Rocky 2: Retrospective Review

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You won’t be surprised or disappointed to know that ‘Rocky II’ follows a similar formula to ‘Rocky’ (see review).

But you may be surprised to know that, for me, this one didn’t quite hit the mark.

But hey, you know what, it doesn’t really matter. You know why?  Because as I mentioned in my original review of ‘Rocky’, it really is all about 2 things.

     1) The training.

2) The fight.

In 1979’s ‘Rocky II’ we are treated to two fight scenes. We start the movie by re-visiting the final few rounds of the original fight between Rocky, The Italian Stallion, Balboa, and the Undisputed Heavyweight Champion of the World, the Master of Disaster, the King of Sting, Apollo Creed.

It has been 3 years between drinks and this is a very clever way of immersing us back into Rocky’s world very quickly. In the first 5 minutes we feel his pain, his strength, his courage, his innocence and are reminded of his deep love for Adrian.

I thought it was a smart decision to do this and we don’t see this kind of recap in sequels very often.

Both Apollo and Rocky keep telling us in these first few minutes after the fight: “ain’t gonna be no re-match…ain’t gonna be no rematch.”

Well Rocky. We know there is. And deep down. You. Do. Too.

And that is what this movie is all about.

Apollo, trolled by haters, haunted by personal insecurities, embarrasses Rocky back into the ring despite opposing advice from his camp.

And that’s about it. That’s what this one is about. Nothing too complicated.

Rocky and Adrian have settled into married life. He spends the little prize money he has with no thoughts of the future. He tries his hand at acting. Works as a labourer. But it’s not long till he is back on struggle street.

While the first movie is about the love affair between Rocky and Adrian (Talia Shire), this one is about the ‘love’ affair between Rocky and his long time trainer Mickey Goldmill played by Burgess Meredith – did you know he played The Joker in the long running Batman series of the 60’s?

Mickey makes this film his own. I can’t imagine anyone else playing this character. His gravelly voice and intensity are played to perfection in each scene. His one liners are classic: “you’re gonna eat lightning and crap thunder”

As I mentioned in my first review of Rocky, that one felt raw. Real. Original.

This one not so much. It must be hard – and rare – to make a sequel as good as the original. This one had a bigger budget, the actors were more famous – affected – the cinematography, brighter, bolder. The writing, sloppier and forced. A lot of the time it felt like Sylvester Stallone was just filling time with his writing.

The legend himself. Thanks to for the image.
The legend himself.
Thanks to for the image.

The Rocky movies are intentionally cheesy. I like this. But when half of Philadelphia run with Rocky during one of his jogging scenes I thought this was too much. I like a little cheddar, but when you add gorgonzola and blue stilton I feel a little sick.

I can put up with it because it’s Rocky, and he can really get away with anything in my eyes, but Sly is not going to win any major awards for this one. And unsurprisingly it didn’t.

This movie did finish in the top three highest grossing films of 1979. Who wouldn’t want to go and watch the second movie after seeing the success of the first?

The dialogue between Rocky and Adrian is a bit tired; “promise me it will always be like this” she says.

I’m checking my phone at this point but unfortunately I look up long enough to see Sly and his rubber lips going the distance with his co-star. I go back to facebook and pray for it to end. Sylvester Stallone and romantic leads don’t go hand in hand (did you see ‘The Specialist’?) then I check to see how long to go until the fight scene.

The original Rocky is about training to go the distance. To take the punches. Rocky 2 is about training for speed.

We don’t see much of Paulie in this movie, but we see that he is doing well for himself.

The training scenes are ok. Not as good as I hoped or wanted. Underwhelming. I don’t want to give any spoilers away in this one, but let’s just say I felt like I was in a coma half way through this movie too. Oops. Did I say too much? It did drag a bit at this point.

We go through the motions, Rocky’s up, he’s down, he wants to fight, she doesn’t want him to fight, his hearts not in it, then it is ….bla de bla de bla…..fight scene. Please!

And so finally we get there.

Rocky can take a punch, I’ll tell you that. I didn’t count how many times he was hit that first round but it wasn’t normal. But this is no normal human being. This is Rocky Balboa. This is what we came here to see.

Again I am on my feet. Screaming at the screen. Toe to toe these boys fight in the middle of the ring. It is incredible.

Most of the punches still look fake but it doesn’t matter. Sylvester Stallone’s direction and his slow motion scenes, to prove to us that some punches do land, are awesome.

The boxer’s trainers are screaming.

My kids are screaming. I’m screaming. Then it’s over. I’ve seen it so many times. I know what happens.

But, the trainers are crying. My kids are crying. I’m crying.

It gets me every time.

At one early point in the movie Rocky asks Apollo;

 “Did you give me your best?”

I ask the same question back to Sylvester Stallone;

“Did we get your best?”

I don’t think so. I give this movie a 6.5 out of 10


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