Rocky II (1979)

<strong class="MovieTitle">Rocky II</strong> (1979)

(On Blu Ray, September 2018) It’s interesting to see how hard Rocky II works at both following its limited protagonist in the aftermath of an unexpected success, and then again to remove much of the pleasant ambiguity of the first film. Whereas Rocky ended with a moral victory and a technical defeat, whereas it presented Carl Weathers’ Apollo Creed as an opponent but not as an antagonist, here comes the sequel to show (rather reasonably) the evolution of Creed’s egomania in feeding his turn to a darker side, and to thus justify a clear-cut victory by the end of the picture. It does feel like a natural follow-up, picking up five minutes before the end of the first film and going on naturally to the consequences of the final fight, from the hospital stay to the commercial endorsement, the overspending, the growing realization that a rematch is necessary for the fighters to truly settle their scores. Meanwhile, a pregnancy heightens the stakes even as Rocky confronts the fact that he’s only good for one thing. Again, the film isn’t any more subtle than its predecessor, but it does manage to deliver exactly on expectations. Sylvester Stallone is fine in the title role, and his direction is mostly unobtrusive. There are signs that Rocky II is self-aware, but not distractingly so. It does make for a good sequel that doesn’t tarnish the original and arguably even heightens it.

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