Released in 1979, the mostly stellar and poignant "Rocky II" has often been maligned by critics over the years as being a virtual remake of the Oscar-winning 1976 original (right down to the climatic showdown with bombastic champion Apollo Creed). To some extent, such criticism is deservedly fair, but "Rocky II" is significantly different in at least two respects: 1. actor-screenwriter Sylvester Stallone also assumes the director's chair here with impressive results; and 2. the film humbly takes audiences on an intriguing journey of an everyman's life after achieving a seemingly impossible dream. Make no mistake: the underrated magic of "Rocky II" would not have been possible without exceptional performances by the franchise's familiar ensemble: Talia Shire, Carl Weathers, Burt Young, and Burgess Meredith, and, yes, Stallone. The end result is that "Rocky II" still stands up as arguably one of the greatest sequels (not to mention, sports movies) of all time.
Set in early 1976, the sequel follows newlywed Rocky and Adrian Balboa's lives over the course of approximately 10-11 months after the Italian Stallion's amazing display of raw determination against the seemingly unbeatable Apollo Creed. While the struggling Balboas experience a limited amount of newfound wealth and the birth of their only child, a resentful Creed is elsewhere seething over the public perception that he must have somehow fixed the big fight because he could not annihilate a supposed chump like Balboa. To Creed's credit, he doesn't fear facing the Italian Stallion once more; rather, he wants to wreak some proper vengeance over the pounding his once-immaculate image has taken. Meanwhile, trainer Mick declines to train Rocky knowing full well that Rocky has likely suffered a career-ending injury to his peripheral vision in one eye. Still, one knows that Creed's constant public goading will inevitably force the Italian Stallion to abandon his unwanted retirement to settle unfinished business in the ring on a fateful Thanksgiving Night.
Give Sylvester Stallone's acting talents credit here: Rocky Balboa is made incredibly believable as a hard-working, not-so-bright Average Joe Palooka whose perennial underdog status touches a nerve in almost everyone who has the tenacity to never give up, no matter what. Stallone's efforts are matched by Talia Shire as introverted Adrian, whose quiet demeanor hides the resolve to ultimately support her husband's dream to the end. Backed by the familiar, vintage Bill Conti score, including the classic anthem, "Gonna Fly Now," the scenes of Rocky's low-tech training, especially another memorable jog through the streets of South Philadelphia to the city's art museum, remain an example of how a film can both entertain viewers and still truly inspire them.
The only inevitable problem with "Rocky II" is that the Rocky-Apollo II clash's outcome becomes a foregone conclusion. Yet, it is also ultimately the reason why viewers bought tickets to see this film. For all participants involved, Rocky's life-changing victory is a most rewarding experience. "Rocky II" delivers the truly graceful ending viewers deserve, and demonstrates why anyone can relate to the Italian Stallion's poignant (and ongoing) saga.
Rating: 8.5/10 (A little slow at times, but it is definitely a sequel worthy of its namesake).
Have not seen the Rocky movies for decades. What a treat! What a story! I had forgotten and Sylvester plays a down & outer so well....could feel his pain and could relate. Miss Shire plays a good contrast to his ruggedness...and what a beauty she is! We're going to rewatch all the Rocky movies and the ones we didn't know about!
Wow, what a time to remember, everything was so different in those days...the days of the greatest underdog of all time; "The Italian Stallion" Rocky Balboa....The story you know it already, this is the redemption of the true champ that emerged that night at Philadelphia...finally The Stallion embraced what was already his.
The picture is spectacular, the color, photography, everything is so refreshed even the dialogue; definitely one of history's all time great boxing movies.
Get it and relive the dream of an already american icon.
ROCKY II is one of my favorite sequels ever. But there is a serious problem with the ROCKY series on Blu-Ray. The only ones worth owning are ROCKY (original) - this is because they got the negative off the restored DVD they did a few years ago - the problem: the TONS of extras found on the ROCKY dvd, including a commentary track by Stallone from 2006, are missing. The picture is ok. ROCKY BALBOA on blu-ray looks great because it's a newer film - but the first 5 Rockys need a serious restoration - especially 1-4, the soundtrack needs to be cleaned up - and really - ROCKY II was a best picture contender - this is a shameful release as is the whole ROCKY BLU RAY series. With the exception of ROCKY BALBOA, the blu-ray presentations on the first 5 Rockys are truly shameful - no extras, no nothing. Just a barely decent transfer and as I'm watching ROCKY II right now - somewhat awful transfer. Stallone should do commentaries on all these films and release a definitive ROCKY BLU RAY 6 PACK and treat this series with the respect it deserves. The movies? ROCKY, ROCKY II, ROCKY BALBOA - A PLUS. ROCKY III - B Plus. ROCKY IV - B - ROCKY 5 - C - BLU RAY TRANSFERS ON ROCKY FILMS: F
This is one of the BEST of the Rocky movies, with some of the most quotable lines and re-watchable scenes. I love that this whole series has the emotional/heart element behind why Rocky fights, and this one is no different. He struggles to train until Adrian gives him a reason to win. Great film, all around!