December 22, 2015

In defense of ‘Rocky V’

Five years after the outlandish but entertaining Rocky IV, Rocky V was produced and released. John G. Avildsen came back into the directing chair many years after managing the original movie that went on to be nominated for Academy Awards including a nomination for Best Picture.

However, when the fifth installment was released in 1990 many fans were dismayed. Not only had the seemingly indestructible Rocky Balboa been inflicted with sudden brain damage due to his fight with previous villain, Ivan Drago, but the movie dared to undo a lot of things that the previous sequels set for the character! And to top it all off, Balboa doesn’t even enter the ring for battle once, although fans did get to see the back of Rocky training in a ring in front of deceased trainer, Mickey in an emotionally charged flashback.

But despite the many differences, is Rocky V really as bad as it is made out to be? Although the criticisms are many, what isn’t often observed is the logic of the actions the screenplay took. Ivan Drago was as fearsome an opponent that you was ever going to get without the franchise resorting to “jumping the shark.” Some would say that Rocky IV actually did and that is a notion that is hard to disagree with. But it’s 1980’s charm and approach make that forgivable.

The choice to make Rocky vulnerable in front of an opponent that would have thought to have been too average in earlier films was a pretty smart decision. For the first time, the series approached the unfamiliar and it was something fresh. Had it not been for these radical changes, these string of movies would have had it’s day by then. The much admired Rocky Balboa (2006) ignored the subplot of Rocky suffering brain damage in favour of keeping things more traditional. For all of Rocky V‘s faults, it is difficult not to acknowledge that it wanted to do something that was unexplored. The one story arc that was retained in the 2006 sequel was Rocky still living in the slums in Philadelphia, his original roots. Perhaps the screenwriters of Rocky V needed not go this far, but again, having Rocky and his family lose it all and start all over again is something that could hardly be labelled as insensible, but admittedly it may have evoked a feeling of going over old ground.

Another subplot not given enough credit was the duality in the relationship between Rocky and his son, Robert, as he was called in this particular picture. Balboa was seemingly seduced with the ideal of training his new student, Tommy ‘The Machine’ Gunn (played by the now sadly deceased former real life boxer Tommy Morrison), going so far as to break a meaningful promise to his only child, albeit unintentionally. Tensions rise and eventually erupt, forcing Rocky to reassess an area of his life that he did not have to before. This aspect of the film all contributed to it’s dramatic process. Mostly gone is the action heavy style of before.

The Rocky movies are known for their upbeat and motivational soundtracks. Unfortunately, the soundtrack for Rocky V is inexcusable. Mostly made up of cheesy early 1990’s hip hop, the music is more irritating than inspirational, even though Bill Conti’s name is officially linked. The idea to dumb down the character of Rocky due to his new found mental disability went a little further than it had to considering that he wasn’t already exactly Albert Einstein! And let’s not forget that it just is not a realistic outcome of such inflicted injuries.

As when Timothy Dalton took over as James Bond in The Living Daylights and Licence to Kill, his hard edged portrayal of the beloved secret agent just was not the right time for audiences to accept something different. With Daniel Craig now at the helm with his own no nonsense approach, fans have come around to the idea. It is in belief of this writer here that people were not ready to welcome a more laid back sequel to the over the top Rocky IV. Audiences will probably never accept it in good faith due to it already being tainted with bad memories of it’s initial release.

But when one views it with a heavy degree of logic and consideration for what it was trying to achieve, is Rocky V really all that bad?

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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