“Rocky II” picks up with a recap of the first fight and answers the question of “What happens next?” The plot is well conceived as Rocky retires from boxing and must find work to support his family. This is contrasted by Apollo Creed, who struggles with the naysayers who believe that Rocky should have been awarded the split decision. In true Rocky fashion, The Italian Stallion must come out of retirement to make some money and defend his family’s honor when Creed launches a personal attack. I am good with all of this (even the overemphasis on Rocky’s lack of education) and glad that there is some action in the first half of the film, but the whole coma thing is way overdramatic. I’ve come to expect some cheesiness from this series but that was really unnecessary. Still, it is hard to fault a film that has twice as many training montages, a better climactic fight, and an ending that will have you choked up. In fact, the ending dialogue of this film provides my favorite moment of the entire series. This film gives Burgess Meredith another opportunity to shine and Carl Weathers steals the show just like he did in the original. His character transforms throughout the film and manages to make us love him and hate him at the same time. When you combine his performance with the empathy that we develop for Stallone, there is a lot on the line in the final boxing match. The boxing sequence is just incredible and it is impossible to tell whether they are acting or actually making contact. “Rocky II” is very similar to the rest of the series: It has a few slow points but the final showdown is so amazing that nothing else matters.
[Pictured: Rocky running through Philadelphia and up the Rocky steps with his entire community behind him (literally) is movie magic]