FFPC9 - Rocky IV

Intro by Ben Harrison

War films can span a lot of different kinds of scenarios. Some are super-subjective, focused on the personal experiences of soldiers in the trenches. There are others that take the 30.000 foot view of the clash of civilizations. Then there are those, like today's film, that simulate the war in question through the medium of the sweet science.

Two pugilists in a boxing ring feels like a real tempting metaphor for the Cold War. In Ivan Drago, the Soviet military captain, we can see all of the ways that the USSR terrified America in 1985. He is huge, seemingly unflappable, technologically optimized, and oriented toward defeating us. Under Rocky we can project our own self-flattery. He is a self-made man who worked hard and pulled himself up by his bootstraps, riding his own grit and determination out of poverty and into aspirational luxury.

He has made friends with his previously conquered foe, Apollo Creed, he still keeps Paulie around, he loves his wife, but he just has to go to Russia and fight a bad guy and she just needs to be okay with that! Early in this very weird movie, after a lavishly produced exhibition match at the MGM Grand, complete with a James Brown musical-number, Rocky dedicates himself to seeking a very sportsman like revenge for the death of Apollo Creed who fought and was killed in the ring by Ivan Drago.

I am not going to map any of these events on to geopolitics and make some grand metaphor today because this is the third intro I have written this morning and I am just trying to get through it before I go on my winter vacation, but - needless to say - the stakes of the Rocky/Drago boxing match in Moscow feel as high as any conflict Russia and the US have had in any movie about the Cold War.

One of my favorite things I read in preparing for this episode is that the training montages in the film were such an inspiration to Michael Phelps and Ryan Lochte that they rented out their own weird cabin in a snow field so the two could train for the 2012 Olympics the way Rocky trains for his fight with Drago. Drago seems unstoppable, like a force of nature. He punches like a mule kicks and the death of Apollo Creed feels present throughout the rest of the film.

The Berlin Wall came down a little more than a week after my sixth birthday, so I don't remember what the Cold War was like aside from the fact that I was losing baby teeth left and right, but here is a pork chop movie that really cuts to the quick of how scary the Evil Empire felt to Americans of a certain political stripe.

"Maybe the only thing I can do is just take everything he has got? To beat me he is going to have to kill me, and to kill me he is going to have the heart to stand in front of me. To do that, he is going to be willing to die himself!" Today on Friendly Fire: Rocky IV

Unless otherwise stated, the content of this page is licensed under Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 3.0 License