Movie Marathon: ‘Rocky II’
We found the first film in the series to be good but a touch over-rated. Time to see what happens next.
Title: Rocky II
Director: Sylvester Stallone
Cast: Sylvester Stallone, Talia Shire, Carl Weathers, Burgess Meredith, Burt Young
Plot: After the heavy beating he took from Apollo Creed, Rocky Balboa is riding high. Things don’t stay golden for long and when the winnings run out Rocky is tempted back into the ring by Creed for a rematch.
Review: It’s always frustrating when a sequel relies on goodwill from the original rather than carving a new path for itself. With that in mind, what does it say when a sequel opens with a replay off the final ten minutes of the original? I appreciate that they want to pick things up with the aftermath of the fight but there are more creative ways to do this than copy/paste. They immediately follow this up by backtracking on their mutual declaration that they’ll be ‘no rematch’ when Apollo straight up declares one.
What I do like is the unflinching look at the immediate results of the match. Both Rocky and Creed are in bad shape and seemingly unable to stand on their own two feet at the hospital. It takes the glamour out of the sport, that’s for sure. Rocky has succeeded in proving himself in the ring, and lives the good live with new cars, watches and an apartment. Things aren’t so good for the champion, Creed, who faces accusations of staging the match. With his ego damaged by the beating and subsequent harassment Apollo begins opening insulting and challenging Rocky.
When Rocky’s newfound fame fails to turn into a steady pay check as a spokesperson in advertising he struggles to make ends meet. Now married to Adrian and expecting a baby his inability to hold down work eventually leads him to take up Creed’s challenge.
For the first half of the film this is a good story. It’s fun joining Rocky on his spending spree and tragic to see him paint himself into the corner. In spite of their challenges Adrian refuses to let him fight as he could end up blind or worse as a result. Things then take a turn for the soap operatic when Adrian falls into a coma and then, after some praying by Rocky, she comes out of the coma and declares that he has to fight. By this point Apollo has become a cartoon villain, lacking any nuance he had in the original.
It is the characters who drive this story (good thing to, as there’s only one boxing scene) and Rocky and Adrian are a really sweet couple throughout. It’s genuinely fun seeing them hang out and work together. It’s just a shame that Adrian comes with her piece of shit brother Paulie, somehow Rocky’s best friend. During the film Paulie advises Rocky to break Adrian’s teeth if she’s being too controlling. He later upsets her enough that it’s implied she goes into premature labour. Can Paulie not be in the series, please?
We would have said that this second outing for the marble-mouthed heavy-weight was more consistent, but that’s only true in the first half. After the Coma Ex-Machina things gets a silly. The final bout against Apollo is no longer about Rocky proving himself, but Rocky proving Apollo wrong. It just doesn’t have the same heart.
Rating: SIX out of TEN