I have never before gone to see a film on it's opening night, and fortunately, I haven't yet been disappointed. Forget the idea that Rocky is just some Walter Mitty fantasy, forget all the tired stereotypes about sequels and remakes being done to death. This movie needed to be made, it was beautiful, it was touching.(Possible Spoilers, I'm not so sure)
The film opens in a modest house in Phili, Rocky still wakes early and in every little way, he gives the appearance of a man who, though decent, has shrunk down inside himself. From the turtles, to the cursory, half hearted jabs at his excercise equipment Rocky has been ruled by a sort of quiet fear. A desire to simply keep a few lodestones of his past. The sublte little touches that show that, for example, Rocky is an intensely lonely man, or that Paulie is consumed by regret, or the grief and dissappointment and frustration that sublimates into a tightly masked rage in Rocky... these things you might not otherwise understand, unless you had seen the first three, and the fifth. Rocky 4 is, to my mind, almost completely self-contained.
This is a story of fear, and will and self-respect, not about boxing, though the match itself is important, the emotions that inform both characters are far more important. That said the film needed about another half hour to develop Dixon better. The franchise presented an opponent with the most complexity seen yet, but he didn't get to present enough neuance. So instead the character was revealed almost through exposition, a shame, because Tarver did a fine job in the role.
So now my definitive rankings of the Rocky films:
Stand-Alone (As part of the series)
Rocky 3rd (4th)
- The almost sullen acceptance that he can't beat Apollo is what loses this movie for me, see next review.
3 of 5
Rocky II 2nd (2nd)
- I know I may take some flack for this, but Rocky II was great because it was the triumph of Rocky over his personal flaws, wherein he finds the will to actually win, instead of simply flying along side the angels, he challenges them. Also Weathers is finally developed as a real character instead of a one dimensional caracature of Ali, trying to play an entire country as a cross-section of rubes. It's Creed's own ego that defeats him.
4 0f 5
Rocky III 4th (3rd)
- "lol Mr. T" That's what makes this a sorely underrated film. In fact the greatest failing of this film is it's inability to develop and allow us to empathise with this ball of unadulterated rage in Mr. T who produces some great acting that, only now, has become a caracature of itself. Stallone had hoped to get Queen's "Another One Bites the Dust" for the title track. It shows.
3 of 5
Rocky IV 5th (6th)
Completely self-contained Reagan era B.S. no real conflict, no great emotions, Adrian as Trixie (designated fretter) It's telling that Dolph Lundgren may have well produced the best moment of this film when he was cut in the final fight. 'War' from the soundtrack is on my mp3 player though...
2 out of 5, but irredeemably bad, unlike...
Rocky V 6th (5th)
-Though the story had some great potential, the desire to have the real villain of the movie (Duke) frustrated in his attempts to get Rocky in the ring, and yet still have Rocky fight with Tommy Gunn, manages to fail to connect with one of the main motivations of the series. Also, to rationalise Rocky Balboa, which I think is done well, Stallone himself says it's kind of odd that Rocky would never have gotten a second opinion about his injuries.
1.5 of 5, though with an additional hour of screen time to turn this into an actual fight movie, it could have been a great finale, or even a continuation.
Rocky Balboa 1st (1st)
-I did not ever think I would cry at a Rocky film. Stallone is a better actor today, or just easier to identify with, than he was in 1976. The film wouldn't work on it's own, though so much is dependent on the subleties and knowing these characters, identifying with them. Only other thing I wish they'd done is give us the character behind Duke. Dixon's also slightly underdeveloped and the film could have easily gone to two hours and had me wondering what they could have possibly cut out (perhaps the market scene though it's a nice contrast to his meeting with his white collar son)
4.75 of 5
In closing, if there are any members of the academy reading this blog, this film deserves an Oscar nomination, possibly for: Best Director, Best Screenplay, Best Actor, Best Supporting Actor, Best Film, and Cinematography.