Sylvester Stallone writes, directs and stars in his 1979 follow-up to the 1976 hit Rocky. Picking up moments after the first film ended, Apollo Creed (Carl Weathers) is dealing with the fallout of his fight with Rocky (Stallone) while Rocky is having his first brush with fame and money even as a rematch is on the horizon for both fighters.
Thinking his fighting days are behind him, Rocky struggles to find employment even as he splurges on a car, watches, clothes, a new house, a marriage to Adrian (Talia Shire) and a pregnancy. His world begins to collapse in on itself, and the only option may be to step into the ring with Apollo again, and not only go the distance but win.
He reaches out to Mickey (Burgess Meredith) to help train him again, but what if his injuries are too much for the ring. Rocky initially refuses to believe it but also knows if he can’t fight, he doesn’t really have a purpose. He wants to take care of Adrian and his blossoming family, but he’s lost.
It’s an interesting place to put the character. He may have gone the distance in the first film, but that doesn’t mean he gets a happy ending and all of his problems go away. He still has everyday life to contend with, as does Apollo, who is pushing for a rematch for Rocky.
Apollo pressures Rocky into it, though he would have had to fight to keep his head above the financial waters around him. So just over six months after the previous fight, and retiring from boxing, Rocky starts training again, learns to fight righthanded, and is ready to step into the ring again.
Stallone infuses his film with a lot of energy, it has tighter editing than its predecessor and the boxing sequences feel a lot more authentic.
There’s an interesting examination of what is perceived to be a successful adult, home, marriage, family, and being true to who you are, and those you love and being successful that way. Sure, Rocky gets tempted by all the wonders of what success could bring him, something that will resurface in stories to come, but if he’s truly honest, he just needs Adrian and a good coach at his side.
And while Rocky II didn’t garner the Oscar attention the first film did, it did score a People’s Choice Award for Favorite Motion Picture.
Rocky is still an underdog, not just in the ring, but in life, and that struggle was and is recognizable to those who flocked to see the film, and that’s probably why the character continues to inspire. As much as I like the first film, I may come down on the side of Rocky II being the more enjoyable film. I wonder what I’ll think about the other entries, it’s been awhile since I’ve seen them.
So next time, it’ll be the eye of the tiger as I jump into the ring with Rocky III!