I love Rocky and I am not ashamed to admit it. Normally, I am very much against movies that glorify sports--Field of Dreams, anyone?--but boxing doesn't really seem like a sport to me. I don't know what category it falls under. It sort of transcends categories.
So, here's what I think about each of the movies:
Rocky I: There's nothing like Rocky trying to walk Adrian home from her job at the pet store, taking her ice skating, kissing her in his apartment . . . NOTHING. For the record, I HATE Adrian. What I love is Rocky's love for her. It gives all of us ugly wallflowers hope. It sure gave me hope when I was growing up. Micky rules. Training scenes and raw egg consumption are riveting.
RockyII: This one delves a little deeper into Rocky's emotional issues. I sort of hate it because we learn that he can't read. Then he squanders his money and makes poor financial decisions. Adrian works at the pet store and goes into labor and a coma while lifting a particulalry heavy bag of dogfood. It's just a downer......until......Adrian wakes up and says "win!" and then the good training scenes kick in, with Rocky's head fully in the game. And he does win, and it's awesome.
Rocky III: I have a love-hate relationship with this movie. For one thing, I hate seeing Rocky with lots of money. It's unnatural and too far removed from his roots of poverty and roughness. Then the whole thing with Mr. T (i.e., Clubber Lane) and Mick dying and everything going to pot. But I LOVE the fact that Rocky and Apollo Creed become best friends and I LOVE the concept of/theme song The Eye of the Tiger. That song rules. I love the scene where Rocky and Apollo are racing on the beach. Then, suddenly, they are hugging in the ocean.
Rocky IV: A lot of people THINK the fourth movie is their favorite. Those people most likely saw it a loooooong time ago, like back in the eighties, when they were children. I guarantee that if you were to sit down right now and do a Rocky marathon, you would feel embarrassed and uncomfortable during Rocky IV. It is too much removed from the real ideals and themes of Rocky, and far too ensconced in a political message about U.S.-Soviet relations. Plus, there's a robot in it. It seems to have all the trappings of eighties movies: big hair, robots, cold war stuff. Where is the Rocky we loved to watch ambling down the streets of Philly? And I have never felt that Apollo Creed's death was justified or authentic. The Apollo from the early movies is a hot-head, sure, but he acts like such a pathetic fool in the fourth movie--dressing up like Uncle Sam, having James Brown sing a song, dancing around the Russian dude like a little sissy--it's just not Apollo. He shouldn't have died like that. The ONLY redeeming things about Rocky IV are the awesome training scenes in the snow, and the fact that Rocky wears those American flag boxing shorts in honor of Apollo.
I boycotted the fifth Rocky.
Rocky Balboa: I was afraid to watch this. I wasn't sure I was ready to revisit Rocky and deal with another let-down. But my fears were unnecessary. This movie goes back to Rocky's roots. We see him in his old neighborhood, acting like he acted in the first movie--even wearing the same hat! The true themes of Rocky are back, and there's a conversation between Rocky and his grown son that, I think, is quite life-changing and that makes me cry just to remember it. To top it off, Adrian is dead, so we don't have to see her, and all that remains is Rocky's LOVE for her--which, you will remember is the only thing about Adrian that I like at all. Ah. It's so awesome. See it immediately if you haven't yet. You will be glad you did.
I really needed to get that off my chest. I can't wait for people to disagree with me about Rocky IV, as I know they will. The proof is in the movie, my friends. Watch it and you'll see.