Rocky II

Plot Details: This opinion reveals major details about the movie”s plot.

After the great ending of the original Rocky (as well as the fact that it made a lot of money) it wasn’t a surprise that there was a demand for a second film. Director John G. Avildsen wouldn’t be back placing Sly himself directly behind the camera. This has both positive and negative aspects to the film. Since Sly wrote also wrote Rocky II, he definitely had an idea where he wanted to go with the project. This movie is all him entirely. It’s his vision of where he wanted to go with the Rocky character and also with the others. This is an actor directing a film. He allows the actors to act, giving them lots of dialogue and many scenes in which they stand out. However, on the negative end, this causes the film not to flow as well as the original, and there are many boring dialogue driven scenes. What made the original Rocky stand out in the heavy dialogue scenes was that every line seemed to have a purpose in the film. In that instance, you’re still introducing all the characters, so it’s going to be much tighter, but in Rocky II, it’s not as tight.

The performances are spectacular though. While it’s Sylvester Stallone’s movie all the way through and through, Burgess Meredith steals it right from under his left hook. But with Stallone directing, he really gives Meredith’s Mickey a chance to shine. In the original film, you see Mickey as a cranky old trainer who needs Rocky almost as much as Rocky needs him. In this film, you see more of what drives Mickey and how a trainer cares for a fighter. After Rocky went the distance with Apollo Creed in the original, Mickey is there to let Rocky know that he doesn’t have anything left to prove. And Mick doesn’t want Rocky to get back in the ring with Creed because while he would love to see Rocky reach the mountain top, he doesn’t want to see him permanently hurt if he doesn’t get there. Talia Shire is almost villain-like in her portrayal of a loving wife who doesn’t want her husband beaten to a pulp, which tells the audience that there might not be another fight. Burt Young’s Paulie is still a wisecracking selfish and thoughtless character, but he’s a part of a family now, and he actually does have a heart that he didn’t show in the first film. And as for Rocky, Stallone must’ve really thought he was going to have a chance to win the Oscar in this film. He gives himself dialogue, he gives himself scenes in which he cries, he gives himself scenes in which he has self doubt, and the list goes on. Basically, any sort of emotion you can expect a main character to play, he plays it. Sadly, that’s part of the issue. While the story definitely receives time to develop, it’s a story that could’ve been summed up if it was put together in a more tight fashion. There’s definitely a few lulls in it.

The movie follows the night of the championship fight that Rocky loses to Apollo. At the end of the fight, when they’re in a clinch after the final bell, Apollo says that there ain’t gonna be no rematch. And Rocky says, “Don’t want one.” But by the time the second film starts, Creed is upset because Rocky is actually the first person he didn’t knock out. And he wants the public to know that it was a fluke rather than a possible occurrence. In the hospital, with both fighters battered, bloodied and bruised, like any great promoter, Apollo challenges Rocky to a rematch. Any place, any time. Rocky simply wants to know that Apollo gave him his best and Apollo does acknowledge that he did.

The rest of the story deals with how Rocky can live his life with Adrian while not boxing and not succumbing to pressure and taking a possible huge payday to fight again in order to preserve his new legacy and his health. The doctors don’t want him fighting again. Adrian doesn’t want him fighting again. And Mick doesn’t want him fighting again. But Creed wants to prove that it was dumb luck and turns heel in his target to get Rocky back in the ring. In a scene straight out of wrestling, Apollo’s manager says that if he calls out Balboa, he will be the villain in the eyes of the fans, and Creed, like any villain, doesn’t care.

Rocky can’t find a job because he’s not educated and he and Adrian are preparing to have a child, when Rocky decides that the way to help his family is to get back in the ring with Creed even without Adrian’s blessing. It hurts his ring training because he doesn’t have her approval and things take a turn for the worse in Adrian’s pregnancy and this puts Rocky’s will to fight in doubt. Only when she gives him her blessing does Rocky actually become inspired to “fight him hard” like the last time.

This training sequence is possibly the best and most inspirational training sequences of all the films. While the original was done well, the intent behind it was that Rocky wanted to show people that he wasn’t a bum. This time, he wanted to show his wife that he was a man, and also to the fans and Creed that he wasn’t a one punch wonder. Interestingly enough, Stallone was noticeably more in shape in this movie, which came out in 1979 versus when the first film came out in 1976. He was in decent shape in the first film, but looks in really good shape (for 1979) in this film. Though I’d be interested if he dabbled in the synthetic testosterone, it wouldn’t be until the next film where his body would go through incredible change. For this film, we’ll just say that he worked his rear off to look like a real heavyweight boxer.

The fight in Rocky II is also my favorite of them all as it was paced well, though not very believable (but none of them were). In the first fight, the final round seemed like it was 45 seconds rather than three minutes. And in this fight, they did a much better job in timing the fight and the fight choreography was excellent. There are some tremendous slow motion close-ups of the action.

In addition to the at times slow dialogue and over-acting on Stallone’s part, there’s one other thing that bothered me in this film. Stallone needed a continuity editor. There are scenes that happen that sorely need a transition, but the transition is either weak, or it’s not there. At one point, Mick doesn’t want Rocky to fight, even shows him by humiliating him, and then just because Creed challenges Balboa, Mick wants Rocky to knock his block off. It’s that type of thing that really separates this film from the first. In the first film, everything meant something and there was a reason for the next scene. In this one, not so much. I chalk that up to Stallone directing the film.

I’ll leave you with my favorite line of the film.

Tony (Gazzo) who is Rocky’s old boss asks Rocky if he wanted to invest in condominiums with his new found money.

Rocky says, “Condominiums? I don’t use them.” Yep, this is Stallone’s dialogue.

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