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August 04, 1979 - Image 7

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Publication:
Michigan Daily, 1979-08-04

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The Michigan Daily-Saturday, August 4, 1979-Page 7

'ROCKY H'

The sequel steals

By CHRISTOPHER POTTER
Second of Two Parts
At first glance, Sylvester Stallone
would seem almost the antithesis of The
In-Laws' Arthur Hiller: The creative
outsider, champion of the small budget
and enemy of cinematic bloat, the anti-
establishment independent under no
one's thumb but his own. Stallone, for
all his well-advertised ego, appeared
the embodiment of what a filmmaker
could achieve if the studio monoliths
would simply leave him alone. You
couldn't help but root for him even if
you had reservations about his work.
He seemed a quintessential,
unapologetic nose-thumber.
Which is precisely why Rocky II (just
departed after a successful Ann Arbor
run) stands as the most venal, melan-
choly cinematic event of the summer.
Presumably any work of "art" needs
inborn grounds for existing, some pur-
pose underlying its tangibility; yet by
these standards there seems to be no
visible reason to have made Rocky II at
all.
CERTAINLY THIS accusation could
be applied to a great many Hollywood
opuses, yet we'd come to hope for more
from the maker of Rocky. Stallone's
otfginal may have been structurally
flawed and often sentimentalized, yet
you never lost the feeling that it was at
least honest, that its creator was setting
his creative sights somewhere beyond
simple pursuit of the almighty buck.
The picture rang with a gritty idealism
that swept you up in it regardless of
your most resolute, cynical resolve to
remain dispassionate. For all the at-
tendant publicity it received, Rocky
remained a lovely cinematic innocent.
One can only speculate about whether
Stallone suddenly developed cold feet
following the subsequent failures of
F*I*S*T and Paradise Alley, deciding
that perhaps now was not the moment,
financially speaking, to break new
thematic ground. For whatever reason,
what he's ultimately given us-amidst
bellowing fanfare ("the story continues
...")-is a retread and a cheat. Rocky
II doesn't continue, it conveniently
doubles back on itself, calculatingly
running what amounts to an instant
replay on the original. Yet despite the
surface kinship, this sequel proves
every bit as avariciously cunning in
form and spirit as the original was ar-
tlessly spontaneous. Stallone the
graceful primitive has lost his
virginity.
As Rockey II commences, we find
Rocky Balboa celebrating his losing but
self-acquitting ring heroics against
champion Apollo Creed in flamboyant
fashion. He announces his retirement

from the ring, finally marries his love
Adrian (Talia Shire), pours his fight
purse into a new house and a snazzy
sports car and settles down into
matrimonial contentment.
UNFORTUNATELY (and in sharp
contrast to the athlete-stockbrokers of
pro sports today), Rocky finds himself
unable to capitalize on his new-won
fame. Carrying himself in a stum-
blebum fashion that would have Pete
Rose or Irvin Johnson doubled up with
laughter, Rocky flubs TV commercials,
job interviews, and is finally, un-
believably relegated back to his old
position of mopping the floor at his ex-
manager's training gym. Rocky en-
dures the abject humiliation with his
humble, sunny personality intact,
nobly, almost breezily, enduring the
slings and arrows of his once-again

u cheats,
blue collar malcontent into an Ed Nor-
ton grotesquerie whose only conflict in
life seems the pursuit of bigger and bet-
ter ice cream cones.
IF ROCKY II'S personalities are
wearisome, its plot logic is downright
enervating. Early on we learn that
Rocky sustained enough eye damage in
the first Creed fight to force his
retirement; if he were ever to climb in-
to the ring with the champ again,
Mickey dolefully warns, Creed would at
least blind and probably kill him. Along
the way, though, this stern medical
proclamation is forgotten by all the
principals, who one by one urge our
now-handicapped protagonist to an-
swer that bell again. "I think we should
knock his block off!" asserts the sud-
denly amnesiac Mickey following a
particularly insulting press conference

and lies
himself, now the world must.revere him
as well. In the process of ego transition,
our hero sheds his everyman trappings
and regenerates into nothing less than
the cinematic equivalent of God-a
transmutation that could obviously ap-
ply to Stallone the writer/director/star
as well.
ALAS, STALLONE'S directional
abilities are far from godlike. While
Rocky I director John Avildsen's
visuals were unabashedly, swarthily
inventive, Stallone's are slick,
manipulative and dull. There's a pasty,
waxen quality to everything he shows
us, a lack of spontaneity every bit as
sterile as the original was lively. About
the only real excitement comes from
the film's climactic fight sequence, and
even here the apocalyptic final round is
so likea tag-team wrestling match that
you don't know whether to cheer or
laugh at what's happening in the ring.
Stallone pumps up a lot of self-
generated PR these days over his
commitment to "positive" films: "If I
have a mission, it is to create pictures
that make audiences feel good . . . I
don't want to leave a theatre feeling
worse than when I went in.. . I want to
be uplifted by entertainment."
For the record, I left Rocky II feeling
lousy and cheated. Anyone can push a
metaphoric button and make an
audience salivate on cue; the soporific
craftsman Arthur Hiller knows it, and
it's now obvious that, for all his
moral/intellectual posturing, Stallone
has learned the same lesson all too well.
"Not everybody gets corrupted,"
says Tracy at the end of Woody Allen's
Manhattan-but maybe almost
everybody. Sly, we hardly knew ye.
Join.
the
Arts
Page

THE CLIMACTIC title fight between Rocky (Sylvester Stallone) and the champ
(Carl Weathers) provides "Rocky II's" only genuine, unabashed excitement.

sneering compatriots until he
ultimately screws up his resolve, doffs
his retirement pledge and mop bucket
and climbs back in the ring for his
inevitable rematch with the champ.
As he fleshes out this predictable
rerun, Stallone takes the easy road at
every turn. His characters are not ex-
panded, they are reduced; they become
virtual wax caricatures of their original
selves. His proud protagonist,
originally a crude but deeply complex
and often bitter character, is
minimalized into a one-dimensional
Mr. Nice Guy-friend to the old, in-
spiration to the young (especially the
mob of urchins he leads Pied Piper-like
through the streets of Philadelphia in
an insufferably gratuitous reprise of
the Rocky I theme song). The same
ellipsis strikes down his manager,
Mickey (Burgess Meredith), who is
mellowed from . a rancorously
believable hard-nose into a fallaciously
lovable old salt. The independent-
leaning Adrian becomes the epitome of
loving, live-for-your-man womanhood,
while her brother Paulien(Burt Young)
is diluted from an erratic, frustrated

taunt by Creed. Even the pacifistic
Adrian sees the light: After making a
miracle recovery from a days-long
coma following childbirth, she shines
her lustrous brown eyes up at Rocky's
prayerful, tear-stained face and
bloodlustingly declares: "I have one
word for you: Win!"
And here lies the most important
philosophical dichotomy between
Rocky I and II. Simply going the route
with the champ was enough for the un-
tainted Rocky; to Creed's manager's
rematch query, he responded proudly:
"Don't want one!" Winning wasn't
everything-proving one's worth as a
human being was enough. In Rocky II
the standards have changed: Our hero
and his entourage no longer just want a
piece of the pie-they want it all. "Win"
is the determining gospel; it isn't suf-
ficient anymore for Rocky just to love

John Schlesmeer's

19

MIDNIGHT COWBOY
DUSTIN HOFFMAN, JON VOIGHT, BRENDA VACCARO, and SYLVIA MILES in
a powerful but sensitive treatment of the once taboed subject of male pros-
titution. It vividly captures the squalid Times Square atmosphere and the
unlikely friendship between a Texas stud and a tubercular, Manhattan-wise
waif. Screenplay by Wazdo Sazt ("Coming Home") from the novel by James -
Leo Herlihy.
Sunday Free Showing; Murnou's TABU (at 8:00)
Friday: Truffaut's STOLEN KISSES
CINEMA GUILD TONIGHT AT OLD ARCH AUD

The Ann Arber Film Cogperetnve Presents at MLB
SATURDAY, AUGUST 4
CARNAL KNOWLEDGE
(Mike Nichols, 1971) ' TA 10:20-MLR3
This compelling film examines two friends from their college days on. In a
blackly humorous screenplay by Jules Feiffer, Sandy (ART GARFUNKEL) and
Jonathan (JACK NICHOLSON) embark on a sod odyssey from sex-hungry
adolescents to sexually bewildered adults. Feiffer is painfully funny about
the bleak lies people tell themselves and one another about love. Perhaps
Nicholson's seediest role. With ANN-MARGARET.
-THE FORTUNE
(Mike Nichols, 1975) 840 only-ML3
Two ne'er-do-well Hollywood drifters of the 20's meet up with a zany heiress
and attempt to dun her out of her money. Starring WARREN BEATTY, JACK
NICHOLSON & STOCKARD CHANNING. "THE FORTUNE is a glittering con-
coction, its cachet glamorous, its execution talented, and its aspirations
adventurous."-Judith Crist.
Tuesdey FREE SHOWING OF TWO THRILLERS:
THE DAUGHTER OF DR. JEKYLL and the HONEYMOON KILLERS
WE SUPPORT PROJECTIONISTS LOCAL 395

1.0v 7.10V 'a 1..JV
7 T

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