Rocky fans were spoiled this month with the simultaneous release of the excellent Creed III and Rocky: The Knockout Collection, which presents the first four films — Rocky, Rocky II, Rocky III, Rocky IV, and Rocky IV Ultimate Director’s Cut: Rocky v Drago — in glorious 4K. Surprisingly, despite the dated production values, each picture packs quite the punch, visually speaking.
The original Rocky lacks the visual pizzazz of its big-budget sequels. Still, this new 1.85:1 2160p Dolby Vision transfer dramatically enhances the contrast and cleans up some of the film’s grainier moments. Really, this is probably the best you’re ever going to get with this release, so I’m not going to nitpick too much. For understandable reasons, Rocky is the least impressive of the four films in this set. Still, the grit and grime of the minuscule production serve the story well. At the same time, crucial moments, such as the climactic fight sequence between Rocky and Apollo Creed, really pop in detail. You can see every bit of sweat, blood, and grime dripping from our warriors. It’s damned impressive.
Rocky II is a step up from a visual standpoint. Where the original at times boasted the look and feel of a docudrama, Rocky II has all the marks of a big-budget motion picture. Scenes are lit better, the camera work is slightly more mature, and the fight sequences hit harder.
Still, the films that impressed me the most in 4K were Rocky III and Rocky IV, which look astonishing. Stallone, who directed, and cinematographer Bill Butler, really let loose with the vibrant colors and incredible lighting. Rocky IV looks like it was made yesterday. You can see every pour on Drago’s face during the final bout. The excellent DTS-HD MA 5.1 immerses viewers in the big, bloody battle, with noticeable separation across the various speakers. It helps to have one of the great 80s soundtracks backing you up.
Overall, this Rocky set should appease fans looking to view the original four classic films in the best quality possible. While it’s a shame Rocky V and Rocky Balboa weren’t included in this pack, along with better (or newer) special features, this is still a fine release. Plus, you get Rocky vs. Drago: The Ultimate Director’s Cut to boot. What’s not to love?
As ComingSoon’s review policy explains, a score of 5 equates to “Excellent.” Entertainment that reaches this level is at the top of its type. The gold standard that every creator aims to reach.
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