Rocky II (1979)

At the end of the day, when Rocky Balboa learned to test his limit and prove to the world he is a contender, he is still Rocky Balboa, warts and all. What I enjoy most about “Rocky II” is that even though we didn’t need it, Director Stallone allows us a look in to how the fight with Apollo Creeds affects the man Rocky Balboa in the long run. In the end when he’s gone through the wringer and fought hard, where does Rocky go from there? Apollo is still the champion and is still wealthy, and Rocky is still living in his neighborhood, and is arguably a celebrity. What’s more is that Rocky is thrust in to worldwide fame, and he has to face that perhaps his fame will likely be short lived with an only fifteen minute window for him.

Things take a turn when Apollo also begins struggling for his reputation again, and challenges Rocky to a rematch to prove he can beat him easier than last time. But this time Rocky is training to win, especially when he convinces Mickey to help him once more. “Rocky II” shows how the character deals with fame and credibility as, after fighting Apollo, he’s tasked with kind of picking up his life again and figuring out where to go from there. As his relationship with Adrian blossoms in to a larger relationship and potential pregnancy, Rocky isn’t quite sure if he wants to live the high life or stick true to his roots. Despite Adrian’s warnings, Rocky spends most of his time buying extravagant gifts.

But he’s faced with a hard reality that while he’s an athlete, he isn’t a celebrity, as he’s introduced to various opportunities to turn himself in to a brand, and can’t quite figure out how. There is a moment when Rocky is given that rude awakening when he’s filming a commercial and realizes that he lacks the necessary charisma and appeal to market to his fans. From there, Rocky finds he can’t go home again either, as he begins working odd jobs to help support himself. Through that function he realizes he’s somewhat locked himself out of that avenue, as he’s faced with Mickey who is somewhat disappointed by his lack of love for the sport. As well, a bunch of other boxers, all of whom are hungry like Rocky, ironically begin to show him as little respect as they do for Apollo Creed.

Rocky is neither a star nor a contender anymore, which offers a look at a more vulnerable version of the character that Stallone plays brilliantly. Talia Shire is also great as the loyal and loving Adrian who watches Rocky suffer, and does whatever she can to ease his frustration until the very end. “Rocky II” is less about the underdog Rocky, and more about the Rocky who has his brush with fame, and how he resolves that, in the end. No one understands the character of Rocky Balboa more than Stallone, and “Rocky II” is a solid follow up that fleshes out the world of Rocky, rather than try to top the momentum of the first film.