Rocky Balboa (Sylvester Stallone) is a Philadelphia club fighter who seems to be going nowhere. But when a stroke of fate puts him in the ring with the World Heavyweight Champion, Rocky knows that it's his one shot at the big time - a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to go the distance and come out a winner!
It's the rematch of the century as Rocky Balboa takes on Apollo Creed in this powerful follow-up to one of the most acclaimed movies in film history.
After club fighter Rocky Balboa goes the distance with the world heavyweight champion, boxing fans clamor for a rematch. But Rocky, having sustained massive injuries in the bout, announces his retirement. Though he tries to make a new start for himself, Rocky realizes that he can't escape his true calling. The ring beckons once more, and the "Italian Stallion" must prepare for the fight of his life.
Rocky battles his most powerful adversary yet-the ferocious Clubber Lang - in this hard-hitting actioner that comes out swinging with adventure, humor and emotionally charged human drama. For what may be the most exciting and fast-paced film in the series, Sylvester Stallone writes, directs and stars with explosive passion and intensity.
As Rocky Balboa fights his way into the hearts of millions, life couldn't be better. He scores ten consecutive wins, lands lucrative endorsement contracts, and becomes famous throughout the world. But when Clubber Lang KOs Rocky in a humiliating defeat, it becomes apparent that the "Italian Stallion" has lost his edge. Considering hanging up his gloves, Rocky receives encouragement from an unlikely ally: his old nemesis, Apollo Creed. With Creed's help, Rocky strives to regain the "eye of the tiger" before confronting Lang in a grueling rematch for the world heavyweight championship.
Rocky Balboa proudly holds the world heavyweight boxing championship, but a new challenger has stepped forward: Drago (Dolph Lundgren), a six-foot-four, 261-pound fighter who has the backing of the Soviet Union. This time, Rocky's training regimen takes him to icy Siberia, where he prepares for a globally televised match in the heart of Moscow. But nothing can truly prepare him for what he's about to face - a powerfully charged fight to the finish, in which he must defend not only himself, but also the honor of his country!
Upon returning home from his latest triumph, Rocky learns that all of his money has been lost by an unscrupulous financial advisor. To make matters worse, his fight related injuries force his retirement from the ring. So, Rocky, his wife Adrian and his son Rocky, Jr. move to their old low-rent neighborhood in South Philadelphia. There, the fighter must resolve the deep-rooted resentment held by his son, a bitterness that grows when Rocky trains Tommy Gunn, a young boxer who soon rises to national prominence. When Tommy turns against his mentor and publicity taunts him, Rocky knows he must fight once more.
When he loses a highly publicized virtual boxing match to ex-champ Rocky Balboa, reigning heavyweight title holder Mason Dixon retaliates by challenging the Italian Stallion to a nationally televised, 10-round exhibition bout. To the surprise of his son and friends, Rocky agrees to come out of retirement and face an opponent who's faster, stronger and thirty years his junior. With the odds stacked firmly against him, Rocky takes on Dixon in what will become the greatest fight in boxing history, a hard-hitting, action-packed battle of the ages!
In an effort to not just rehash each of the 'Rocky' films with two paragraph reviews, I'm going to take a different road with this review by reviewing and discussing the 'Rocky' saga as a whole.*
I remember getting 'Rocky IV' for a birthday one year. After watching it I had the distinct impression that I wanted to work out in the snow. So I went for a run in the falling snow with the 'Rocky' theme song playing over and over in my head. I became an instant fan of boxing, only to find out that real boxing was nothing like the boxing featured in the 'Rocky' films where almost every punch lands with ferocious velocity and no one tries to block anything.
'Rocky' was a monumental achievement both in storytelling and box office success. It won the Best Picture Oscar in 1977 and went on to become one of the most iconic films in American culture. Few movies have had such a huge impact on my life as the 'Rocky' films. It wasn't until years later, when I rewatched the first 'Rocky,' that I was really able to understand the meaning behind that film. Rocky is forever a humble guy who is just trying his best with the lot he's been given in life.
No name Rocky Balboa is offered a chance to fight Heavyweight World Champion Apollo Creed, just because cocky Creed likes the sound of Rocky's nickname "The Italian Stallion." 'Rocky' transcends every other sports movie out there by being about a man who just wants to prove he can go the distance, rather than win outright. Most of the subsequent 'Rocky' films become about winning, but the first one was a beautiful tale of a man who was given a chance and took full advantage of it, he proves to the world what he can do. The first film is also about the innocent love Rocky has for the local pet store girl named Adrian. Adrian never talks and Rocky never stops talking, they're a perfect match.
The first 'Rocky' requires a little life experience to get all the nuances and meaning behind it. The rest of the films have their own beauty to them (except 'Rocky V'), but the first film is by far the best of the series.
The interesting thing about the later films is that there is still a story to tell with the perpetual underdog's life. His character continues to evolve and change throughout the series, but that humility and drive to excel are always there. In 'Rocky II,' we see that Rocky really has no idea what to do with the new found wealth that he's going to get from doing commercials.
'Rocky III' shows us an upset and ungrateful Paulie, as well as Rocky's beloved manager Mickey passing away. In a touching scene, where Rocky cries over the body of his fallen manager we are all reminded that this tough-as-nails man still has one of the biggest hearts out there.
'Rocky IV' gives us a glimpse at Rocky's determination and how Creed's cockiness brings him down. Many people consider this one to be their favorite film of the series. It's my second favorite, behind the first film, but for different reasons. By this time they had perfected the fighting scenes and upped the dramatic effect of the sound effects. Out of the series this one is the most fun to watch, but not the most meaningful.
The 'Rocky' saga embodies the underdog story to perfection. Like I said, he's always considered the underdog. That never fazes him though. His outlook on life can be compared to another movie character... Forrest Gump. Rocky has the best intentions, and always wants to do right by his friends and family even if they treat him terribly (I'm looking at you Paulie). Devastation meets him at every turn, but he perseveres.
Rocky is so iconic and so beloved because we love those gritty stories about people who aren't supposed to succeed, but do. We love seeing someone go from rags to riches. The story of Rocky is full of lessons on life like how to treat other people, what true friendship is, and how love conquers all. Sure I might be getting a little sappy here, but to this day, each and every 'Rocky' film (with the exception of 'Rocky V') chokes me up more than once during its runtime.
* For those of you that want to know my star ratings for each film they are as follows:
'Rocky' – 5 stars
'Rocky II' – 4 stars
'Rocky III' – 3.5 stars
'Rocky IV' – 4 stars
'Rocky V' – 2 stars
'Rocky Balboa' – 4 stars
The Disc: Vital Stats
The entire collection comes packaged in a very slim, neatly designed, cardboard case. All 7 discs are housed in an oversized Blu-ray keepcase with the film discs on back-to-back swivel holders. The special features disc is given its own holder in the back of the case.
'Rocky' (3/5 stars) – Most everyone was hoping for a newly remastered version of the old classic, but this is the same transfer as the 2006 Blu-ray release. Framed in a 1.85:1 aspect ratio and given a 1080p/MPEG-2 transfer 'Rocky' has its problems, but overall, it looks very solid on Blu-ray. While this definitive set of the series begged for a cleaner print, this is the best it's ever looked. The image is hampered by frequent noise from the original print. Night and indoor scenes suffer too. They appear way too soft and crushing shadows overtake the actors on screen. Daytime scenes fair much better and give the closest representation of what 'Rocky' should look like in high definition. Detail is solid in the daytime scenes, and facial detail is something that really pops out compared to the murky DVD releases. Seeing that MGM didn't take the time to remaster the original this time around, it would seem this is the transfer we'll have to be satisfied with for many years to come.
'Rocky II' (3/5 stars) – This is where fans are getting excited. Finally being able to see the meat of the 'Rocky' franchise transferred over into high definition. 'Rocky II' switches up from the MPEG-2 treatment of the first film and is given an AVC-encode. Sadly, the transfer for 'Rocky II' suffers from the same softness and delineation problems as 'Rocky,' though not as much. Source noise abounds, as it does from the first film's transfer. While the transfer does suffer from an overall softness, there are some noticeable times where images appear a tad sharper than they do in the first film. These instances are few and far between, but the climactic fight is one of those times. It's slightly better than the first transfer, with a bit more added detail, some color enhancements, but overall it feels the same.
'Rocky III' (3.5/5 stars) – 'Rocky III' is a solid 3.5 stars when we're talking about quality of transfer. This print is cleaner than the first two, keeping the white blips and spots at bay, with only the occasional appearance. Although, be warned, during the funeral scene you'll feel as though you're being swarmed by specks. After that scene the specks subside again. Details here are much more defined than the first two films. Close-up shots of Rocky, Thunderlips (Hulk Hogan), and Clubber Lang (Mr. T) provide some fantastic facial details. Apollo Creed's perfectly barbered afro is also a sight to behold. Skin tones fair much better in this transfer too, giving everyone a very natural look. While blacks are consistently dark throughout, 'Rocky III' does suffer from crushing shadows in some of its excessively dark sequences.
'Rocky IV' (4/5 stars) – Those of you that consider this their favorite of the franchise will be pleasantly impressed with the high definition treatment it was given. With it's 1080p/AVC-encode 'Rocky IV's image glistens on the screen with pumped up detail and colors. You'll notice right away the difference in deeper, richer colors as the shiny boxing gloves, at the beginning, come into view. Facial details are also given a much needed boost, even compared to the third film. Rocky's thick stubble is perfectly defined as he begins growing his Grizzly Adams beard while working out in the Soviet Union. Both Rocky and Drago's bodies shine with a thin sheen of sweat. Skin tones are represented even slightly better than 'Rocky III.' Black are the best they've ever been up until now, making delineation much less of a problem. Some anomalies pop up during this transfer though, most notably a bright streak along the right side of the screen during the mountain climbing scenes. Also, some contrast dithering and blurriness do occur. Source noise is kept at a minimum, but does pop up every now and then. Compared to the DVD release, this one is no contest. It's a far superior upgrade. Sure the noise could be cut down even more, and the minimal artifacts could be tended to, but overall this is a stunning transfer for a film that is over 20 years old now.
'Rocky V' (3.5/5 stars) – Softness in detail and picture quality makes a return in 'Rocky V.' The AVC-encoded transfer is plagued by softness, which makes fine detail hard to see. The film's grain is, for the most part, nicely balanced throughout, but it does cause a few scenes to become so bogged down that all fine detail is lost. The overall picture is darker, and not nearly as vibrant as the fourth film. It doesn't suffer from the delineation issues of the earlier films, with its consistently deep black levels and even contrast, which is nice touch. Artifacts are kept at bay, but noise does flare up on occasion.
'Rocky Balboa' (4.5/5 stars) – The 1080p/AVC MPEG-4 is the very same transfer you got on the 2007 release of the film. Where detail is concerned this transfer is the best of the bunch. Fine detail, like Sly Stallone's craggy face, is done to perfection. Blacks are nice and inky. The transfer is clean from artifacts and buggy noise. Whites do seem fairly overpowering though, and colors overall seemed a tad over saturated. The fight scenes look tremendous. They are really given a level of clarity that is unmatched throughout this collection.
'Rocky' (2.5/5 stars) – Just like the video transfer the DTS-HD Lossless Master Audio 5.1 presentation that was present on the first Blu-ray release is what you'll get here. The original 2.0 mono track is also included. The 5.1 track does provide a bit more of an engulfing feeling compared to the mono track, but it doesn't out do it by much. The entire film has a very anemic feeling to it. I understand the sound effects weren't perfected at this point, and you'll see as the movies progress, the fight scene sound effects become more polished. Dialogue is all over the place though, sometimes it's loud and in your face, and other times it's so faint you'll miss it. The lack of dialogue clarity is a big stumbling block as it's hard to understand anything Rocky's motor-mouth says in the first place. Surrounds are also left out for the most part, with crowd noises being piped in during the fight. The sound that does make it into the surrounds sounds unnatural and forced though. The mix also lacks any sort of low end sound that would give the subwoofer any type of workout. Some slight audio interference and crackling was detected during some of Mick's more impassioned speeches.
'Rocky II'(3/5 stars) – 'Rocky II's DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 presentation is a noticeable upgrade from the first film. The musical soundtrack produced by Bill Conti is given a proper stage on which to show off. The soundtrack does a good job bleeding into the surround channels. Ambient sound is also given a better treatment here than in the first film. The surround sound has a more natural tone, and comes across more evenly balanced. LFE is still somewhat underused, but the subwoofer is given a little more life here.
'Rocky III' (3.5/5 stars) – 'Rocky III's sound mix is very similar to 'Rocky II.' The surrounds house some believable ambient sound, while songs like "Eye of the Tiger" are belted throughout all the channels. The soundtrack does become a bit over powering at times. Dialogue is clearer here, but some of Rocky's whispered lines are close to being intelligible. Rocky's motorcycle rumbles with low end bass. Sound effects are more up to snuff here, as the art of the punch sound has been advanced from the subsequent films. Some audio inconsistencies were detected like a few hisses from the rear channels, and a noticeable crackle that seems to come out of nowhere about halfway through the film.
'Rocky IV' (4/5 stars) – Like it's superior video presentation 'Rocky IV's DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 presentation performs likewise. Dialogue is clear. Ambient noise, such as the crowded stadium in the Soviet Union feel very natural and lifelike. "Hearts on Fire" and the other synthesized 80s music are given a generous soundstage, with each and every note belted out precisely. LFE is amply used with the soundtrack. The punching sound effects have been more or less perfected now, offering a depth to the low end section of the sound field.
'Rocky V' (4/5 stars) – The DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 presentation is comparable to 'Rocky IV,' offering up another solid audio presentation. As we move into the 90s with 'Rocky V' the soundtrack switches from overly synthesized techno-like music, to early hip-hop music like MC Hammer and others. The hip-hop music offers a wide variety of LFE, while also giving the front channels a workout by keeping up with the fast-paced lyrics. Love or hate the street fight scene between Rocky and Tommy Gunn, there is something to be said about its sound mix. The ambient sound here is some of the best and most natural sounding up to this point in the collection.
'Rocky Balboa' (4.5/5 stars) – This PCM 5.1 uncompressed audio track is the best of the bunch. Dialogue is perfect throughout the entire film, with appropriate volume levels. Even with Rocky's more subdued tone, his dialogue is still easy to understand. Atmospheric sounds, as in Rocky's restaurant, are well placed and sound fantastic. The boxing scenes in this 'Rocky' are the best they've ever sounded throughout the collection. Heavy bass is induced during every thundering blow. Bill Conti's soundtrack has also been given a nicely polished sound.
The collection has a disc dedicated to just special features, but because 'Rocky Balboa' is the same disc that was released already, the special features for that film are contained on that disc.
Most of the features on the bonus features disc are the special features that can be found on the Special Edition that was released in 2006 on DVD. You will, however, not find the extra commentaries that were present there.
Bonus Features - Disc 7
'Rocky Balboa' – Disc 6
The 'Rocky' franchise is one of the most iconic film franchises of all time. The original 'Rocky' film still stands as one of the finest American cinematic experiences that can be had. Each film gives us new insight into the character of Rocky and how he changes and grows throughout his life. It's a fantastic journey, one that can be lived over and over with this wonderful collection. Sure, some of the video presentations are a bit suspect, and some of the audio doesn't rival demo material, but this is the best the 'Rocky' films will look and sound for many years to come. To some degree, the 'Rocky' franchise shaped parts of my childhood and instilled in me an appreciation for the underdog story and for cinema in general. This collection isn't as perfect as most people would like it to be, but it is close to the best it has to offer. This set comes highly recommended.