It’s day 19 of the James Proclaims Advent Calendar Of Christmas(ish) Films. Days 17 and 18 featured Eyes Wide Shut and Prometheus and both of those films required us to use our intellects.
So today I think we could all do with a rest.
We could do without the burden of thinking.
It would be nice if we could switch our brains off completely.
And what better film to help us to do that than 1985’s Rocky IV?
Because they don’t come much dumber than the fourth installment of the Rocky franchise.
Lest we forget, the original 1976 Rocky film was a properly good film. It won actual Oscars and everything.
And if the next two sequels weren’t quite as good, they were still definitely not bad.
But Rocky IV is not a good film.
Well not objectively anyway.
But if you happened to be a kid in the 80s and Rocky IV happened to be the movie that introduced you to the franchise, you might feel differently.
And I happened to be such a kid.
So I quite like Rocky IV but purely for reasons of nostalgia.
Maybe it’s something about Dolph Lundgren.
After all I’m reasonably fond of 1987’s Masters Of The Universe which is essentially a bad adaptation of what was already quite a bad cartoon that was only really created to sell lots of action figures. I had quite a lot of those action figures and I loved the original He-Man cartoon, and I remember being massively disappointed by the film when it first came out because it was, quite literally, nothing like the cartoon. In any way shape or form. But over the years I’ve found I’ve come to love the Masters Of The Universe film quite a lot.
Even though it is obviously an awful film.
And the same is definitely true of Rocky IV.
In fact I think Rocky IV does genuinely fall into the category of ‘so bad it’s good.’
The plot is so ridiculous that you have to give up picking holes in it fairly early on.
That’s when the movie can even be bothered to have a plot. There is a five minute segment in the middle of the film which is, essentially, a music video showing random clips from the previous Rocky films, mixed in with earlier scenes from the actual film you’re watching. Scenes that you’ve literally only just seen.
Given that, by the time the credits roll, the film comes in at around 82 minutes, that is quite a percentage of the movie to give up to such a montage.
And that’s probably one of the best bits of the whole film.
But the writing’s on the wall much earlier. Basically it all falls apart when the robot enters the picture. And I am talking an actual robot here – that wasn’t a metaphor for Dolph Lundgren’s acting.
Why is there a robot in Rocky IV?
I’m not actually sure.
But there is.
The film follows the usual underdog premise that worked so well in the first three films.
Except, of course, Rocky was actually an underdog in the first two installments. And despite being World Heavyweight Champion by the third film, his subsequent underdog status is explained quite well. Basically he gets complacent, gets beaten by Mr T, and then stops being complacent and beats Mr T.
But there’s no good reason for him to be considered an underdog in this film.
Sure, Lundgren’s ‘Ivan Drago’ is clearly a big fella and he does destroy Rocky’s nemesis-turned-friend, Apollo Creed (Carl Weathers) in a fight that results in Creed’s untimely death. But it is clearly explained that Creed hasn’t boxed professionally for five years and also didn’t really train properly for the fight.
Rocky is the reigning heavyweight champion of the world and trains like a beast for the fight. So he’s obviously got to be considered the favourite.
And without wishing to spoil the film for anyone who hasn’t seen it, he does win.
And makes huge strides towards ending the Cold War in the process.
Well done Rocky.
But Drago was the underdog.
Score For Christmasishness
I had completely forgotten that Rocky IV was set at Christmas. But it is.
The final fight takes place on Christmas Day, for some ill-explained reason.
That said it really isn’t all that Christmassy a film. There is a lot of snow during the obligatory training montage, but he is in Russia, where I understand it snows a fair bit.
We do catch a glimpse of a Christmas tree when Rocky is taping up his hands prior to the final fight.
And from then on the only Christmas references are when we have shots of Rocky’s really annoying son watching the fight on TV at home, with his even more annoying robot, who by this stage in the film is dressed as Santa Claus (I kid you not!).
I have no idea why there was any need for there to be any link at all to Christmas, but then I don’t understand much at all about some of the choices that were made in the creation of this film.
It’s hardly a Christmas classic, and truthfully it’s best avoided at all times of year.
Unless, like me, you fell victim to its dubious charms a long time ago.
I’ll join you in the charm victims club for this movie James.
Still remember the immortal line from Drago’s manager, delivered in a clipped Ruskie accent – “Whatever he hits, he destroys!”
Also now recalling ROCKY 5 featured Uncle Paulie dressed in a Santa suit (Rocky’s sons’ friends accuse Paulie of being a Santa who’s had one too many drinks – which he had.)
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I’d forgotten about Paulie in Rocky 5! That film has just made the list for next year!