So, I’m watching a Christmas film every day from Halloween to Christmas. Why? Because it’s the most wonderful time of the year! There are going to be some classics, there are going to be some new ones, there are going to be some forgotten ones, and some incredibly tangential ones.
And today it’s…
1st November, Day 2
Rocky IV (Sylvester Stallone 1986)
What? It ends at Christmas! It counts!
Rocky IV starts by recapping the entire last scene from Rocky III, in case anyone watching wasn’t already familiar. Clubber Lang has been defeated – it still rankles me that he never got his rematch! – and Rocky is living a life of luxury as the World’s Heavyweight Champion. At the same time, Russia has decided to enter the world of prize fighting, with the imposing super athlete Ivan Drago (Dolph Lundgren). This being 1985 though, Drago represents more than just a new contender. He is a shining example of Soviet superiority, and becomes other front in the Cold War, along with his wife Ludmilla (Bridgette Nielsen) and trainer Nicolai Koloff (Michael Pataki). His boastful claims draw Apollo Creed (Carl Weathers) out of retirement for an exhibition bout that takes a tragic turn for “The King of Sting,” “The Dancing Destroyer,” “The Prince of Punch,” and “The Count of Monte Fisto.”. This leads to Rocky agreeing to fight the mighty Ivan Drago in Moscow – on Christmas Day, luckily for this series – much to the chagrin of Adrian. But is it East versus West, or man against man?
Let me admit something straight away – I thought there was more Christmas stuff in this film. I thought Rocky cared about being away from his family at Christmas, but it’s only the background dressing for the scene with Rocky’s son and his friends watching the fight on TV.
I will always stick by my assertion that the Rocky series declined severely as the decade went on, so much so that the latter, admittedly fun, additions to the series take away from an the legacy of the truly excellent first film. Stallone cut out everything that wasn’t absolutely essential to setting up the final story, and unfortunately in this case it results in a very disjointed film. Everyone remembers the training montage where Rocky chops wood and runs up a mountain – I think he climbs the entire Ural mountain range – while Drago is in a high tech medical facility, but that’s because there are two FULL training montages, one after the other in the middle of the film. That is already following a scene where Rocky gets in a car and drives to clear his mind, resulting in, yep, another montage.
In fact, literally everything you can remember about the film is all there is in the film, which means you might have good memories of it, but it’s not exactly a good film to watch. The joy of rewatching films is rediscovering things you have forgotten, like the Joker’s walk in The Dark Knight, or the flirting “couple” in the traffic jam in The Italian Job. But here, there is literally one throwaway line from Apollo (after the press conference, he asks “how did I do?” showing that it is all part of the game for him) but everything else is simply pushing the plot along. Any enjoyment of the characters comes from the goodwill built up in the previous installments.
Still, it’s got James Brown performing “Living In America”, the coolest birthday present ever, and a rousing, if unbelievably cheesy, speech from Rocky, draped in the Star and Stripes, to the Moscow crowd, that leads to the General Secretary of the Politburo to applaud him.
Overall, I give this
So I admit, it’s not much of a Christmas film, it’s barely a movie to be honest, it’s just a bunch of scenes stuck together with very little connection. And that’s a shame, because it has some of the most iconic moments in the Rocky franchise – in 80’s cinema in general – but isthe second worst film of the whole lot. Oh well, it’ll get better tomorrow with… EDWARD SCISSORHANDS! That’s got definitely got Christmas in it!
Merry November guys. We’ve got a long way to go, but we’re off and away!
Until next time, stay gold, Ponyboy, stay gold. See you soonish.
PS Here’s my completed list so far.
Eh, it’ll look more impressive in a couple of weeks.