It’s very fair to say that this movie had one hell of an act to follow after the success of the original which just about everyone fell in love with.
What also made it difficult was that it had to follow on like it was in the immediate aftermath of the first fight between the titular hero and the man who intriguingly became his nemesis in this one, despite the time lapse between the two movies.
Having previously shown Rocky as the likeable no-hoper, he becomes something different in this one, as he is suddenly seen as the main contender to Apollo Creed’s crown after his heroics in the first film.
The film starts at the end of the first fight, with both men saying there isn’t going to be a rematch, which seemed the common sense approach at the end of the first film.
However, by the time the ambulances have got the two warriors of the ring to the hospital, to have the horrific injuries they have inflicted on each other treated, it seems Apollo has had a change of attitude and is suddenly desperate for a rematch in an attempt to prove that Rocky was a one time lucky bum!
One of the very early exchanges in this film is massively important, although you maybe don’t realise it at the time, when Rocky goes to see Apollo in his hospital bed, what it does is make the rest of the film very believable.
Something else that this one includes is some more slices of real life, with Rocky and Adrian getting married, buying their first house together, finding out that Adrian is pregnant, Rocky struggling to find work outside the ring etc, while Apollo sets about his campaign to get Rocky back in the ring for what becomes billed as Superfight II.
Rocky is also very well established as the underdog, based mainly around the damage that the champion did to his eye in particular previously, while all the time, you know that Rocky is a real, genuine contender now, as opposed to being the snow white underdog in the original.
Where the film maybe lets itself down slightly is the length of time it takes to get Rocky thinking clearly about his desire to fight Apollo again and it certainly takes too long for Rocky to get the bit between his teeth at training, although his struggle to cope while Adrian is in hospital after the birth of their son is very raw and realistic and very well acted.
The planning between Rocky and Mickey is excellent and undoubtedly the best scene of the whole film is when Mickey joins Rocky in the hospital chapel and gives the killer line that, if he is going to blow his big chance, he’s going to sit there and blow it with him.
When it comes to the fight itself, with Adrian not well enough to go and watch, once again it doesn’t go absolutely over the top, as these things certainly can and invariably do and it really builds the tension very well indeed, making the final round drama seem all the more acceptable and understandable.
What particularly pleases me about this film, is that once again, it still shows a lot of the problems that modern America still has, while the movie lover in me simply enjoys the scene of Rocky running through the streets, followed by an army of adoring supporters.
On the other hand, Apollo is also expertly portrayed and adapted by Carl Weathers, as he becomes somebody very different to the original, before some very nice touches, which leave more than enough room for a reconciliation of the odd friendship between the two fighters later on, while also still having some of the bluff and bluster displayed in the previous offering.
The scenes when Apollo is trying to shame Rocky back into the ring, for instance the magazine that is handed to our hero in the gym, which he finds quite funny and the pre-fight press conference, when Rocky clearly gets under Apollo’s skin with his naturally laid back attitude are a joy to behold.
In conclusion, this film is nowhere near as good as the first, simply because this one had an almost impossible act to follow, I also believe Sylvester Stallone should not have directed it, because it’s plain to see that he is then trying to take on just a bit too much, however hard he tried.
But it is very definitely worth watching and it is a strong continuation of the story, with some very nice scenes which are fairly poignant in their creation and happily, it doesn’t rely too much on the story from the original, which would have been a huge mistake, it is its own film, very fitting of the Rocky franchise.