November 10, 2015

Rating the Rocky Anthology

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Written by: Lee Skavydis
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There are only 15 days left until the release of the new Sylvester Stallone movie, Creed. The 69 year old action star returns as his much cherished character, Rocky Balboa who has discovered that the late former champion Apollo Creed has a son, Adonis Creed, who has an ambition to become boxing champion of the world. While fighting his own battles, (pun intended) Rocky takes on the duty of training Adonis to reach the same heights of success that his father once did.

Next year celebrates the 40th anniversary of the original 1976 Rocky picture. And to celebrate the upcoming release of Creed, this article will attempt to rate the Rocky movies from best to worst.

Rocky IV – I am sure that many thought that the original classic would make number 1 on this list but the 1985 charm of the fourth movie has to secure the top spot here. It is the most financially successful entry in the series and features the best climactic fight scene in the entire franchise! Dolph Lundgren’s Ivan Drago may look and act like something that could come out of the Terminator films but his icy silence and murderous punches make him the most memorable villain. Rocky IV also sports the best soundtrack of the lot, including hits such as ‘No Easy Way Out’ by Robert Tepper and Survivor’s ‘Burning Heart,’ songs that all fit well with the theme of the movie. Revenge.

Rocky III – Rocky Balboa was riding high in the first half of this movie, but an unexpected defeat and the tragic loss of his trainer all forces the boxer to explore depths that he has never gone to before. Mr. T plays Clubber Lang, the motormouth contender who is desperate for his shot at the world title. A shot that Rocky’s beloved trainer Mickey had been prolonging for as long as possible due to his questionable faith in his fighter. The drama that made the original popular is still present by this stage but it was evidently dwindling, with the action taking more of a priority. Still, the surprising and welcome return of a former character and the bullish persona of Lang all make for an entertaining Rocky film. It is just a shame that the final fight was rather short.

Rocky – The one that started it all way back in 1976, 39 years ago. It’s theme that anybody can be successful if they put in enough effort and believes in themselves is timeless. The cinematography by James Crabe is often neutral but sometimes depressing, especially the shots of the ordinary looking Philadelphia. The downbeat score adds to this drab effect although things take a more cheerful approach, sonically, later on when Rocky is fighting to gain respect. Rocky probably would not do well in this generation that is often dominated by big special effects blockbusters, sadly. And there are moments that admittedly do move at a snail’s pace. But nobody could have predicted, even Stallone himself, that he would create a future cinematic monster.

Rocky II – Due to the success of the first film, the men in suits would have been fools to not have capitalised on it and not made a sequel. Rocky II came only three years after and pushed the explicit theme of its predecessor over the edge! But there was still a profusion of character development and dramatic events that kept this sequel reasonably grounded, especially when Rocky is trying to lead a life away from boxing but is often tormented by his rival Apollo Creed to step back through the ropes to face him once more. The conclusion is a little too on the side of tremendous but this was only the start of what would become only more outlandish with each passing sequel.

Rocky Balboa – It is hard to believe that it has been nearly 10 years since the release of the sixth instalment, but here we are. Comments from the masses that Stallone could not possibly pull it off due to his advancing age were universal, but little did we know that he had a stylistic idea up his sleeve! In our heads, the memories of his character being in bone crunching battles with the likes of the towering Drago back in 1985 were still very clear, but the live television network style of the final fight with Mason Dixon lent it a decent degree of sensibility. The age factor was also tackled earlier on, albeit brieflly, and a couple of subplots involving his son and a character he met some 30 years earlier take up a large part of this show. Rocky Balboa doesn’t belong alongside the likes of the original but it is an admirable effort that gives Rocky the sending off he deserves. Well, that is possibly until Creed makes its debut!

Rocky V – I guess there is no surprise that Rocky V ended up last on this list. But is it as bad as people make it out to be? Eh, probably not. In terms of the story, Balboa and his family losing their fortune and being forced to go back to the beginning was a logical direction other than the boxer fighting somebody akin to the Predator, seeing as the opposition appeared more bigger and fearsome with each sequel. But one thinks here that the animosity was perhaps mainly to do with the payoff which did not involve Rocky actually putting on a pair of boxing gloves and instead takes to the streets this time out. However, there are other definitive issues! The soundtrack is horrid and incorrect for it’s era. Rocky, until the climax, is little more than a sideshow to his protege. Talia Shire as his wife Adrian is barely here, and even when she is her presence does not make any kind of meaningful impact. The personality of Rocky takes a different road in this one as well, although that can be forgiven due to the added concern of his brain becoming damaged after his fight with Drago. Rocky V is an example of a sequel that tried to keep the franchise going to make a few more dollars but the ideas associated here were obviously born out of yearning.


About the Author

Lee Skavydis
Lee Skavydis
I am a die hard movie fan, owning over 500 movies on both DVD and Blu Ray. I try to go to the cinema at least once a week when time permits. My other hobbies include following fight sports such as boxing, travelling around, writing and editing, listening to heavy rock and cook the odd occasional recipe. I used to write for several prolific boxing websites, interviewing some of the most famous names associated with the sport around.



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