I might just become a Rocky trivia master after watching these almost daily. That, and these films are all almost the same.
I won’t make this too long; there’s just not much else this series can say and, well, neither can I. It’s Rocky. Not the first film, specifically, but an amalgamation of Rocky themes and plotlines mashed together in some setting or another. Like spinning a wheel, choosing a ballot out of a hat, or throwing darts blindfolded, this entry in the Rocky franchise is a mishmash of disjointed ideas.
Rocky is enjoying a fine retirement. He gives his buddy, Paulie, a robot for his birthday. Paulie takes it for his wife. That peaceful life is brought to a halt when a Russian fighter comes in and makes it known that he’s willing to challenge anyone within the United States. Apollo Creed, who is suddenly his first Rocky self except way overboard, decides he wants to fight him. It doesn’t go well. Now, Rocky chooses to fight the big brute to avenge his friend. But it will be tough: the challenge is deemed to take place in the cold heart of Russia.
All that I told you? Nearly half of the film’s length. Indeed, Rocky IV, outside the credits and the opening three and a half minutes, which are just a recap, is only about 84 minutes. It zooms by. Any measure of, I don’t know, build-up? Character development? Political themes of warring nations? All kind of just skimmed. Some joke that this film is mostly montages, and well, hard to disagree. Lots of training, lots of looking back; you’ve seen it all before.
A little funny how while the previous antagonist never shut the hell up, this film’s villain hardly spoke at all. An imposing, silent giant that oozed intimidation. I appreciated that more, mostly because anything they may have said could come across as putrid acting. It’s just a big, scary dude. Wonderful.
This is more coherent and to-the-point than the previous film, but way, way leaner in meat. Rocky III was the point where it was obvious that Stallone had run out of ideas. Rocky IV is just a second layer of the same, soulless feeling. Underdog story. Big (debatable) stakes. Training montages. Cool soundtrack (delightfully ’80s this time). 10-15 minute fight. Freeze frame on Rocky’s battered face.
I will say that Rocky himself is a little more like himself in this film, but still dipped deep in the [standard male protagonist] quota that seems dictated now. Looking forward to seeing how that affects him in Rocky V, where he apparently has brain damage.
What can I say? It didn’t annoy me nearly as much as the third film. Still pretty bad, on account of little development and a lack of new material. It made a great reaction gif, though.
Final Score: 4/10
The rating for all other films can be found at Letterboxd.
For more, check out the March of the Movies Archive!