Following the staggering success story that was Rocky came the inevitable sequel, Rocky II, this time not only written by and staring, but also directed by Sylvester Stallone. Chronologically it follows the titular boxer in the moments directly after his fight with Apollo Creed that formed the finale of the original film.
Rocky Balboa (Stallone) finds himself flush with money following his title fight with Apollo Creed (Carl Weathers). Not used to having that kind of wealth and retired from the sport of boxing, he recklessly spends his money on cars, watches and clothes and even marries his girlfriend Adrian (Talia Shire) who later becomes pregnant. The money soon runs out however and after toying with the idea of boxing again, his coach Micky (Burgess Meredith) teaches him that he doesn’t have the scope of vision necessary to box effectively and disaster strikes as Adrian slips into a coma after giving birth to their son, but not before Apollo Creed calls him out for a title rematch.
Following a similar structure to the original, Rocky II sees Rocky become an underdog, this time by his own faults, while slowly being put back onto the road to another unexpected title shot. The iconic scenes reappear, including the training montage, the emotional confrontation with Micky and Adrian as well as a fleshed out run up the ˜Rocky steps’ in Philadelphia, this time with thousands of school kids. Normally this lack of originality would be a problem, but the first film was so likable, Rocky II can be forgiven for giving fans exactly what they want in the sequel, namely, more of the same.
There are some issues with continuity, especially with Adrian’s inexplicable hair growth at the start and her brother’s drastic weight loss, but producers have been getting away with it on TV for years, so these can be easily forgiven. Talia Shire’s performance is troublesome at first. In the original she is a quiet, thoughtful character who compliments Rocky perfectly. In Rocky II she is sidelined into a simple ˜nagging female’ and seems to have lost any depth she originally had. But then this is a narrative about overcoming adversity and she has perhaps the most thankless task of all the characters as she must be the only voice of reason, which makes her the one person preventing Rocky doing what the audience want him to do. Luckily she is given a reprieve when she advises Rocky to ˜kncok him out’ from her hospital bed.
Rocky II has to be one of the better sequels in film history. It manages to establish Rocky himself as an underdog once again, while tying together the loose ends left from the original. Stallone once again proves well cast as the naÃ¯ve, likable lump, while Weathers brings his very best Mohammad Ali impression as the antagonist with depth. Some may disagree with the decision of the final fight, but there can be no denying that it is every bit as tense and thrilling as the original.