Rocky IV: in his new cut, Sylvester Stallone discards the most “shameful” fragments, vindicates Apollo Creed and ignores his ex-wife, Brigitte Nielsen

It was the fourth installment, the most watched of the saga of Rocky and, at the same time, the least subtle within a very unsubtle saga. Rocky Balboa versus Iván Drago, the United States versus the Soviet Union (as it was still called in the mid-1980s), two flag-wrapped gloves that collide and explode as a prelude to a political conflict that was going to be settled in a boxing ring with a clean punch..

And yet, despite the fact that the binary intentions were more than clear then, thirty-seven years later we come to find out that Sylvester Stallone was never satisfied with that movie. Even when her $65 million grossing put her on a virtuoso podium alongside the first Return to the future Already Rambo II. And since in 2020, the actor and director was in his house, locked up and bored through the pandemic, he had no better idea than to go back to all that and present a brand new cut. A “new old installment” of the renamed saga (not to be confused even more): Rocky vs. Drago: The Definitive Director’s Cutwhich can be seen in Argentina in the framework of the BAFICIin two performances, on Thursday 28 and Saturday 30.

What need was there to go through all this again? Saying of Stallone in the documentary that accompanied the US release, it’s an almost existential question: “I never thought we were going to do more than one installment. To this day I can’t explain what Rocky is, and maybe that’s the beauty of it all. No one goes through life without bruised knees or bruised knuckles, it’s a big fight, and I think that’s the identification. Many times life makes us go further than we think we can. Nothing hits you as hard as life, it will leave you lying and, as long as you leave it, it will continue to hit you. If you could go back and edit your film, I guarantee you would approach it with sensitivity, wisdom, and confidence, asking yourself why you didn’t do it that way the first time. It’s a great puzzle, I like being part of this time machine”.

Cheap philosophy aside, better go for rubber shoes. Rocky vs. Drago: The Definitive Director’s Cut got rid of all those elements that infantilized the franchise in search of the eighties youth vote -such as the unbearable butler robot or the endless family sequences with the boy who played the son-, and redirects the direction to an adult conflict. Also, fortunately, the beginning with the gloves exploding disappeared: “I thought that was very interesting at the time. Now I see it the same way I would see a Mars sci-fi movie, with little flying saucers held up by a string. That’s how I felt when I saw the gloves”.

The list of changes could go on, some are imperceptible and others more inherent to the evolution of history. But essentially, and this is where you have to look for the main reasons for this relaunch, Rocky IV is now the Apollo Creed movie. The character played by Carl Weathers is the first to appear on screen after a summary of the previous film, a trademark of the saga. And in this way he sets the tone of the story, remaining -both present and omnipresent- throughout the entire footage.

Even his tragic fight with Iván Drago (Dolph Lundgreen) underwent several changes, transcendental in the eyes of Stallone: ​​“I want to show that Apollo fell fighting, not being killed. It enhances his legacy, and also shows that Drago is vulnerable. He’s not the guy who’s going to walk all over you, so maybe later Rocky will have a chance against him. He is incredibly strong, but Apollo hits him too, before age and lag do their thing. A warrior is a warrior to the end, and even if he is defeated, there is nobility in that defeat. In the previous version it seemed that he was killed for being self-centered. It was too shallow”.

Sound like divine justice? It could be, Sly has long recognized that removing him from history was a mistake: “It was silly. I thought I needed that kind of springboard to push the drama forward, faster. With his diminished physique, we would have seen a different side of Apollo, something we hadn’t known about him until then. He would have been in a wheelchair and become a kind of father figure, mentor, brother. Something like what Mickey (Burgess Meredith) was in the first installments. He would have also changed the continuations, Rocky V would not have existed like this, and probably Rocky Balboa It wouldn’t have happened that way. He could have gone on living twenty more years.”

In the movie Rocky IV, the character of Apollo Creed, played by Carl Weathers, is killed by Ivan Drago in an exhibition fightTwitter @varskysports

However, the actor-director most likely took note of what prompted Dolph Lundgreen’s appearance in believe 2 (2019). If the first installment of this kind of spin off, where the surname was resignified through Apollo’s son (Michael B. Jordan), did so well, its sequel based on the boy’s confrontation with Viktor Drago (the gigantic Florian Munteanu) led to a standing ovation from the audience. The emotional rescue covered up the film’s shortcomings, and the sequel grossed even more than its predecessor. Face to believe 3which is almost ready with a potential premiere at the end of this year or the beginning of next year, nothing better than finding a way to continue “increasing the price” of the beloved Apollo.

As a color hint Rocky vs. Dragon, in the edited 40 minutes of additional footage (which was “take out and put in,” because the total length is pretty much the same), much of Brigitte Nielsen’s performance was gone. The then wife of the actor had much more prominence, which was now neatly eliminated, leaving her work almost as a cameo..

In contrast, Lundgreen adds minutes, both above and below the ring, reaffirming his condition as Frankenstein of boxing, an idea that was there from the first scripts, to contrast with Balboa’s shockproof humanity. Just remember that training sequence in which Rocky ran through the snow, while Drago had a hangar with the latest technology. Another of the many “metaphors” of the film. And as expected given the title, the final fight in this new edition is full of never-before-seen shots and reverse shots that, if they don’t make it more dramatic, at least add dynamism.

Sylvester Stallone and Dolph Lundgren in Rocky IV
Sylvester Stallone and Dolph Lundgren in Rocky IV

That said, it should also be noted that the edition is not one of the best due to a lack of raw material, making it clear why some discarded scenes had been prudently left in the editing room. “I didn’t believe in my ability as a director in the same way that I do now,” explains Stallone. Now I have wisdom, experience, I realize what is valuable. Beyond the glitter, the most valuable thing is what lies below it”.

Could you live without a new version of Rocky IV? The truth is that yes, but at least in this renewal the most embarrassing part of the original has been discarded, embarking on a path of greater drama and commitment to the characters. Which, in a film of this type, is saying a lot.

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Rocky IV: in his new cut, Sylvester Stallone discards the most “shameful” fragments, vindicates Apollo Creed and ignores his ex-wife, Brigitte Nielsen

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