ROCKY II (1979)
1:06 p.m. Ding!
2:18: Hmm, this one begins exactly where the last one ends. Are we going to see the entire Creed/Balboa fight?
3:44: Looks like we are. That makes Rocky II the boxing equivalent to Halloween II.
4:17: Gah, it’s Joe Spinell in the crowd! Run for your lives! Sorry, Joe Spinell’s great, and I loved him as Rocky’s sympathetic loan-shark boss in the first one, but I saw Maniac for the first time a few months ago, so he will forever freak me out. What’s that? You’ve never seen Maniac? This is what he looks like in it:
6:02: Ah, we’re finally on to some new footage. Rocky’s getting taken to the hospital after the fight. This is like Halloween II. Does Apollo Creed spend the rest of the film stalking Rock with a knife and injecting hypodermic needles into nurses’ eyeballs?
7:15: All joking aside, I’m loving how this first sequel, just like its predecessor, is showcasing Philadelphia’s cinematic grit. This ambulance sequence does a nice job of that, showing us a fairly comprehensive view of the city (for a credits sequence, anyway).
9:33: Despite what he said earlier, Creed wants a rematch. It would be completely badass if he and Rocky got out of their wheelchairs and started duking it out right here in the waiting room.
11:39: Rocky’s nurse seems nice and all, but One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest has forever left me with a deep distrust of nurses in 1970s films.
12:31: Rocky goes to Creed’s hospital room at night. “Did you give me your best?” he asks him. I truly love how much respect these guys have for each other, despite their rivalry. It makes Creed a compelling antagonist. His charisma and intelligence don’t hurt either.
14:37: A tigah! At da’ zoo! Is that the Philadelphia Zoo? The Internet tells me it is. I was born in and lived in South Jersey for a brief period as a youth and still have a lot of family there. So I’ve spent a lot of time at Philly’s zoo. It’s a wonderful place, despite an incident in 1995 that killed 23 primates in their sleep through carbon monoxide poisoning. Sorry to be so depressing, but that always comes to mind when I think of the Philadelphia Zoo.
16:16: Rocky and Adrian’s wedding. I’m chuckling to myself every time the priest speaks Latin, then breaks it up with a crystal-clear “Rocky Balboa.”
18:21: Rocky’s carrying Adrian past the doo-wop group from the first film. “I never knew you were so light. If I did, I would’ve carried you everywhere.” Fucking great line. Also, does anyone start trashcan fires to keep warm anymore?
20:39: “You’re the best thing that came into my life.” Part of why their romance works is because it’s so unfussy and straightforward. I really believe in them as a couple who’s gonna make it.
21:45: Talia Shire keeps pulling Sly’s lower lip when they kiss, though. I know every couple on the planet does that, but it’s grossing me out. Fade to black before the boning begins. Does the Rocky series have any sex scenes? I’m guessing no.
22:25: Uh-oh, Rocky’s buying a Trans-Am. And expensive watches. And a house. And a leather jacket with a tiger sewn onto the back of it! Me thinks all this spending will cause trouble. Is he going to have to agree to Creed’s rematch just so he can pay his bills? Also, tigers seem to be a motif here.
26:55: “You’re a fake and the fight was a fake. You should go kill yourself.” Sounds like some of Consequence of Sound’s commenters. Hey-yo! “Why can’t you ignore it?” Good advice. Don’t listen to ’em, Dan. Don’t listen to ’em…
29:53: Now Rocky’s wearing tiger-striped caveman garb. They’re really driving the tiger thing home here. Hey, when do we get to the robot? Isn’t there a robot in one of these movies? I hear there’s a robot. Please bring on the robot.
32:05: I’m probably reading too far into this, but is this a Hairy Ape sort of thing? Is the caveman thing a metaphor because Rocky has become a slave to consumerism and his own masculine image?
32:50: Rocky looks like a Frank Miller character when he’s wearing that prosthetic brow and nose.
36:22: It just now occurs to me that Rocky’s dog Butkus is a boxer, get it? Like him! Shit, just Googled that, and it turns out he’s actually a mastiff. Never mind.
41:59: Paulie doesn’t like that Adrian isn’t letting Rocky go back to the ring. “Is my sister giving you a hard time?” he asks. “If she is, you break her teeth.” Paulie really is an asshole to her.
43:05: “Ain’t gonna fight.” No, Rocky, fight! The character development so far has been — if I may be a little hoity toity — quite elegant. But we want the fight! It’s what ya were born to do, ya animal! Ya gorilla!
44:31: Rocky doesn’t believe in “pet-shop diseases.” Apparently he hasn’t heard of FAIDS.
48:02: Stallone does very effective eye acting when Mick tells him he ain’t a fighter no more. It’s easy to forget what a good actor the guy is. It makes his decision to fight again that more powerful.
102:32: Rocky feigns ignorance when it comes to the Muppets. That has to be an in-joke, seeing as Sly Stallone was the guest star of The Muppet Show just four months earlier:
1:05:50: Rocky’s chasing a chicken to help build up his agility. He’d fit right in in the City of God:
107:10: I always enjoy hearing Mickey say words that have “er” in them: “hoits,” “woiks,” etc.
108:55: Did Apollo Creed originate the eat lightning, crap thunder saying?
1:22:06: Rocky’s bedside chat with Adrian is touching, but she’s so much in the foreground that her head looks way bigger than his entire body. It reminds me of the Starchild at the end of 2001: A Space Odyssey. When she wakes up a couple minutes later, it’s nicely understated.
1:24:52: I know it’s only the first film, but I didn’t get a lot of sleep last night, so my left eye keeps twitching, and I’m afraid that if I look in the mirror, it’ll be all swollen like Rocky’s was at the end of the first film.
1:25:31: Their baby has been born. I’m disappointed it’s not a Centaur baby — half human and half stallion.
1:28:09: “Get that olive oil outta ya!” during the obligatory training montage might be Mickey’s best insult so far.
1:29:39: Speaking of which, does anyone else get “Gonna Fly Now” confused with Ides of March’s “Vehicle”?
1:31:53: More steely Philadelphia greatness in this montage: the steam vents, the gray skies, the industrial architecture, all mixed with fading history — I love it.
1:35:04: The priest is back to bless Rocky before the fight! Latin, Latin, Latin, “Rocky Balboa,” Latin, Latin, Latin…
1:37:16: I’m anxious to see if they’ll get the color of Rocky’s shorts right on the banner this time.
1:40:54: They did!
1:43:14: With each film’s climactic fight, I’m going to refrain from typing so I can just soak in the action.
Notes from afterwards:
The bout is quicker and more intense than the one in the first film. My only complaint is the canned-sounding punch effects.
Creed makes his windup look cartoonish in the scariest way possible.
I just saw Mark Kozelek in concert, so boxing’s been on my mind a lot lately. I’ve noticed how he never frames the sport as having good guys and bad guys — just fighters who are hungry, determined, and find nobility in nearly killing themselves for glory. The same goes for these first two Rocky films. Apollo Creed is never portrayed as villainous, but a man with power and integrity who deserves respect.
1:55:11: Inspiring speech, if a little derivative of the one at the end of Part One.
Final: In terms of structure, aesthetic, and tone, Rocky II hits (punches?) many of the same notes as its predecessor, but that’s not a bad thing at all. Here we’re seeing Rocky, Adrian, Paulie, and even Apollo Creed deal with the same things, but from a different place in their lives. In Rock and Ade’s case, how do they navigate success after a life of loserdom? On the flip-side, how does Creed change after being humbled? It’s the same as before, only not. And that means it’s good. Damn good.
Click ahead to join us for Rocky III.