Last of the Monster Kids

Last of the Monster Kids
"LAST OF THE MONSTER KIDS" - Available Now on the Amazon Kindle Marketplace!

Thursday, August 11, 2016


In the final minutes of “Rocky,” after Balboa goes the distance with Apollo Creed, a reporter asks him if there’s going to be a rematch. There was no way for Sylvester Stallone to know that his 1975 film would be popular enough to spawn a sequel. Yet he seemingly recognized the possibility even at the time. Released three years after the original, “Rocky II” was also massively successful, becoming the third highest grossing film of the year. The success of part two is assuredly the reason why Sylvester Stallone would become so open to sequels throughout his career. The public wanted more of the Italian Stallion and Sly was more then happy to give the public what they wanted.

“Rocky II” picks up right where the original left off, to the point that its opening moments are the same as the first film’s closing moments. While both fighters are battered and bruised, Apollo Creed demands a re-match with Rocky Balboa. Rocky, meanwhile, is reluctant. He marries Adrian and soon conceives a child with her. She hopes Rocky won’t have to fight again. However, Balboa has little success in his post-boxing life. This, combined with Creed’s much publicized goading, has Rocky back in the ring before too long.

Once again, the life of Rocky Balboa mirrors the life of Sylvester Stallone. Rocky went the distance and Stallone made a hit movie. Afterwards, Rocky has a disastrous go as a commercial pitchman before working at a meat packing plant and Micky’s gym. After “Rocky,” Sly tried other films like “F.I.S.T.” and “Paradise Alley.” Both underperformed, as the public demanded more Rocky. Meanwhile, in the film, outside forces compel Balboa to fight once again, despite his desire to retire. If the first “Rocky” was about the eponymous character proving he wasn’t a bum, the sequel is about him proving that first fight wasn’t a fluke. “Rocky II” pulls a surprising amount of pathos from this set-up, as Balboa struggles to start a new life before he has to do what he always does: Fight, to survive, to prove to himself and others that his life is worth living.

While even more of a crowd-pleaser then the first, “Rocky II” still has more in common with the original then the increasingly eighties-ified further sequels. The romance between Rocky and Adrian continues to be a pivotal part of the story. His endearingly awkward proposal is only the first of several genuinely sweet moments in the sequel. The chemistry between Stallone and Talia Shire continues to be paramount to the film’s success. Rocky’s self-deprecating ways, Adrians’ continued pronouncements of love, and their shared joy at having a child all tug at the viewer’s heart. While lesser films would make someone like Adrian a bad guy for wanting to keep her husband away from his calling, the sequel makes it clear that her concerns are strictly based in love and worry. When Adrian falls into a coma following a difficult birth, it gives Rocky one more thing to fight for. Now, he’s fighting for his family, for the people he loves the most.

In the first film, Apollo Creed was barely a character. He was mostly a disinterested champ, an obstacle for Rocky to overcome. The sequel gives an expanded role to Creed, making him a surprisingly more nuanced character. The champ receives hate mail in the weeks following the first film’s match. That he cheated or bought his victory. In an odd way, Creed is facing a similar dilemma to what Rocky faced in part one. He has to prove himself, to show that he still has what it takes. Creed is happy to play the villain, mocking his opponent on television and at press conferences. (Amusingly, Balboa is reserved and self-effacing in these moments.) Yet the sequel roots the villain’s drive in a realistic emotion. Carl Weathers, looking more swole then ever, gets a chance to really ham it up without loosing a bead on Creed’s humanity.

Beyond literally featuring a rematch between the first film’s combatants, “Rocky II” also happily doubles down on the fan-favorite sequences from part one. There’s another training montage, with Rocky triumphantly leaping up the steps at the Philadelphia Museum of Art, while flanked by a crowd of adoring fans. It all leads up to the second showdown between Creed and Balboa. Stallone, who returns to directing after “Paradise Alley,” brings a less melodramatic hand to this one. He maintains the naturalistic tone of the first. The fight, however, definitely has some memorable moments. After especially powerful blows, the film slows down, matching the dazed mindsets of the battered boxers. The victory is dramatically framed, Rocky and Apollo climbing up the ropes, attempting to regain their footing before either get counted out. It’s not as subtle as the first but remains awfully exciting and satisfying nevertheless.

Part two also gives us way more of Burgess Meredith’s Mickey. His softer side shows in a few more scenes, even while having Stallone do things like chase after a chicken. It’s not as fresh as the original but Stallone’s sequel makes this further exploration of his most famous character’s life worth it. If only for the small scenes like Rocky getting a priest’s blessing before the big match or to see him giving his dog a bath. By mixing the more down-to-earth elements of the original with the crowd pleasing theatrics that would characterize the future sequels, “Rocky II” gives fans the best of both. It’s an incredibly satisfying sequel. [8/10]

[X] Frank Stallone or Frank Stallone-esque Inspirational Music
[X] Incapacitates or Kills Someone With His Body
[X] Shows Off Buffness
[X] Social Outcast [Struggling Fighter]
[X] Sweaty, Veiny Yelling

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