Rocky was a movie that didn’t need a sequel. It ended as the perfect underdog story and showcased one of Sylvester Stallone’s best performances. The film was a huge success, winning Best Picture at the Oscars, so a sequel seemed to make sense and luckily, there is a story worthy of a sequel here.
It would be easy to see Rocky II as a straight retread of the original movie, especially considering Stallone’s Rocky will be facing Carl Weather’s Apollo Creed once again, but the plot develops this nicely. Creed is tormented by the spirited loss Rocky portrayed and believes that many see his win as an actual loss. This offers a very nice segue into a rematch that shouldn’t occur, as well as giving Creed more of a story than just the “villainous heavyweight.”
On the opposing side is a Rocky who is suffering from the damage the first fight gave him. His peripheral sight is damaged and he is forced to train and fight with a different style. This means that rather than just preparing for yet another fight, Rocky is forced to change his boxing completely. It means that Rocky II feels like a decent continuation of the saga rather than a cash-grab sequel.
Rocky wasn’t always about the boxing though and arguably the story behind the sport was much better. Talia Shire returns as Rocky’s wife Adrian and their financial situation means that Rocky’s life isn’t as fruitful as you’d expect after a heavyweight boxing match. Events build and develop and add some added impetus to the boxing match itself and gives a sub-plot which helps you invest in the story.
Unfortunately, you are never to far away from some of the “classic” Rocky moments and it is as early as Rocky II that some of these iconic aspects are creeping into cliche. It is still early enough to be heartwarming but the signs of the tired Rocky-machine are there.
Aspects of the sub-plot also feel far too over-dramatic. The movie borders on soap-opera and becomes fairly silly at points. It will force an eye-roll from people that liked the more gritty aspect of Rocky and how well that film was written.
Luckily, an improvement on the original movie is the boxing. The final confrontation between Rocky and Creed is a fantastic one and feels much more genuine. It is staged much better, with the punches feeling real and the effects feeling catastrophic. It also means that the ending is well earned and you will lose yourself in hoping Rocky does eventually win after-all.
Overall, Rocky II is a sequel that shouldn’t work but manages to find a way to offer a credible reason for the rematch. The many singular stories build to a great boxing match for a finale and one that makes you feel every punch as Rocky tries to overcome the odds once again.
Rating – 3.5
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