Rocky IV (1985, Sylvester Stallone), the director’s cut

Sylvester Stallone’s director’s cut of Rocky IV arrives four sequels and thirty-five years after the film’s original release. Stallone says it’s for the thirty-fifth anniversary; Robert Doornick (who voiced Burt Young’s robot in the original cut and owns the copyright on the robot) says it’s because Stallone didn’t want to renew with him and had to cut out all the robot scenes.

So, if “Rocky vs. Drago” replaces the original cut in streaming services… we’ll find out.

There are some other changes to the movie besides the goofy robot being gone, like a trimmed-down version of Rocky III tacked onto the beginning. It’s weird because it goes on way too long and isn’t a good encapsulation of the film–it also emphasizes Stallone’s relationship with Carl Weathers to enlarge their relationship in the Rocky IV footage. Only there’s no actual echoing between the two. Because Stallone doesn’t change Rocky IV’s story or its beats, he just excises a few of them. He doesn’t do anything to fix the problems, which are obviously insurmountable because it’s fairly terrible.

Stallone’s writing, direction, John W. Wheeler, and Don Zimmerman’s editing are all quite bad. There’s no new editor credited with the Rocky vs. Drago cuts, but whoever did Final Cut Proing or Adobe Premiering doesn’t have much in the way of timing. Though, since this version comes after Creed II, which is a sequel to this film, bringing back Dolph Lundgren decades later, you could almost read something into how Lundgren’s cut to see if it implies character development. Only it doesn’t. And Rocky vs. Drago isn’t like cut to tie into Creed II. Stallone’s just cobbling something together here—does anyone believe he didn’t have the full director’s cut of the original in 1985, with that craptacular “We Can All Change” speech to the Soviet people, who embrace Rocky over Gorby? So why not tie into Rocky V. Nothing would be better than seeing all the stupid patriotism end with Stallone brain-damaged. It’d explain his final speech.

The movie also misses out on soundtrack revising, which… I mean, why not. Something to juice it up.

Also, that last fight is poorly done, especially after seeing Stallone learn how to direct action in the intervening decades since he shot this film. It’s not exactly any more embarrassing than the original Rocky IV, but it’s definitely pointless.

Especially since it’s all about Stallone, Weathers, and Lundgren all basically just being toxically masculine narcissists. It might be a little different for Stallone and Lundgren—because Weather’s hubris literally gets him killed, which doesn’t not have a racial component to it. Like, Weather is openly Black here. Bad dad. Stallone’s a bad dad too. Stallone made movies about these guys being bad dads. It’s such a weak revisit.

Maybe I’m just embarrassed I thought it might be any different, like Stallone might’ve actually tried. Because even with the miserable mise-en-scène of Rocky IV, there are obvious places you could just cut it better if you had access to the footage.

Finally, because I can’t any more with the rest of it, does Talia Shire come off as miserable in the original version? Like she’s raising a son and then tending a douchebag husband? Not to mention Young.

Oh, okay, this bit is the last—Young. Stallone stops playing him for laughs but keeps the pratfalls, which just makes him seem like a despondent drunk the whole time.

So fingers crossed Doornick’s for real, and they pull the original, robotic Rocky IV and only Rocky vs. Drago remains. It’s a futile gesture of egomania from Stallone, which, coincidentally, describes the film in either cut.

Rocky IV’s awful.

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