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I can't but completely disagree with the huge amount of negative hype surrounding the fifth Rocky movie. It seems to be an universal consensus that it's the weakest and worst movie of the entire series, and most people don't even consider it canon nor part of the series at all (including Stallone himself, who has publicly disowned it and doesn't consider it canon, even though he wrote the script himself).
Let me sum up how I view the different Rocky movies:
The basic premise of the first Rocky movie was to tell the story of a nobody who got a lucky chance to fight a boxing match against the World Champion. This was, in fact, not really a boxing movie at all. The boxing part itself was only an ancillary detail, not really all that important in itself (except for the boxing subculture of the 70's, which was one of the primary plot points of the movie). A clear sign that this is not a boxing movie is that Rocky loses his match against the champion. That kind of sinks it in that this movie was not about the boxing, but about the story of the guy who was a nobody and who got to fight against the champ.
Or if I put the same thing in less words: This was a drama, not an action movie. And it's what makes the movie so great. It tells a story. The action in itself is completely secondary.
The second movie feels like a rehash of the first one, with the idea of "it was a bummer that Rocky lost, in this one he'll win instead". Thus it starts to sway away from the idea of the first movie, that is, being a drama and going more to the action side. It's not a bad movie, but maybe feels a bit redundant. On the other hand, if the first movie really needed a sequel, this was not a bad choice at all. It worked for me.
The third movie is pure boxing action. However, I must admit that I can't help but consider this movie by far the best one of the series. It's just so badass. If Rocky is to boxing what Rambo is to war, then Rocky III is The Movie we are talking about. It just works.
Sadly, the next movie sinks so low that it smashes the bottom of the barrel. This is where I completely disagree with the majority, as for some odd reason the majority of people consider this movie the best of the series.
The only cool thing about the fourth movie is a few scenes involving Ivan Drago, but that's it. The rest of the movie is just outright pathetic. There's not even a hint of the deep storywriting of the first movie, nor even of the enthralling action of the third. It feels like the script for this movie was drafted by a 10-years-old boy who has seen too many action and bad scifi movies (how else can you explain the absolutely ridiculous scenes with that robot?) I honestly wonder if Stallone let his son write the first draft of this movie.
I suppose that whoever wrote this piece of crap was so enthralled with the coolness of the third movie that he wanted to surpass it, and ended up creating a completely childish and horrid piece of junk. I really feel embarrassment when watching this movie.
Then we get to the fifth movie. With this movie Stallone clearly wanted to go back to the roots of the first movie. Rather than filming a boxing movie, he wanted to tell a story, just like with the first movie. This is the story of the struggles of a father and a son, and the difficulties of parenting (something Stallone was probably going through in real life). Rocky getting an apprentice is the story of Rocky getting a "substitute son" who listens to him and does what he wants because his own son doesn't appreciate him so much. (Of course this "substitute son" results to be a real jerk in the end, and Rocky gets back his appreciation of his own son.)
There is real depth to this storytelling. It might not reach exactly the same levels of drama as the first movie, but in my opinion it gets quite close. I think this is one of the best Rocky movies because of this. It doesn't try to be a boxing movie, or try to ride on the coolness factor of the third movie. It just tries to tell a story in the form of drama, just like the original movie.
For some reason Stallone was not, after all, happy with the end result, so he rehashed the idea with the sixth Rocky movie almost two decades later, with rather ok results. However, personally I do think that the fifth movie was a good movie, enormously better than that horrid fourth movie, and in par with the first.
If I had to award points between 0 and 10 to each movie, they would be:
People who diss the fifth movie are really missing the point and have the wrong expectations. They want another Rocky III (or, heaven forbid, Rocky IV) and they can't swallow that it's not even supposed to be an action movie, but a drama, just like the first movie.
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