This might be a bold statement as a fan of the Rocky series, but I’m not a fan of Rocky IV. I love to talk about its strange quirks and ham-fisted approach to Cold War politics, but it’s a mess that I can’t get behind. It did well with the fans of the series at the time of release (certainly better than Rocky V did), and it is the most successful entry at the box office, but I want to ask: is it a good “Rocky Movie”?
What staples are commonly associated with the Rocky series? American flag shorts, montages, “Eye of the Tiger”-style anthems, patriotism, the final fight. These are all present in these films, but they are not even close to the most important aspects. I think of the love story between Rocky and Adrian, I think of Rocky’s sweet nature and patience, I think of Apollo’s boisterous charm, Paulie’s tortured soul and Mickie’s regrets. These are the things that make me love these movies, and those aren’t the images I was given before deciding to watch them all. There has never been anything interesting to me about jingoistic, repetitive films full of montages, films that predictably lead to two guys wailing on each other. Still, that is the imagery that surrounds the series, and it all seems to come from Rocky IV. I was shocked at the indie sensibility of the original film, the emotional weight of its sequel, and the pure joy of the third film – mostly because I had been sold that this was a dumb franchise with little to offer. If anyone ever rolls their eyes when I mention my love for these films now, I believe it’s down to the shadow this entry casts.