Monday, August 15, 2016
THE SYLVESTER SEMESTER PART II: Rocky IV (1985)
Rocky IV” would push the series even further in that direction. In the process, Sly would make the most notorious of the “Rocky” films, cementing the series’ somewhat unearned status as a campy relic of the Cold War era.
Rocky Balboa is happily retired from boxing, enjoying his millions with his wife, kid, and heterosexual life partners Pauley and Apollo Creed. Meanwhile, a challenger emerges from the Soviet Union. Ivan Drago is a result of Soviet engineering, the perfect boxing machine. Wanting to prove that he’s still got it, Apollo Creed agrees to an exhibition fight with Drago. During the bout, Drago beats Creed to death. Feeling responsible for his friend’s demise, Rocky agrees to face Ivan Drago in the ring. Will a rigorous training regime be enough for Rocky to defeat the towering titan of Soviet power?
Joe Louis vs. Max Schmeling matches, Stallone thought up an unlikely scenario where Rocky would battle a representation of the U.S.S.R. For Stallone though, the struggle between democracy and Communism is indistinguishable from personal revenge. In “First Blood Part II,” the death of Co spurns on Rambo’s war against the Vietnamese. In “Rocky IV,” the death of Apollo Creed forces Rocky to face down Ivan Drago. This notion props up a blatantly, gratuitously jingoistic script, where Rocky’s goodness stands against the evils of the Soviet Union. His brave effort even, eventually, wins over the Russians.
Making “Rocky IV” even harder to swallow is how the film is easily the goofiest of the “Rocky” series. Within the opening minutes, Rocky presents Paulie with a birthday present: A robot. A robot which Paulie then programs to have a female personality, which raises some interesting questions. This is only the most obvious ridiculous element of the film. Apollo Creed rides into the ring atop a giant transforming golden calf. Simultaneously, James Brown sings a rousing rendition of “Living in America.” After Apollo’s death, we’re treated to a ten minute long montage of Rocky driving in his car, while flashing back extensively to the previous movies. Insanity like this makes the movie’s other silliness seem more manageable. In a world where Paulie has a robot, the montage comparing Rocky’s all natural training regime to Drago’s steroid and machine assisted training seem subtle. It makes Rocky winning over all of the Soviet Union seem plausible.
winning over the evil Communists, he delivers a long speech about how anybody can change. It’s clear that Rocky can change too.
Along with the series’ general content, the villains of the “Rocky” films have gotten increasingly outrageous. Apollo Creed was just a braggart and a showman. Clubber Lang was psychotically obsessed with beating Rocky. Ivan Drago is a full-blown supervillain. We know nothing about his life other then he’s been created by the Russians to show Soviet superiority. Drago is played by Dolph Lundgren, in his first major role. At 6’5, heavily muscled, and featuring an exact Aryan appearance, Dolph perfectly inhabits the part. What makes Drago kind of interesting is his odd vulnerability. He seems frightened when asked about possible steroid abuse. When ushered into the ring with Apollo, his body language is clearly confused. After Rocky puts up more of a fight then expected, he breaks character, informing his managers that he fights for himself. Lundgren’s actin abilities rarely get praised but he does well here, playing an unstoppable juggernaut but allowing some humanity to show through.
a single punch from Dolph put Stallone in the hospital.) Still, that’s the magic of movies.
In addition to being jingoistic and ridiculous, “Rocky IV” is also blatantly derivative of “Rocky III.” In both, a powerful new adversary kills Rocky’s mentor, forcing him to come out of retirement to fight for revenge. In both, a powerful new training regiment leads Rocky to victory. Formula, sometimes, works. “Rocky IV” would become the highest grossing entry in the series and, thanks to its sheer goofiness, would develop a fond cult following. I think I love three a little more but four is certainly a massively entertaining flick. [7/10]
[THE STALLOWNAGE OF SLY: 4 outta 5]
[X] Frank Stallone or Frank Stallone-esque Inspirational Music
[X] Incapacitates or Kills Someone With His Body
[X] Shows Off Buffness
 Social Outcast
[X] Sweaty, Veiny Yelling