The Previous Chapter of the CREED Saga — ROCKY IV! [Two Cents]

Two Cents is an original column akin to a book club for films. The Cinapse team will program films and contribute our best, most insightful, or most creative thoughts on each film using a maximum of 200 words each. Guest writers and fan comments are encouraged, as are suggestions for future entries to the column. Join us as we share our two cents on films we love, films we are curious about, and films we believe merit some discussion.

The Pick


It’s a Creed frenzy at Cinapse! Most of us are huge fans of the Rocky saga (heck, I named my cat after him!), we’re incredibly excited to see the new film that continues the story in an exciting new direction. Some among our number have already seen it, and apparently love it!

While there have been other Rocky sequels since, it’s Rocky IV that finished Apollo Creed’s story, and it’s this swan song that we honor with this week’s Two Cents. Incidentally, it’s also a bit in the spotlight with College Humor’s recent 30 For 30 spoof that is funny, well edited, and definitely worth checking out!

Did you get a chance to watch along with us this week? Want to recommend a great (or not so great) film for the whole gang to cover? Comment below or post on our Facebook or hit us up on Twitter!

Next Week’s Pick:
 The Hunger Games saga finally reaches its thrilling conclusion with Mockingjay Part 2! It’s hard to believe that this thrilling and endearing franchise began from such as terrible first outing (Don’t try to deny it, the first movie sucked). At the time, that film’s futuristic vision of an oppressive fascist government and gladitorial children’s combat was widely mocked as a ripoff of the much better — and rather notorious — Japanese film Battle Royale. Since then the Hunger Games series has moved beyond the games themselves and blossomed into a legitimately enthralling epic of war and rebellion. Join us as we honor one great dystopian future with another! BATTLE ROYALE!

Would you like to be a guest in next week’s Two Cents column? Simply watch and send your under-200-word review to twocents(at)!

Featured Guest

We’re happy to have Marcelo J. Pico join us today as a special guest! He’s the Austin-based founder of the Talk Film Society, a discussion group for film-lovers, and the host of the Talk Film Society Podcast. Thanks to Marcelo for joining us on Two Cents!

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Marcelo Pico:

The original Rocky still stands as a beautiful, intimate character piece, the study of a man who achieves his personal goal, where winning is secondary to just “going the distance.” As the franchise progresses, writer/director/star Sylvester Stallone doesn’t concern himself with deconstructing the character of Rocky (at least not until Rocky V and Rocky Balboa), instead he builds Rocky into a God by the time Rocky IV rolls around.

In Rocky IV, everything is heightened. The punches are harder, the motivational speeches are louder and the training montages come one after another after another. Every boxer is akin to a God-like figure, including Rocky. Apollo Creed literally descends into the ring on a larger-than-life platform to face his opponent, Ivan Drago. Drago is more machine than man, engineered in a lab to become the symbolic figure of Soviet supremacy. Rocky himself takes thunderous jabs from Drago in their one-on-one, so much so that Drago himself is shocked that the Italian Stallion is still standing after a dozen rounds. “He’s like a piece of iron,” Drago exclaims. Rocky at this point is no mere mortal man.

Rocky IV bounces in and out of downright propaganda and jingoism (it’s 1985, the final throes of the Cold War), and it’s clear that these two Gods, Rocky and Drago, represent two colossal world powers coming head to head. Yet, in their final match, these two are stripped down equally to blood and bone. Rocky manages to make the inhuman Drago bleed, a small act made grand by the heightened state of the match. While the film is the definition of overblown, we watch Gods bleed and it’s a beautiful thing to witness. (@MarceloJPico)

Our Guests

Ivo Tomas:

Rocky IV is not a film that will be studied in film class (Sociology maybe, due to its jingoistic elements and popularity with anyone who can remember what the Cold War felt like). But, while it’s not great filmmaking, it is fun cinema. Even when the film is being lazy (I’d guess 20% of it is montage or flashback), you can’t help but to get caught up in the memories of the previous Rocky movies. You want Rocky to beat Drago. You want him to destroy Drago. You want him to get revenge for Creed’s death. While that vengeance flies in the face of Rocky’s motivations in Rocky 1–3 and runs counter to who he really is, it still satisfies something in us that maybe we don’t want to examine. Rocky IV lacks the humanity of the previous movies. Drago is essentially a fighting machine and an actual robot has about as much screen time as Adrian. But, I found myself still liking it in spite of its flaws. Simply put, Rocky IV is like junk food. It’s a snack, one I’ll happily munch on from time to time. (Ivo Tomas)

Trey Lawson:

Yo, Two Cents! Rocky IV is not the best Rocky movie, or even the best Rocky sequel. Virtually all the nuance from the earlier films is stripped away, and what remains is US-Soviet relations reduced to caricature. Still, it’s pretty hard to not get drawn in. The story is painted in broad strokes, and the insecure underdog of the first films is transformed into a superhero, but it still resonates (even as the pinnacle of cheesy 80s propaganda). There are also bizarre tangential moments I still don’t quite get. Why does Paulie have a robot? I didn’t keep an exact count, but a significant percentage of the narrative is conveyed via montages. Of course, the film would not play nearly as well without the sheer physical presence of Dolph Lundgren towering over Sly Stallone. Once the fight starts, the action is compelling and brutal. Even Rocky’s post-fight speech, while heavy-handed, suits the tone of the film. In fact, ending on a note of mutual respect and hope for future friendship is more positive than many similar 80s movies. Besides, silly as it is, who doesn’t want to see Sylvester Stallone win the Cold War in a boxing ring? (@T_Lawson)

The Team


This is certainly no Rocky III but Rocky IV not a bad flick. Dolph is about as Dolph as can be and we see the final fight for Apollo. Apollo’s classic James Brown/Uncle Sam entrance is brilliant and his spirit is fiery until the end.

While likely my 3rd or 4th rated in the series, the emotional moments in this Rocky are, perhaps, the strongest in the series. So, in other words, yes I cried.

My first college roommate watched various Rocky (mostly the end of III) scenes before bed every night and, thus, I’ve not spent a great deal of time with Mr. Balboa since that time. However, watching Drago battle with The Champ has me geared up for this next generation of the Rocky/Creed saga. (@thepaintedman)


Rocky IV is probably the oddest duck of the series with thrilling highs and chilling lows. I’ve seen it once before and liked it even less than the oft-reviled Rocky V. A series of montages make up way too much of the film, and they’re set to a cheesy 80s pop soundtrack that replaces the brass bombast of Bill Conti. At times it feels like a clip episode, and a terrible subplot with Paulie’s robot maid (who, 30 years later, still has better AI than anything actually in production) left me cold.

And yet, I liked Rocky IV a lot more this time. I certainly don’t remember crying this much. Even while their styles change, the films really do have a strong sense of continuity with recurring characters and themes. My previous trek through the series was a plow straight-through as a single guy, while this time it was more distanced from the earlier films and like Rock, I’ve got a wife and kid of my own. Family is an important part of the film. Rocky struggles with balancing his personal journey with trying to be a good husband and father. Brother-in-law Paulie has a rare moment of decency that signals a change in his gruff personality, and Apollo’s tragic overconfidence is a major plot point (mentioned under family because Apollo and Rocky are brothers now, symbolically cemented by Creed’s father figure and trainer Duke Evers “adopting” Rocky, a thread that will continue in Rocky Balboa).

There’s a scene in which Rocky and Apollo watch one of their old fights together from their rivalry days, and it’s wonderful. Moments like this are what make the series great, even at its weirdest. (@VforVashaw)


The Rocky series has always doubled as Sly Stallone’s autobiography, as filtered through the world of boxing. With Rocky IV, we arrive at the part of the story where Stallone was a world-dominating, box office towering, license-to-print-money machine. Previous Rocky films had the Italian Stallion fail, undergo crises of confidence, and need to rebuild. With Rocky IV, Rocky is super-cool hot shit that is right in every single argument he has with Adrian and Apollo, and that is just so gosh darned plucky that he wins the Cold War.

It’s a far cry from the first film (or even the first couple sequels) but it’s no less true to what Stallone was experiencing and where his life was at. It’s not often that a movie star gives you unfiltered access into their brain and how they perceive the world, yet here’s Rocky IV laying bare the fog of ego and glitzy, garish insanity that fueled the 80s.

At 90 minutes, Rocky IV often seems more like an outline than an actual movie (Adrian in particular appears to have split-personality disorder based on the whiplash of perspective she displays) but I can’t not love a crazy, sincere cartoon like this. (@TheTrueBrendanF)


I was probably 10 or 12 years old, home alone watching television, when Rocky IV inadvertently became my Rocky Balboa gateway drug and forever introduced me to one of my favorite cinematic heroes. I have a notoriously awful memory, but that first televised viewing of a Rocky film is etched in my mind. I was up off my couch, bobbing and weaving and shadow boxing. I was wildly cheering. The Rocky films are great crowd pleasers, sure, but I’m glad I was alone, uninhibited, and going nuts in my living room for Balboa vs. Drago. Rocky IV is superhero cinema, told on a broad palette, featuring larger than life iconography, tear-jerker speechifying that has no bearing on reality, and a robot. In terms of genuine drama and character work, it’s probably the worst of the series. In terms of introducing a 10 year old boy to a cinematic titan, there’s no better choice. It must break you. (@Ed_Travis)

Did you all get a chance to watch along with us? Share your thoughts with us here in the comments or on Twitter or Facebook!

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