|Rocky IV - Two Worlds Collide|
posted by The WD Staff on 6/07/01
It defines us as a nation, and as people. Ladies and gentlemen...
In case you've never seen it, download the trailer and watch with misty eyes. If you HAVE seen it, by all means, continue.
Paul's look at "Rocky IV"
"Rocky IV" is not a good movie, but it is a movie from which I've been able to derive a lot of pleasure. As our regulars will know, I'm a huge movie fan. Occasionally I'd rather watch a movie than have to pass myself with distant relatives. If I had to choose between an uncle and movies, the silver screen would triumph every time. But considering I have about four hundred videos in my collection and an increasing number of DVDs, you'd probably be amazed to know that "Rocky IV" is one of the movies I've watched the most.
I don't know how and I don't know why, but "Rocky IV" works on a variety of levels. It's not a good boxing movie, and it pales in comparison to the original "Rocky", but when I'm feeling low it's always sure to give me a jolt. Perhaps it's my cultish admiration for humorously awful movies, or the fact that this has some of the most unintentionally hilarious scenes in cinematic history. I'm not sure. But I can happily admit that this movie has all the staples of a bad movie:
1) Terrible acting. There's not one credible performance in the entire movie. Sly Stallone mumbles and stumbles over his lines; Talia Shire is whiny and annoying; Ivan Drago/ Dolph Lundgren is a bigger robot than Paulie's booty call; and Brigitte Neilsen is, well, Brigette Neilsen. She only got the part because she was married to Stallone at the time. However, Carl Weathers as Apollo is intense. I'm not sure whether you could describe his performance as good or credible, but his death scene alone deserved a fucking Oscar. It was as funny a death scene as Brad Pitt's CGI double getting blasted by about five cars in "Meet Joe Black". Jesus, what happened to Carl Weathers? The guy could twitch better than Michael J Fox - without his medication.
2) Terrible script. There a number of ways to judge a bad script. Some scripts have good dialogue but are let down by weak characters and a sub-par story. Others have a good story but are weakened by poor dialogue. "Rocky IV" has the perfect combination: a flimsy story, weak characters and laughable lines like "Whatever he hits, he destroys."
You might think that just because Stallone wrote the script, it's guaranteed to be atrocious. Sure, the guy doesn't look or sound like the sharpest customer in the store, but he did write "Rocky", which was a subtle gem. Of course, he also wrote "Cobra", so maybe I'll stop excusing him. It doesn't even end there. Stallone must have been exceptionally vacant when writing this one. It has zero subtlety or logic. The whole thrust of the story is what it means to be an American and a warrior. Apollo is proud to be an American, wears his colors proudly and would rather go down fighting the enemy than grow old without trying. There's even a line uttered by Drago's bitch of a wife about Creed and Drago being "fighters, not soldiers". It's a Cold War allegory. You have the big Russian who cheats to win and has no humanity, and the proud Americans who are far too proud to back down.
You can picture Stallone thinking to himself "hey yo, I'm so clever with my metaphors, yo". Well, I can picture him doing that. That is, if his though process is as incomprehensible as his speech pattern. And who's to say they aren't? The movie's also about how we can all be wrong in our perceptions and how we can change what we thought we were. The Russians initially hate Rocky, but eventually develop a deep fondness for his famed fighting spirit. This is, of course, so realistic. As is the fact that we realize we were wrong to tag Drago a heartless monster. As the movie progresses, it's revealed that he's just a slave to the system, under the thumb of shady Russian politics. No-one who looks perplexed when they see James Brown dancing around could be a bad man. And Drago's treadmill grunting is quite tender. He's a big teddy bear, really. Indeed, when he's cut ("it's a BAD cut!!") by Rocky, he turns into a big flower and eventually wilts.
Metaphorically, of course. But who doesn't dig the other image?
He fought for himself, you see. Not Russia. Himself. Respect that.
3) Terrible characters and realism. Paulie falls for his robot, Drago's trainer is a brute, and Drago's mouthpiece wife is disgusting. It's hard to believe in the characters at all. Every one of them is stupid in one way or another. Apollo, who was orignally modelled on Muhammad Ali, is supposed to be cerebral, yet he has no qualms about stepping into the ring with a man whose single punch exerts 1850lbs to the face. Muhammad Ali has Parkinson's Disease, and even he knows that getting into the ring with a human wrecking ball equals suicide. Yeah, realism was a strong suit here. Clearly Stallone, in an attempt to make Drago seem invincible, forgot to reference "logic" in whatever ripped dictionary he used whilst writing this (hard to believe that this was the same guy who wrote the orginal masterpiece). 1850lbs to the face is the equivalent to instant death. The fight would be over in one punch. It's like getting hit by a bus, which makes Apollo's pre-fight claims of "I'll be back in a minute" slightly over-confident (and delusional). Somehow, Stallone expected us to believe that some 6'6 roid monkey could punch like a moving bus. Aight.
Drago's wife, Ludmilla, shows absolutely no affection to her spouse. She's too busy putting down the Americans: "You think that you are so very good and we are so very bad". But then the thought of Drago being intimate is as scary as it is hilarious. Let's just say that if his grunts on the treadmill are any indication, Mrs Drago is one very lucky woman.
All that is inconsequential in the end. I could rhyme on for hours about how the movie is a thematic train wreck, but where's the fun in that? This is pure escapism and, if you're feeling a little low, it's sure to pick you up. After all, it's about the triumph of the human spirit, and defeating people who should by rights kill you with one punch.
My personal favorite scenes.
- The training scenes: These scenes are strangely juxtaposed. We see Drago and his sophisticated methods of training (including getting a daily injection of anabolic steroids). Rocky, on the other hand, goes primitive, growing a beard and ploughing their inhumane conditions. In the cold wilderness, he pushes his body to the limits by running up mountains and pulling sleds. I actually don't understand Rocky's logic (which should go without saying). While Drago is pounding on punching bags and working on his stamina, Rocky lifts heavy equipment and screams like an ape when he reaches the summit of a mountain. Great. Sure, I can see Stallone's unsubtle symbolism, but I can't understand how simple running could prepare you for an intense boxing match.
But still, the music rocks.
- The "you can't win" scene: Can't beat it because, in many ways, it's a metaphor for life. Ok, not really. All right, not at all, but it is a pretty cool scene, what with Adrian blasting Rocky for thinking he can beat a man with a 1850 lbs punch behind him and Rocky huffing off in his car. The scenes between Rocky and Adrian have often been the most unintentionally hilarious. In this one, you have Rocky giving Adrian a necklace ("it's a snake, but it won't bite you"), and that is part of the series' charm. Rocky is stupid, Adrian is a boring killjoy. But they love each other.
THE line of the movie
- The press conference - Basically this is Apollo's last chance to be a wise-ass before getting annihilated in the ring. Apollo fires out more one-liners than a peppy Don Rickles. Of course, it's just a foreshadowing of his death, since every verbal jab he throws Drago's way is just another tinkle on Creed's morbid orchestra (translation: Russians are nasty). However, with lines like "I've retired more men than social security", it's hard not to feel that Apollo missed his calling as a less shaky Richard Pryor. For, if this movie has shown us anything, it's that Apollo is no great boxer. For all his talk and grand gestures, he got his ass kicked by Rocky, cowered from Clubber Lang (Mr T) and gets his after dancing with James Brown.
All in all, The Rocky legacy is one that has stuck with me throughout my life. Struck a chord consistently. I love movies, but Rocky holds a special place in my heart. It reminds me of being young again, of being the underdog and feeling that no matter how much things went against me, I could still triumph in the end. I recently bought the Rocky DVD box set. It made me feel young again. It wasn't just that I could enjoy ridiculous characters and regurgitated plot-lines. More that I feel a certain bond with this series. "Rocky IV" is the most absurd, with its overblown storyline and man/music-playing robot love angle, but it's also the movie I've watched the most.
And I have no idea why.
But "Rocky" is like that. As I watched Stallone's DVD commentary and saw the sadness in his eyes that this was and forever will be his magnum opus, I realized that movies like "Rocky" don't exist anymore. No hints of irony, no sly nods to the MTV generation.
It was nice when movies could be this earnest.
Dave's love of "Rocky IV"
When it was suggested that all of the writer's here at W-D should combine forces and write an article about Rocky IV, I'll admit I got excited. Real excited. For you see folks, make no bones about it.. I love Rocky IV. How do I love thee, Rocky IV? Let me count the ways...
The first reason I love Rocky IV is... because it reminds me of when my Dad and I saw it on the night that it hit the theaters. Do you get it? Rocky.. hit... theaters. Boxing?!.. Ahem.. Man, I remember the theater was so crowded that night, that people were actually sitting on the floor in the aisles, just to be able to see this movie as soon as humanly possible. That's how anticipated this movie was at the time. When the U.S. and Soviet patterned boxing gloves exploded into each other at the beginning of the movie, the crowd went absolutely apeshit. Now I know that on the surface level, Rocky IV is the most guilty offender of blatant 80's movie Cold War propaganda... but something about everybody in the crowd being so genuinely and collectively into what we were witnessing on the screen in front of us, was a level of sincere emotion I have never seen in a movie theater before or since. I would have to say, the closest I've seen to a display of emotion that intense from anybody at a movie theater since then... was when some black lady behind us yelled at Rose McGowan, "Damn girl.. Yo tits be too big to be fittin through dat.", when she was trying to escape the killer through the doggy portion of the garage door in Scream.
The second reason I love this movie... is for the actor that played Rocky's son.. I'm too lazy to actually go look up his name... but I swear, this kid's overall performance was so bad, that it might even be categorized as surreal. I'd really like to interview some of the little boys who auditioned for the role, that didn't get the part. My first question would have to be: "So.. did you just go in there and take a shit on the casting director's shoe or something?". I mean, for starters, the little bald headed kid from The Golden Child looked more Italian than this kid did. Seriously, Sly Stallone and Talia Shire are two pretty ethnic looking individuals... yet their offspring more resembled a mating of Chris "Corky" Burke and the little human Muppet that played Kathy, the bitchy, wheelchair bound hall monitor on Diff'rent Strokes. To top it off, this kid's acting was so bad that it actually made Sage Stallone's performance in the same role in Rocky V, seem like Oscar caliber work in comparison. Of course, you could have cast the monkey from Dunston Checks In in the role... and people probably would have said, "Ehh.. still better than that last kid.".
The third reason I love this movie... is for what Apollo Creed does. Not many people realize this... but the guy set up the most elaborate suicide the world has ever seen. Think about it... when do we first see Apollo in this movie? In the pool, throwing tennis balls to his dogs.
He's literally already "dead in the water". When that television announces the arrival of Ivan Drago.. Apollo sees his chance to go out the way he wants to be remembered... as a warrior. If you closely listen to the conversations Apollo and Rocky have when they're watching the film of their old fight... and right before Apollo is set to take on Drago... Apollo lays it all out. He doesn't want to grow old. So what does he do? He steps in... and holds a press conference, in which he taunts and ridicules a Russian guy that would make grown men shit their pants if he approached them. He gets him mad.
He then stages an "exhibition" that is completely Apollo Creed... including James Brown singing "Welcome to Apollo Creed's Elaborate Funeral"... err... I mean, "Living in America". He never even studied a tape of his opponent. He just went into the ring, gets a few punches in... and then starts to take his swansong. In between rounds, he tells Rocky not to stop the fight no matter what. He gives his wife a goodbye smile... and proceeds to get beaten to his brutal, twitchy death. The stark contrast of Apollo's actual funeral in the scene directly following... is the kicker in showing exactly the thing Apollo feared most.. going out on a somber note. He went out the way he wanted to remembered... flashy, showy, and like a man.
The fourth reason I love this movie... is my fascination with Ivan Drago. Sure on the surface he was the steroid using, heartless Russian "villain". Was he really a "villain" though? I mean let's face it, here was a guy who was probably just a big kid, picked by the government and forcibly trained to be a boxer. He was stuck with an Olympic gold medal winning wife/mouthpiece who he clearly had no emotion for... just for the sole purpose of breeding future Russian athletes. As far as the steroid use was concerned, I always found it quite amusing that the reporters questioned Drago's "freakish strength" being due to steroid use... yet never questioned Rocky's transformation from Italian doughboy to chiseled warrior over the course of the years. In the end, I compare Drago's lifting the Russian ambassador off the ground before the final round to Darth Vader lifting up the Emperor. He went out and lost in the final round... but for the first time in his life, he was his own man...and even though he lost the fight... a little personal redemption was earned that day. Of course, his actions probably earned him a one way ticket to Siberia the day after the fight... but we won't get into that.
The fifth reason I love this movie... is for the relationship between Paulie and his robot. When Paulie says, "She loves me."... we know that scarily enough... it's true. An added bonus of the robot, is the double take Apollo gives as it's leaving the dining room. Classic.
Uncle Paulie gets smart at the Press Conference
The sixth reason I love this movie.... is for it's soundtrack. If you don't own it, go out and buy it. Not only are "Hearts on Fire", the "Training Montage" and "War" three of the best songs ever to work out to... but I swear, if you're having a personal crisis or a tough decision to make in life... do what Rocky did. Hop in your car.. and blast "No Easy Way Out"... By the end of that song you'll be fired up enough to take on the world. Of course you'll have pictured whatever your problem may be as a scary Russian guy with an even scarier dark gray mouthpiece... but that's besides the point.
As I'm writing this, I'm having a vision of sitting here four hours from now writing, "The one hundred and thirty fourth reason I love this movie so much is...", so I'll just knock that off. I could go on for days.
"Nipples for days." -- gay black guy on the Christopher St. pier in that one MTV's Sex in the 90's
I'll just end my little portion of the collaborative effort with the reason I love this movie the most. Anybody that knows me knows that half of the shit that comes out of my mouth in everyday conversation is usually directly or at least a variation of a movie quote. Rocky IV has a few of my favorite quotes ever to try and pull out of my ass, in the context of whatever conversation I might be having at the time. Sure I like throwing out a "He's like your Popeye... he ate his spinach." or a "Whatever he hits.. he destroys" out there every once in a while... but my absolute favorite is when Drago exclaims, "I fight to win for me... For me!!!". It's great because: a) it's fun to say in Russian.. which comes out sounding like "Nyaaasyeebyaaat.. Nyaasyeebatt!!!!... and b) because you can substitute pretty much anything in for "fight to win" and still have it work on some level. The quintessential example of this was a few years ago, my roommate came home while I was in the kitchen doing dishes... As he entered the room, I stared at him with a pissed off look on my face, raised my fist... then screamed as loud as I could, "I do the dishes for me!! For me!!!". Needless to say... he LOL'd!!11111. =)
In summary... I love Rocky IV... and so should you.
B and "Rocky IV": FRIENDS FOREVER
The theoretical conclusions of the Communists are in no way based on ideas or principles that have been invented, or discovered, by this or that would-be universal reformer. They merely express, in general terms, actual relations springing from an existing class struggle, from a historical movement going on under our very eyes.
The abolition of existing property relations is not at all a distinctive feature of communism. All property relations in the past have continually been subject to historical change consequent upon the change in historical conditions.
If Karl Marx, one of the greatest political minds of the nineteenth century and participant in one of many hilarious Monty Python skits, could not bring forth a substantial revolution in his listeners then who could? The person would have to be eloquent - masterful in the areas of diction, speaking grace, and overflowing with pure constructive motivation.
The person would have to be an already slow-minded Italian guy who's just been punched repeatedly in the head by a guy who breaks machines with his fists. Rocky IV's great for a lot of reasons in MY mind... Part four featured our heroic gladiator took a break from beating the crap out of black people to single-handedly end the Cold War.
Not with fists. He won their hearts with his fists.
The fight itself is incredible...combining the choreography of "Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon" with the tear-hurling emotion of "A Love Story." Come to think of it, that'd be a pretty kick-ass combination for a movie, you'd have people with terminal illnesses flying around speaking Chinese and getting stabbed to death. It'd be just like Tiananmen Square.
The fight goes back and forth, making the fighters so tired that they can only throw punches in slow motion. The slow motion gets slower and slower until they travel back in time and battle as ROCKY BABIES.
Don't worry, we watched the same movie. I'm only making jokes because of the serious nature of the battle.
No, the People's Champion won the hearts of the Soviets with his fists and then knocked them out in the last round, with only seconds to go...with his words.
Words this beautiful never poured forth from the pen of Shakespeare.
"I came here tonight and I didn't know what to expect. I've seen a lot of people hate me and I didn't know what to feel about that so I guess I didn't like you much then either. During this fight I've seen a lot of changing. The way yous felt about me and the way I felt about you. In here there were two guys killing each other, but I guess that's better than 20 million. What I'm trying to say is that if I can change and you can change, everybody can change."
Of course this is kinda tarnished by the fact that the sassy Russian translator rambled on in Commie-speak after every sentence. He was probably telling the fans that since Drago lost they were all gonna go out for chicken wings and COMMUNIST mashed potatoes. You know what Communist mashed potatoes are...the ones with the little brown chunks left in.
But, if we're going to wax philosophically about things the fight's tarnished by the fact that Rocky's been the World Champ for four movies and never learned to block. Remember when Apollo taught him to "fight like the colored fighters" so he could beat Mr. T? Most of that involved dancing and ducking. An improvement, but that's less like "fighting like the colored fighters" and more like "fighting like Paula Abdul." But I guess Apollo died and all, so I shouldn't make fun of the dearly departed :(
Not only was he avenging the death of Apollo (the man who single-handedly built the rocket and landed on the moon), but he was defending the honor of his family and friends and, more importantly, James Brown. So not only was Rocky making a stand against Communism and racism, but for soulful music for ALL times.
Turn over to MTV. Hear one of those brain damaged pop singers rationalize their continued raping of music by saying that their "new album" is DIFFERENT, because it's got more of a SOUL sound and more R&B? None of that would be possible without Rocky IV. Have you ever hung out in the record store and seen white people picking up the latest by DMX and black people flipping through the Aerosmith CDs? None of that would be possible without Rocky IV. Remember when America won it's independence from England, or when "We Are the World" was recorded or when the Berlin Wall came down?
All Rocky IV.
So when you wake up in the morning, look at yourself in the mirror. Give your mother a hug, and your father a hardy handshake. Kiss them gently on the cheek and believe in the ideas that make our world great - liberty, justice, equality, happiness...and show some respect for what brought you to the dance in the first place.
When you see kids shoot up their school and kill 8 teenagers, think to yourself that 8 people is better than 80 million. Why? Because if it wasn't for Rocky we'd be buried under the rubble of destroyed cities, with cockroaches and possibly monkey men wearing cyborg armor picking at our bones.
Don't believe me?
Take some time to reflect, and appreciate all the things you have in life. Sure, this week *N Sync and Destiny's Child BOTH had new videos, but things could be worse. Russians on steroids could be punching you to death. Reflect, understand, and change.
After all, if I can change, then you can change.
We all... can change.
b, Dave and Paul