i’m glad that i’m old enough to remember the cold war, the sentiments that it brought and the films it produced. films like this, war games, red dawn, etc. were as big in the 80s as in any other decade. by then the soviets had officially outpaced our military growth and tensions were high. in this installment rocky fights drago, a machine-like fighter who has been bred and trained to show soviet superiority. stallone, who directs, does a good job incorporating motifs of technology, machination and war to bolster the cold war theme. in the opening fight of drago and apollo creed, for example, drago is shown in the ring which is in a dark room. the ceiling opens up like a rocket hangar might and he and the ring are lifted up as if they are a single rocket being prepared for launch. we also see drago training on machines while hooked up to sophisticated devices measuring his vitals and power output. this is juxtaposed with rocky training in siberia (actually northwestern wyoming) using more organic methods – hauling logs, chopping wood, trudging through the snow, etc.
the biggest disappointment of the film is bill conti’s absence. bill conti does the music for the other five rocky films, but didn’t work on this one for some reason. as a result we miss out on the rocky theme in full splendor and the ending, in particular, lacks its usual weight. while the direction in rocky IV may have been better overall than in rocky III, rocky IV really loses some of its impact because of the music. i also could have done without the poorly cast rocky jr.
each rocky film that i’ve seen recently (all of them except for #5) has had at least one scene of profound thought or emotion; a scene worthy of remembering. in this film apollo creed’s speech about doing what you’re made to do is that scene. the final scene, in which rocky tries to find some balance between the soviet and american ways, is also worthy of mention. once again, his profound words succeed, at least in part, because of his simple nature. each rocky film is also able to add some wrinkle that makes his challenge in that film seem insurmountable. this is a bigger accomplishment than you might think.