Rocky Retrospective: Rocky IV

Posted: November 27, 2016 in Rocky Retrospective
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Rocky IV was released in 1985, at the height of Reagan’s America. In this sequel the Rocky series reaches the peak bombastic-ness as our hero takes on the Soviet super slugging machine Ivan Drago.

Rocky IV is basically the same movie as Rocky III, just juiced up on 80‘s steroids. Early in the film the villain wins in the second round (and we see the full fight). Rocky’s mentor dies, he goes off to a far away/new place to train, and finally the big epic fight at the end.

Ivan Drago, the Soviet fighter, is easily the best villain of the series. Apollo Creed of the first two movies wasn’t a villain per say, he was an entertainer wanting to put on a show. Clubber Lang of Rocky III was more of a villain with his bad attitude, but Drago is portrayed as an inhuman monster. Even his last name suggests he’s some mythical Dragon. Another way he is distinct is how stoic he is. Creed is basically Muhammad Ali, and Clubber Lang was certainly a trash talker. Drago rarely speaks, so the few lines he has are still memorable, like “If he dies, he dies,” and “I must break you.”

In fact, Drago is so fearsome that even Rocky’s wife Adrian doubts her husband for the first time, out right saying “You can’t win!” and initially refuses to go to Russia with Rocky.

Another great distinction Rocky IV has is the abscence of music by Bill Conti and the Rocky theme. Vince DiCola scores this amazing sound track adding to the otherworldly feel. Drago’s introduction in the final fight presents him as something mythological. Then there’s the montages. As the Angry Video Game Nerd pointed out, “dam, this movie’s like 20% montages.” We get not one, but two training montages, the fight montage, and of course that reflective one with Robert Tepper’s “No Easy Way Out” (Where’s Rocky driving in that montage anyway?). I’ve always loved that line “Talking about what it might have been. I’m thinking about what it used to be.” Heavy stuff. Vince Dicola also scored the Transformer’s movie sound track a year later, and that film’s score for Unicron, the evil robot planet, is somewhat similar to Drago’s theme.

The traditional Rocky music would not have worked here, as this whole movie is off the charts with it’s over the top-ness. It’s to the point of sheer lunacy, Drago’s punches are basically shown to be shot gun blasts (“Whatever he hits, he destroys!) but Rocky takes them. Stallone gets super ripped for the final fight, and yeah, Rocky’s been training in Russia for months but shows up to the fight with a golden California tan, really? It all doesn’t matter though. Rocky vs Drago is the greatest fight in the history of cinema. It’s epic, brutal, and un-relenting.

On a side note, I’d mentioned before Drago’s fate is one of the most intriguing things to me in the Rocky universe. I’m dying to know what happened to him after the fight. What did he do with himself after the Soviet Union collapsed?

No one will ever call Rocky IV a masterpiece of cinema, but that was never the point. Nothing that happens in this movie is a surprise, no one went into this doubting Rocky would win the fight. What we have is the pinnacle of raw 80’s entertainment. Rocky IV is unquestionably the most entertaining of the series. As the Angry Video Game Nerd would say, “Real men like Rocky IV”

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