How do you make a good movie again? Do it over again. But as the meme says, “Yeah, but don’t make it too obvious.” It was a little obvious to me.
Clearly it’s not the exact same. The circumstances are different and it’s a direct sequel, taking places mere hours after the first. Apollo Creed is not too happy about the results of the last fight, and is trying to goad Rocky into a rematch. But Rocky ain’t no bum—he got what he wanted with the first fight, so he’s set. He retires. Marries his girlfriend and tries to move on with life. Unfortunately, life ain’t got no place for a fighter.
What makes it seem so similar to me is the overall structure. Having it start off directly afterwards is pretty much the only substantial difference, along with the marriage (which is not far behind the intro scene). After that, it tends to swim familiar ground. Rocky tries to get by life, finds it’s not quite as cracked up to be. Shooting commercials, applying for office jobs, reading; it all seems like a bunch of fluff to eventually go back to the preparation for the fight… which is also filled with a lot of fluff.
That’s another thing, too: fluff. Lots of fluff in here, more so than in the last film. Rocky tries to move on with life, but it seems it wasn’t meant to be—what a shock. He says he won’t fight, but then he wants to fight again—what a shock. Then a certain event holds him up; reinvigorates his spirit when it’s oh so conveniently resolved. Cue the training montage (again) and then fight. Stallone’s running around doin’ a bunch of goofy shit and doin’ patty-cake with his ambitions until the plot dictates it’s time to get serious. Some have called it “emotionally manipulative”—maybe. I’d call it “padding.”
Unfortunately, it’s rather difficult to try and better explain my points without bringing up crucial scenes that I’d rather leave vague. Apparently this series has a tendency to spoil people just by reading their synopsis. Just take it from me that if you liked the first film, you’d probably like this one… maybe a little less, but given they’re pretty similar, it’s a minor downgrade.
Is there anything about this film I thought was better than the original? Minimally, but yes. To a degree, structure aside, this was kind of a neat inverse on the first film. Apollo Creed is now completely serious about the fight, with animosity fueling him. Rocky becomes sort of the “favorite,” at least in terms of the public. The first Rocky, he had something to prove, now he’s just trying to maintain his integrity. Apollo Creed has something to prove, and it hovers around the psychology of his character here and there that, honestly, I wish they showed more of. I thought this should have been more Creed-focused. Rocky’s just floatin’ around.
Then there’s the fight. In some ways, I don’t care for it—some slow-mo is incorporated which feels totally unnecessary. At the same time it’s longer, it’s fiercer, and both fighters are giving it everything from the very beginning. Rocky‘s fight felt just a tad anticlimactic, given the long build-up and how it tended to skip rounds like crazy. Rocky II does the same, only slightly less, with the tenacity of Creed really shining through with each punch.
Rocky II lives up to its name in that it feels like two Rocky films in one. Trying to juggle a lot of different aspects while also maintaining the formula that made the original film so iconic. Bloated, though still kind of heartfelt. I appreciate the way it tried to do other things, while still almost shamelessly following the original’s coattails. My only hope is that they don’t do this over and over and over and over and—
Final Score: 5.5/10
The rating for all other films can be found at Letterboxd.
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