**** Out of 5
Tagline- The Story Continues
Release Date- June 15th, 1979
Running Time- 119-Minutes
Writer/Director- Sylvester Stallone
Starring- Sylvester Stallone, Talia Shire, Burt Young, Carl Weathers and Burgess Meredith
Released in 1979 Rocky II is one of the rare sequels that lives up to the original and while as a whole Rocky II isn’t as good as the original it very much stands proudly next to it. For the most part sequels aren’t really needed and I don’t think Rocky really needed one as the first was pretty much perfection. But if a sequel is to be made Rocky II is a good example to follow. The budget for Rocky II was a lot higher than the original, but the film still retains its gritty look. Sylvester Stallone takes over as director and would remain in that role throughout the rest of the series (except Rocky V) and there really was no one better suited to direct this film since Stallone did create these truly memorable characters. Stallone made his directorial debut the year before this with Paradise Ally, which I haven’t seen, but here with Rocky II, Stallone shows he’s as good a director as he is a writer. The Rocky series has reached iconic status and as popular as the first two were 3 & 4 were sort of the ones that made the series iconic in pop culture. Sometimes I think people forget just how good the first two movies were.
After proving he’s not a bum and can compete against the best Rocky (Stallone) retires from boxing partly due to an eye injury he sustained. Rocky and Adrian (Shire) get married and with the money Rocky made from the fight goes on a spending spree. But soon the money runs out and Rocky has a tough time finding a job and behind to work in the gym run by Mick (Meredith) and is the ridicule of certain fighters there and wanting to help out a pregnant Adrian gets her job back at the pet shop. Apollo Creed (Weathers) is getting hate mail saying the fight was fixed or that he lost wants a rematch to prove the first fight was a fluke. Despite his people warning him to stay away Creed sets out to humiliate Rocky until he accepts and that along with needing the money Rocky agrees and the rematch of the century is on.
The screenplay by Stallone is excellent and the tagline The Story Continues is very true. Sly doesn’t rehash the original even if the script shares a lot in common with the original in terms of structure. Characters continue to be developed, which is something that can be rare as most sequels it seems just rely on the original, but with characters and story, Stallone stays true, but continues to develop both. The script for Rocky II is often deep and quite funny and Stallone deserves far more credit as a screenwriter. The underdog story is still present, but I think we all knew how this one would turn out. Like the original Sly writes another really feel good film and Sly truly is such a gifted writer.
As director Stallone is really underrated. Sometimes I wonder if people are aware that he often writes or co-writes his films as well as sometimes directing. While again I think the original was the better film, but I’d go as far to say Rocky II is a little better made than the original. Sly does a great job in keeping in tune with the original without copying what Avildsen did in the original, but at the end of the day the first two work more due to the writing. The pace for the film is quite strong as each scene moves the film along in either character or story. However the scenes when Adrian is in the hospital the pace does begin to drag just a little bit and even if these are important scenes in regards to the characters I think it could have been trimmed down a bit. Stallone directs a winner and Rocky II is every bit as deep and powerful as the original and Sly shows not only is he a terrific writer, but equally as good of a director.
Overall Rocky II is an excellent film that again while not as good as the original can easily stand proudly next to it. I love 70s cinema and its easily my favorite era and films like Rocky II is the reason. The performances are wonderful and like I said its just such a feel good film and so inspirational.