life and death”, “friendship and hostility”, “rags to riches”, a life cycle that spans over 40 years.  The Rocky story is a story for yesterday’s generation, but also the generation that will come tomorrow.  It gives us the motivation to realize that no matter what life brings, we’re moving forward.  We’ll be OK.  You know how I know?  Because of the stuff in the basement.

We’ve gone the distance.  Yo, we did it, Rock.

Next week, we’ll revisit another inspirational story – one filled with childhood memories, toys, and someone to tell us to take our lives “to infinity and beyond.”

Revisiting Rocky: A Look Back At Rocky II

For the previous review on Rocky IV – please click here.

For the previous review on Rocky V – please click here.

For the previous review on Rocky III – please click here.

How do you follow up an Oscar-winning film with the same vibrancy, emotions, characterization and impact as the one that came before?  For the writers and crew of Rocky II, it was making sure that they were going to be able to put in a plot point that would be more emotionally charged to the main characters as well as the audience.  I can specifically say that the film did its job.

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The second film leaves off right where the first one ends.  There is a little bit of a bump as the first one ends with both opponents, Apollo Creed (played by Carl Weathers) and Rocky Balboa (played by Sylvester Stallone) agree to not go through a rematch, but in the first few minutes, there is Creed, shouting at Balboa for a rematch.  They explain it off with a couple lines, but when you watch both films together, it’s a little awkward…but that’s OK because the film could only work one way…with a rematch between the two.

We see a genuine heartfelt moment between the two fighters in the hospital when Creed admits to giving it his all during their match – setting up a slow foreshadowing of a working relationship in a future film, maybe?  From this point forward, their trajectory goes in opposite directions – one becomes fueled by what he feels is betrayal of his fans, while the other begins to enjoy fame and fortune.

Rocky gets an agent, who sees big money in his fighter.  Rocky begins doing commercials, where you see the humor return in his character.  But you also see the moment where he’s losing options as to what life will be like post-boxing.  Rocky sees no alternatives – he must box again.  In the meantime, Rocky decides to go with some advice he got in the first film – he takes Adrian to the Zoo!  And at the zoo, Rocky proposes to Adrian with a “I was wonderin’ if you don’t mind marryin’ me much” (a classic line that many Rocky fans have shared in their own proposals, I’m sure).  We also find out that Adrian is pregnant with their child.

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Then, there’s Apollo’s storyline and I do appreciate the fact that we get a little more insight into this character.  In the first film, we find Apollo to be sarcastic and arrogant and with an attitude where he won’t take Rocky seriously.  Here, we get the flip side of the coin…Apollo really does take it serious and feels fueled by the fact that many fans are saying he got rocked in the match.  Apollo wants to prove that he didn’t win the match just by chance.  Apollo wants a rematch.

Rocky realizes he can’t do anything else but box at this point.  He returns to his trainer, Mickey (Burgess Meredith), but Adrian (Talia Shire) is the obstacle here and doesn’t want her husband’s health to decline.  The characterization here is great….in the first one, Adrian is clueless about boxing and supports Rocky, but now they’re married and Adrian’s love isn’t the support here, but the obstacle.  Rocky knows that boxing can cause further rips in their relationship, but Rocky feels incomplete without this.  Mickey, on the same hand, needs Rocky all in because he’s at the point of no return and Apollo needs this match to prove he’s still the champion.  All the stories intermesh and each character has their own goals.

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And things get worse when Adrian collapses, gets rushed to the hospital and slips into a coma.  Now what does Rocky do?  He has a trainer who tells him he’s only got one chance at the champ now and not to waste it.  (This is the part of the character of Mickey that makes him the gruff and tough character that he is…even while Rocky is sitting there in church, praying…Mickey thinks only of the boxing match…boxing is his life, while Adrian is what’s most important to Rocky.)  It all comes to a head when Adrian finally wakes up and tells Rocky to “win”.   This is the heartbeat of the whole Rocky series – and basically life in general…obstacles that will keep us from our dreams and future and how to overcome them.  And now we’re back to the training and the road to the Main Event.

The final fight here is not as exciting as many of the other ones.  I would even say that the goofy and comical Rocky IV fight between Ivan Drago and Rocky Balboa was more exciting than this one, but it wouldn’t be Rocky without a match and a match is what we get.  The highlight here is the double knockout and the race to see who will beat the count at the end.  At the end, to keep the film fresh, Rocky wins and becomes the new champion.

Overall, the film explores many of the similar themes as the first one, but in new and innovative ways.  The weakness here is actually what they build to and that is the final fight.  Rocky proves that he’s not a “bum” anymore, but Apollo proves he’s weaker (yet somehow is still the right choice to train Rocky in the next film?).  Paulie’s only contribution is sending his sister to the hospital here and going back to drinking.  In the end, Rocky is stronger in the emotional and mental aspects…he’s a boxer, husband and father with new goals to come.

FINAL GRADE:  B

 

What are your thoughts on Rocky II?  Did it do well as a sequel to the original?  What did you think of the final fight compared to the others in the series?  Let me know with a comment and next week, I present the newest film in the series…Creed.