Director: Sylvester Stallone
Writer: Sylvester Stallone
Stars: Sylvester Stallone, Talia Shire, Burt Young, Carl Weathers, Burgess Meredith, Tony Burton, Joe Spinell
Running Time: 119 Minutes
“Eat lightning and crap out thunder!”
And now we continue the Rocky-thon in preparation for Creed’s UK release. Rocky was a Best Picture winning drama that at the time was something that couldn’t possibly have a sequel. That would be ridiculous! Not so. Sylvester Stallone upgraded from screenwriter to director, which was a highly risky prospect after only directing the panned Paradise Alley before this sequel. Luckily, this film is a sequel that works thanks to its ability to explore new territory and new ideas. The film opens on the boxing match that concluded the first film and takes off directly from it, with both contenders going straight to the hospital to treat the rather obvious wounds. Despite Apollo Creed’s (Carl Weathers) line of “ain’t gonna be no rematch” from the end of the first film, he has a change of heart (a simple ret-con I’ll forgive) and challenges Rocky Balboa (Sylvester Stallone) to a rematch. Rocky rejects it though, and thus sets the film in motion towards the interesting new ideas the sequel needed to succeed.
This film could have easily been a remake of the previous film with a different ending and while there are still plenty of structural similarities, the film goes down a very different route. Rocky’s lost the sight in one of his eyes and decides he wants to go straight and lead a normal life instead of just being a dumb boxer. He uses money from the opportunities like endorsements and commercials he got after his debated loss against Creed to kick start his new life as he marries Adrian (Talia Shire). The romance worked very well in the first film but it’ll be the first thing I really criticise here. I don’t think it was handled amazingly well with Adrian not really appearing all that much in love for some scenes. Sometimes I bought it but sometimes she felt like the receiver of Rocky’s love but not the lover. While it didn’t get in the way too much, she seemed less charmed by his babbling than she was in the first film. Moving on from this, the film deals with commercialism quite well. Rocky gets a little caught up in it at first as he starts buying a lot of new things with his new-found riches, but realises the bad side when he gets fired from his first commercial, which he obviously wasn’t enjoying.
The film has quite a few comedic touches to it that don’t deter from the dramatic tone it still retains from the first film. Rocky’s inability to read, the line “I’ve got what you call a relaxed brain”, and his ridiculously poor driving skills are all really funny and the added screen time for Mickey (Burgess Meredith) allow that character’s sarcasms and lovable grumpiness to really soar. I also liked seeing Rocky’s struggles trying to get a normal job. He tried and tried but could get nothing more than a manual labour job when he wanted something to expand his brain. It was quite touching watching him become sad from all the limitations he has as a person. Obviously, this is a Rocky film though, so there has to be fighting. Apollo Creed is very upset from fan mail calling him a fake and a fixer, claiming Rocky was the real victor of the fight. That just fuels him to goad Rocky back into the ring by any means necessary, creating a smear campaign to humiliate Rocky.
Rocky tries to avoid it but it’s obvious and inevitable that he’d have to fight and they do give us another big, epic finale in the ring. While it’s bigger and more epic, the fight did become something of a laughing point for me, although not a major issue. Rocky absolutely makes no attempt to block any punches going for his face and he takes an obscene amount of them. It feels very odd after Mickey’s told him off so much for not defending his face for him to just do an even worse job. Despite the abysmal defence, the outcome is quite obvious as they wouldn’t redo the same ending of the first film. This film has a more traditional ending but the film is more ambitions than the film that came before it. It strives for more ideas and more depth and while a lot of it is very heavy handed, it’s nice to see from a sequel and it’s the reason this film works. It’s also a lot better paced than the first film which is a bit of a slow movie. Even with this, I don’t think it’s as good as the underdog story of the first film simply because this film has some dumb flaws that undercut the film’s true potential.
Summary: While very similar to the first film, Rocky II takes a new route that explores some interesting facets that come of the aftermath of the first Creed v Balboa fight. It’s a little obvious and mishandled occasionally, but the film is a sequel that is certainly worthy of the name and the legacy.
Best Performance: Sylvester Stallone
Rotten Tomatoes: 73%