After Rocky reclaimed the world championship title from Clubber Lang in Rocky III and the dramatic events went up to the level where an important character died there was only one way to top that: Kill another major character and have Rocky be responsible for bringing east and west together during the height of the Cold War. And so Rocky IV has a Russian Boxer named Ivan Drago kill Apollo Creed in the ring and subsequently Rocky going to Russia to avenge his friend in a boxing match which might be lethal to him just as well. But if there’s one thing that we’ve learned over the course of the previous three movies it’s that no matter how bad things may look for the Italian Stallion, or how little he might have trained, his will power will conquer all.
The path set by part III, which focused more on entertainment rather than drama, is followed here in a Rocky movie clearly made in the age of MTV. Boosting a pop-rock soundtrack Rocky IV sometimes feels more of an hour of music videos rather than an actual movie. Running under 90 minutes and boosting two full length training sequences it’s clear that secondary characters who usually make for the drama, mostly Adrian, are left with only a handful of scenes. Rocky IV is such a simplistic movie, containing a super villain coming from evil Russia, while the plot is driven by an age old theme; revenge. The drama is that of soap opera quality, emotions like mourn and guilt are translated by looking troubled while Robert Tepper is singing a song.
And I just love this movie.
Of all the Rocky movies this is the one that is the easiest to digest. Despite Apollo dying, his death is even easier handled than Mickey’s was. If part III was a Milkshake, this is a whole Happy Meal. Instead of a low key mourning we get a montage of the highlights of the previous three movies and even earlier scenes from this one as well to some rock music. Apollo hasn’t left the movie for 5 minutes and already we are flash backing to his death just moments ago.
From this point on it’s montage after montage. There are two speeches by Rocky about who Apollo was and the fact that he’s a fighter and for the rest of the movie it shifts into overdrive and gives us montage after montage or at least scenes that are accompanied by music from the Hit Soundtrack.
Rocky IV is one of those movies I can watch over and over again without getting bored. The sheer ridiculousness of it all is just so great. Ivan Drago, the opponent is such a larger by life character. He’s presented as a Frankenstein monster with a knack for sports. Genetically engineered by Russian top scientist. His amount of dialogue is approximately 4 sentences total, all memorable and quote worthy. After Apollo and Clubber spouting insult after insult in the previous movies, Ivan’s silence makes for the most fearsome opponent of all. No background is given on him, and only one sentence in the movie refers to his own look on the situation. We know that he’s strong and that he has a wife, who does all of the talking for him BTW. I just want to see these two together on the sofa in front of the television. I can’t help but wonder about what and how they engage in conversation.
In terms of depth and character exploration this is the worst Rocky movie of all. It does nothing to showcase the characters here. Adrien is now the constant nagging, but when it comes to it, supportive wife, Paulie is still his grumpy self and his dialogue simply consist of complaining every 5 minutes. Apollo is as subdued as he was in the previous movie though he does bring the biggest laughs to the movie when he enters the stage for his fight with Drago in a way only he can. The only character actually moving forward in the series is Duke. Once the trainer of Apollo, now he trains Rocky whom, when you come to think of it, has his trainers die on him pretty often.
But let’s face it. After Rocky won the title in part II and became wealthy there was no more real room for drama in this series. Him being poor and living a less than mediocre life was what made the character interesting. Before Apollo dies he has absolutely nothing to do in the movie, and after he dies the only emotion he has to convey was mourning the loss of his friend and the revenge he wants for it. No trying to hook up with a very shy girl or sitting bedside when his love is in a coma. In the first movie he was handed an opportunity he didn’t want to have, and took it only because he didn’t want to disappoint the people around him. Now he chooses to disappoint them in order for him to have an opportunity for revenge.
This will never be regarded as the best Rocky movie, a lot of people will probably even deem it the worst one, but I can’t help but loving it. It’s so damn entertaining, I love the sound track, I love the training montages and while a clear product of its time it’s still up to date as ever, only today Russia would be replaced by Iran or Syria. The only annoying thing of the whole movie is that stupid robot Paulie got.
Wish they had put her in the ring with Drago after which Paulie takes revenge.