Well, here I am, plowing my way through the Rocky franchise on Netflix. Time to tackle the one that I was most curious about, Rocky II.
I was the most curious about Rocky II because it seems to be the one that people talk about the least. While #3 and 4 gave us colourful opponents for Rocky to fight, and people curse #5 for general terribleness, Rocky II just kind of coasts under the radar. Probably because it's the one that was still trying to emulate the gritty sensibilities of the first one.
We pick up mere moments after Rocky and Apollo's big match, as they're taken to the hospital to get their fight injuries treated. Because of all the damage he took to his right eye, Rocky is told that he has a detached retina, and fighting again could lead to permanent blindness. Seeing as to how he fulfiled his goal of going the distance against Apollo, this leads Rocky to decide to retire from boxing and settle down with Adrian. Apollo doesn't stand for this, though. Despite his quip to Rocky in the ring that there'll be no rematch, Apollo is now hungry for one, to show to the world that Rocky going the distance was a fluke and Apollo's still the undisputed champ.
Rocky shrugs off Apollo's challenge, though, and he proposes to Adrian. Enthralled with his new found wealth and fame, Rocky begins buying extravagant gifts for Adrian and Paulie. However, Rocky soon finds that fame isn't all its cracked up to be, as some of the endorsement deals he signs portray him as a big dumb animal. When the film crew on a TV commercial mocks Rocky for his poor reading skills as he has trouble reading the cue cards, Rocky walks away from his endorsement deal in disgust. Despite the doors that his fame has opened for him, Rocky's lack of education and experience make things difficult for him to get a job. When he loses his job at a meat-packing plant due to cutbacks, the only job he can get is sweeping floors in Mickey's gym. Adrian, too, goes back to work, at her old job at the pet store.
I kinda had problems with this. It seems like the film is working hard to push Rocky back down to rock bottom. It's a tad contrived.
But we all know what the answer is. Rocky wants to get back in the ring and fight. "It's all I know how to do," Rocky confides to Adrian. However, Adrian says no because she's afraid of Rocky getting injured and losing his eyesight. Mickey is reluctant to train Rocky for the same reason. So Rocky is stuck.
Until fate intervenes, in the form of Apollo Creed. Creed's fans are accusing him of fixing the fight so he could still win by split decision. Add to this the fact that Creed's near-loss at the hands of Rocky is starting to task him. Creed becomes obsessed with a rematch, turning down contenders left and right until Rocky meets his challenge. Growing desperate, Creed takes to publicly goading Rocky. When Creed's insults begin to upset Mickey, comes to Rocky and says, "Let's knock his block off." But Adrian still can't support Rocky's fighting, especially with her being pregnant and all.
The fight is set and the training begins, but because Adrian disapproves, Rocky can't keep his head in the game, and his training suffers. Things take a turn for the worse when there's complications with the pregnancy. The baby is born premature, and Adrian goes into a coma. Rocky puts all training on hold to be by Adrian's bedside. Mickey knows there's no way Rocky can train with this going on, so Mickey stands by Rocky's side. But when Adrian comes out of her coma and the doctors give her a clean bill of health, she just has one word for Rocky: "Win!"
With the support of his wife, Rocky resumes training with gusto. The big match comes, and this time around, Rocky does indeed win.
Man o man, this one does suffer from pure sequelitis. It's just too much like the first one to really offer up anything new to the characters. You can almost tell that Stallone's pitch for the movie was pretty much simply, "What if this time...Rocky wins?"
We don't have the big dramatic transformations of the characters this time out. Rocky doesn't gain self respect, Adrian doesn't come out of her shell, they're all pretty much there. There's not much for character arcs in this one.
It's still good. It's still fun. But you can't shake the feeling that you've seen it all before.