Monday, May 24, 2010

Memorial Monday: Rocky II (1979)

Since I reviewed Rocky V for Terrible Thursday last week I thought it would be very fitting to review a real Rocky film for Memorial Monday!

Summary: Just like Zoolander review I will not summarize this film. SHAME ON YOU if you have never seen it…seriously. By far, this movie (and the rest of the series, except for Rocky V) is one of the greatest inspirational movies ever. It showed everyone that a man’s determination and strength of the heart can achieve victory.

Plot (A): Rocky II picks up right where the first one left off allowing nothing to be missed. Although, he now has some financial security life isn’t all peaches and cream for the Italian Stallion. Rocky is dealing with new changes in his life. He and Adrian are married and are expecting a baby. Since he is now retired from boxing Rocky finds it hard to provide for his family due to his limited education. After some unsuccessful commercials he takes a job at the meat packing plant. Working his fingers to the bone the audience witnesses a man willing to anything for his family. However, Rocky quickly realizes his true place is in the ring. He was born a fighter and forever will be one.

Action (A-): While the fight is the last fifteen to twenty minutes of the film it’s a great one nonetheless. The viewers can really feel the emotions expressed by Rocky and Apollo. During the fight, Rocky remains calm, cool, and collected. With his new skills he consistently lands punch after punch at his surprised opponent. Apollo, on the other hand, is man on a mission…a mission to prove he IS the best. His determination and ferocity is clearly evident in his aggressive fighting style, which wasn’t seen in their first fight. Leading up to the big match we are re-introduced to the famous training montage which came to dominate the Rocky saga. I’ll never forget the lead in to this particular training montage. It occurs when Adrian comes out of her coma and whispers into Rocky’s ear, “Win”. Suddenly, we see the lion awake from his slumber get ready for battle.

Acting & Dialogue (A): Much like Rocky, the acting and dialogue are very strong and dominate the film. So strong are these two elements they have allowed generations of people to fall in the love with the characters and the story they tell. Sylvester Stallone plays Rocky as a simple minded giant with the heart of lion. As I've watched Stallone play Rocky I always wondered what part, if any, of himself is in the character? Stallone’s acting is so effortless and translates beautifully to the screen that I believe some part of him lies within the character.
Talia Shire continues to display Adrian as the quiet mouse willing to do anything for the man she loves. Shire’s performance is so convincing and realistic that we happily cheer on as her character evolves into a more confidant woman. As for Carl Weathers’, he depicts Apollo Creed drastically different from the cocky and arrogant version we saw in Rocky. While he wasn’t much of an antagonist in the first film, Weathers fully submerged himself as the “bad guy” in Rocky II. Apollo’s determination to crush the Italian Stallion, a legend in the making, is equally met by Rocky’s will to win.
Burt Young and Burgess Meredith equally bring the same intensity and style of acting as they did in the first installment. Paulie and Mickey each stand out significantly and play pivotal roles in Rocky’s life. If you really think about it those two characters highly influenced the Stallion. Rocky wanted something better for his life and didn’t want to end up like Paulie; a drunken, jealous, over-weight never was. As for Mickey, we all know how he influenced Rocky. Mickey taught Rocky all he knew which resulted in a more skilled fighter. Most importantly, Mickey loved Rocky and treated him like a son. Their relationship was always so sincere and unique that it added a deeper layer to the films context.

Music (A+): I get chills every single time I hear those trumpets sounding that legendary theme music. I believe most people do. There is no doubt that Bill Conti created a master piece. The entire film is filled with inspirational music which correctly correlates to the emotions of the star and pacing of the story. I can only think of two other films whose music serves as an integral part of the story: Star Wars and Indiana Jones. Without the music, these movies wouldn’t be nearly as good and hold such important places in our hearts.

Director (A): Rocky II was Stallone’s second directing job. For his sophomore film, he really hit the nail right on the head. Stallone was obviously comfortable enough with the character and story that he was willing to take on the roll of directing. Personally, I think that was a great idea. Others may say that it was a mistake because he had too much on his plate. If you look at IMDB or Rotten Tomatoes, they both give Rocky much higher scores. I’m not sure for the exact reasons, but I always have felt that Rocky II was a great sequel. Above all, it was a film that solidified Rocky’s place in American pop culture.

Overall: A

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