Montage Overload: The Insanity of Rocky IV

The day is approaching to give it your best
You’ve got to reach your prime!
That’s when you need to put yourself to the test
And show us the passage of time.
We’re gonna need a montage! (Montage!)
A sports training montage! (Montage!)


Rocky ended the Cold War, you know.

Rocky ended the Cold War, you know.

When it comes to awful ’80s movies, my guilty pleasure is, without a shadow of a doubt, Rocky IV. It’s such a trainwreck on so many levels, yet I still feel compelled to watch it again and again, drawn to its terribleness like a moth to a flame.

My previous post comparing MMA fighter Fedor Emelianenko to Ivan Drago has put me in somewhat of a Rocky mindset, so I’ve decided to finally tackle something about that movie that’s been bugging me for quite some time — just what is the ratio between actual narrative progression and montages / musical numbers in Rocky IV? I’ve always been aware of the unusually high number of montages in this flick, but the extent to which Stallone and the crew mailed it on this one has never been truly known — until now.

Montage #1: Exploding Gloves / The Rocky III Recap

Duration: 0:00 to 2:00 (2 minutes)
Song: Eye of the Tiger by Survivor

I know, I know. It’s not exactly a true Rocky montage in the tradition of showing the passage of time and whatnot — it’s just the final fight scene from Rocky III with Eye of the Tiger playing over top of the action, with the occasional cut to Soviet and American boxing gloves that rotate, slam into each other, and explode for some bizarre reason. Still, it’s a pretty bad omen — the damn movie hasn’t even started yet and Stallone is already scouring the archives in order to kill time.

Well, it does encapsulate the entire movie fairly accurately.

Well, it does encapsulate the entire movie fairly accurately.

Montage #2: Apollo Creed and James Brown Get Funky

Duration: 23:15 to 26:05 (2 minutes and 50 seconds)
Song: Living in America by James Brown

Okay, so once again this isn’t a Rocky montage in the truest sense of the word. Still, it’s a three minute musical number that serves no other purpose but to have James Brown appear in the movie, so that’s good enough for me. Maybe if Apollo Creed hadn’t wasted so much energy dancing with The Godfather of Soul, he might still be alive today. On a related note, “The Count of Monte Fisto” is such an awesome nickname for a fighter.

"The Count of Monte Fisto" makes another spectacular entrance.

"The Count of Monte Fisto" makes another spectacular entrance.

Montage #3: Rocky’s Car / The Rocky, Rocky II, and Rocky III Recap

Duration: 41:20 — 45:45 (4 minutes and 25 seconds)
Song: No Easy Way Out by Robert Tepper

Apollo’s dead, Adrian’s pissed, and Rocky’s about to leave for Russia to fight Drago. Great, now that we have all that pesky plot out of the way, it’s time to strap in and take the express lane to Montage City, because we have just passed the point of no friggin’ return. In what is perhaps the greatest montage in the history of montages, Rocky starts his car, drives around at night, and reflects back on better times with Apollo and Adrian (by showing several clips from all three Rocky movie up to this point, of course). The film studies bullshit artist inside me could interpret this as Rocky seeing his life flash before eyes, knowing that he faces certain death at the hands of Ivan Drago. The realist inside me, however, would simply call this extremely lazy filmmaking on Stallone’s part.

The greatest montage sequence ever? Quite possibly.

The greatest montage sequence ever? Quite possibly.

Montage #4: Rocky Arrives in Russia

Duration: 48:25 — 51:05 (2 minutes and 40 seconds)
Song: Burning Heart by Survivor

Less than three minutes after the previous montage, we’re back at it once again. I mean, who needs dialogue when you’ve got the dulcet sounds of Survivor, am I right? This time, Rocky’s plane touches down in Russia, a bunch of snow-covered Commies look in his general direction, and he’s escorted to his cabin in the middle of nowhere. I always get a kick out of the guy pictured below who gives Rocky a subtle nod, as if to say “‘Sup, dawg?”, as he steps off the plane. Hey, in a rather uneventful montage, you really gotta step back and appreciate the little things.

Welcome to Russia, bitch.

Welcome to Russia, bitch.

Montage #5: Training Montage, Part I

Duration: 55:00 — 58:40 (3 minutes and 40 seconds)
Song: Training Montage by Vince DiCola

Less than four minutes later (which was mostly spent by Rocky’s trainer, Duke (aka, the black Mickey), telling Rocky that “he knows what he needs to do”), it’s time to get down to brass tacks and give the audience what they’ve been waiting so patiently for — the training montage!  Rocky, despite being heavyweight champion with unparallelled access to the latest training equipment and world-class sparring partners, decides to borrow from Fedor Emelianenko’s training program of cutting down trees, lifting rocks, and carrying logs over his shoulder prior to a big fight. Meanwhile, Drago (the cold, heartless Commie bastard that he is), uses science. Boo! Hiss! Down with modern athletics!

Okay, we get it. He's a Commie. But does he really have to train under harsh red lights?

Okay, we get it. He's a Commie. But does he really have to train under harsh red lights?

Montage #6: Training Montage, Part II

Duration: 59:55 — 1:04:10 (4 minutes and 15 seconds)
Song: Hearts on Fire by John Cafferty

Ivan Drago is a pretty bad dude … did you really think that a single training montage would be enough time for Rocky to get in shape to face the man nicknamed “Death From Above”? Hell no! Stallone refuses to take his foot off the gas pedal, bombarding us with a second epic training montage a mere 75 seconds after the first one wrapped up. Sure, it shows pretty much the exact same stuff as the previous montage, except this time Rocky has grown a badass beard, outruns a car, and climbs a fucking mountain.

Sorry, gonna have to call bullshit on this one.

Sorry, gonna have to call bullshit on this one.

For those keeping score at home, Stallone had the balls to include nearly nine straight minutes of training montage in Rocky IV, with the only break in the action being a minute of Adrian and Rocky talking outside of their cabin. It’s almost as if he knew that the movie would bring in a truckload of money no matter what, so why should he even bother with dumb things like character and story development? Been there, got the Oscar for it, so it’s time to make nothing but montages from here on out! Still, when the montages he gives us are of such awesome quality, who am I to complain?

I've seen videos of Fedor doing this. Seriously.

I've seen videos of Fedor doing this. Seriously.

Montage #7: The Final Battle

Duration: 1:15:50 — 1:20:25 (4 minutes and 35 seconds)
Song: War by Vince DiCola

While an amazing 10 whole minutes have passed since the last montage, don’t worry, nothing of substance has actually happened — those 10 minutes consisted solely of entrances, ring introductions, and the first two rounds of the fight between Rocky and Drago. Of course, even Stallone knows that he can’t show an entire 15-round boxing match, so you know what that means … it’s time for the fight montage! Both men absolutely destroy each other with a plethora of power shots, and I’m pretty sure Rocky actually loses the fight at one point, but I guess the Soviet system doesn’t use the three knockdown TKO rule. Their loss (literally).

When one montage isn't enough ... it's time for a split-screen montage!

When one montage isn't enough ... it's time for a split-screen montage!

As far as fight montages go, this one is probably my favourite in the entire Rocky series. According to IMDB, Stallone and Dolph Lundgren were actually hitting each other in order to make the footage look more real. Naturally, Stallone ended up in the hospital after taking too many body shots from the Siberian Bull. He wasn’t lying when he said he must break you! All in all, the music is great, the action looks decent, there’s a Gorbachev lookalike watching the fight, and even the bearded dude from the airport is in the crowd to check in on his homeboy. Awesome.

Get that water outta my face, sucka!

Get that water outta my face, sucka!

Montage #8: Victory / End Credits / The Rocky IV Recap

Duration: 1:26:35 — 1:31:20 (4 minutes and 45 seconds)
Song: Hearts on Fire by John Cafferty

The movie started with a montage recapping the previous film, so it’s only fitting that Rocky IV concludes with a montage recapping the previous film — that film being Rocky IV, of course. After Rocky Balboa singlehandedly ends the Cold War with his stirring speech (“If I can change, and you can change … everybody can change!”), the song Hearts on Fire kicks in once more. We see a few scenes of Rocky, draped in the American flag, celebrating his victory, and then the credits begin to scroll — overtop of rapid-fire, black and white still photos from every scene in the movie. Wait, what?

Come on, hardly anything actually happened during the past 90 minutes — do we really need to see it all over again in condensed format? Perhaps Stallone thought that the audience would be so emotionally drained after Rocky’s upset victory (and the fact that he just brought down the Berlin Wall all by himself) that they would be unable to remember anything that happened prior to the climactic showdown. And if this is the case, Stallone would be wrong. Horribly, horribly wrong.

That being said, it’s better than plain ol’ credits over the black void of nothingness.

A montage about the movie we just watched? Drago's "WTF?" face expresses my opinion quite nicely.

A montage to recap the movie we just watched? Drago's "WTF?" look says it all.

TOTAL MONTAGE TIME: 29 minutes and 10 seconds

TOTAL MOVIE RUNNING TIME: 91 minutes and 20 seconds

PERCENTAGE OF ROCKY IV THAT IS MONTAGE: 31.9%

That’s right. Nearly one-third of the entire movie is montage / musical numbers. The numbers are even worse if you look at just the last 50 minutes of the movie (aka, the point in the movie where Stallone said “screw it, this movie stuff is too hard”). Starting from the No Easy Way Out sequence, there is a total of 24 minutes and 20 seconds of montage — which means that during the second half of the movie, Rocky IV is approximately 50% montage. Absolutely incredible.

Going back to the movie as a whole, we now know that one-third of the total running time is devoted to montage. Another third is taken up solely by the two boxing matches, which means that only one-third of Rocky IV actually involves the characters doing things other than training or fighting. And to top it all off, most of those scenes feature that friggin’ robot, which means they might as well not even exist since the robot was so mind-shatteringly retarded. Seriously, what the hell was the point of that thing? Damn you, ’80s!

Stallone, you insane bastard. How you managed to get away with this, we’ll never know. But I’m sure glad you did, because Rocky IV is, despite its flaws, nothing short of awesome.

This image was taken from a boxing movie. True story.

This image was taken from a boxing movie. True story.

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Virtual Sports Illustrated News Update, Vol. 2

Today’s top stories from the world of virtual sports:

NBA IN MOURNING AFTER TRAGIC DEATH OF SHAWN KEMP

The NBA and its fans are still in shock following yesterday’s sudden death of Seattle Supersonics power forward Shawn Kemp. During the third quarter of last night’s game versus Atlanta, Kemp spontaneously combusted in a ball of flames, writhing in agony on the court as the blaze engulfed his entire body. Paramedics at the scene extinguished the fire and attempted to resuscitate the fallen superstar, but his injuries were too severe. Kemp was pronounced dead en route to hospital.

RIP Shawn Kemp: 1969 - 1994

RIP Shawn Kemp: 1969 - 1994

Sources from inside the Seattle locker room claim that Kemp had spoken to trainers during halftime with complaints that he was “heating up”. It has been reported that the trainers brushed him off, however, believing that the “Reign Man” was instead referring to the elevated stature of his game that night, having registered an incredible 42 points at the half.

Understandably, Kemp’s teammates are devastated by the sudden passing of the team’s franchise player. “I still can’t believe he’s gone,” said a teary-eyed Detlef Schrempf. “I mean, he was playing so well. You always hear about a player being ‘on fire’, but I never thought in my wildest dreams that it could, you know, actually happen. I can’t even put into words how I feel at the moment.”

NBA Commissioner David Stern issued the following statement: “The National Basketball Association expresses its deepest condolences to the entire Kemp family, both legitimate and illegitimate. This is a very sad day for the remaining basketball fans across this great country. Please, MJ, with Kemp out of the picture we need you back more than ever. Come on, we both know this baseball thing isn’t gonna work out. Just come back home. Daddy needs you.”

DOPING SCANDAL ROCKS KARTING WORLD

Racing fans across the world were stunned by the news that fan favourite kart racer Yoshi has tested positive for illegal performance-enhancing steroids. As a result of the positive test, Yoshi will forfeit all points earned during this season’s Mario Kart Grand Prix and will be suspended for the entirety of next season. Yoshi had been in second place in the overall GP standings with 24 points, just behind Luigi, who had 36 points.

Alleged doper and disgrace to kart racing.

Alleged doper and disgrace to kart racing.

Mario Kart officials first became suspicious of Yoshi’s conduct following a string of unbelievable second place finishes, including last month’s race on Koopa Beach. At the time, the entire racing community was buzzing about its incredible finish, which saw Yoshi knocked into the last place with only a half-lap to go courtesy of a well-placed Luigi green shell, only to storm back and finish in second place — just milliseconds behind the winner, Luigi.

“I think we all knew, in the back of our minds, that something wasn’t right about the way Yoshi performed on the track”, said fellow kart racer Toad. “You always heard rumours of the rubber bands in his engine, but in the end, I guess his skills were too good to be true, I suppose.”

Others were less forgiving, including his chief rival, Luigi. “Yoshi is a dope fiend and should be banished from this great sport,” he said.

While Yoshi himself declined to comment, his representative issued the following statement on his behalf: “Yoshi! Yoshi yoshi yoshi! Bowowowowow! Yoshi! Brrrrrap! Dum dum dum dum. Yoshi!”

GRETZKY SETS NHL SCORING RECORD AS KINGS BURY HABS

It was a night to remember for #99, as “The Great One” scored 38 goals during the last night’s 61 – 0 romp over the Montreal Canadiens. The Kings got to Patrick Roy early and often, seemingly scoring at will against one of the league’s best netminders.

Los Angeles ran up the score by continuously lobbing the puck on goal from the middle of the ice just outside the Montreal blue line. Time and time again, the puck would sail in a perfect arc up and over Roy, who just stood there at the lip of the crease, seemingly frozen by the ridiculousness of the half-shot / half-dump.

“I don’t know what happened. I just can’t explain it,” said Roy following the game. “Maybe the lights got in my eyes or something. Yeah, that’s it. The lights.”

Patrick Roy fishes yet another puck out of the net.

Patrick Roy fishes yet another puck out of the net.

Montreal coach Jacques Demers took some of the blame for the loss. “I should have recognized the situation and made adjustments on the fly,” he said. “Unfortunately, there was no option in the pause menu to configure my defensive strategy, so really, I was powerless to do anything to affect the outcome of the game.”

BOXING MATCH CANCELLED DUE TO UNRULY FANS

Irate boxing fans are asking for their money back after veteran WVBA referee Mario Mario called off yesterday’s main event at the Iowa State Fair between Glass Joe and Don Flamenco halfway through the second round.

Is Don Flamenco more concerned about his hair than his career?

Is Don Flamenco more concerned about his hair than his career?

The two boxers, both looking to avoid a loss that would send them tumbling down the WVBA rankings, both employed an extremely defensive strategy for the fight — in fact, the first punch wasn’t thrown until approximately 40 seconds into the opening round. Flamenco spent the majority of the round taunting his opponent and asking to be hit, while Glass Joe simply stood his ground, perhaps mesmerized by Flamenco’s world-famous hair. What punches were thrown during the first round were nothing but weak hooks and were few and far between, prompting the fans to boo the two pugilists mercilessly.

When the lack of action spilled into the second round, the fans soon started throwing debris into the ring. With the canvas littered with pop bottles and popcorn bags, Mario had no choice but to call the fight.

“It was-a for the safety of the fighters,” said Mario. “The fans, they were going-a crazy. They wanted blood.”

When reached for comment about the fight, Flamenco simply said: “People like my hair. Don’t mess my hair!”

WVBA officials have not yet decided if the fight will be rescheduled for a later date.

Punch-Out: The Rise and Fall of the World Video Boxing Association

There once was a time when boxing was considered the sport of kings … the sweet science … the merry art of fisticuffery. To the disappointment of many, that time has long since passed, as boxing has been marred for several years by shady promoters, criminal pugilists, and downright boring fights.

If you want to pinpoint the exact moment of boxing’s decline, you’d have to start with the arrival of an upstart organization known as the World Video Boxing Association (WVBA) — because that’s when everything started going to hell.

There’s nothing wrong with a new league trying to establish itself in the market and competing with the bigs. In fact, the more professional organizations, the more opportunities there are to make a living in combat sports. A win-win situation for everybody, right? Unfortunately, the WVBA made a complete and utter mockery of the sport of boxing, to the point where it still hasn’t — and probably never will — recover.

Are you a hopeless drunk? Welcome to the WVBA!

Can't stop drinking? Then you've got what it takes to be a contender!

The Early Years

The problem started with the types of boxers that the WVBA attracted to its organization. The promoters didn’t try to emulate the WHA of the 1970s, which successfully picked off numerous NHL superstars with insane contract offers. No, the WVBA pinched its pennies by hiring a bunch of scrubs and tomato cans from around the globe — the cast-away boxers that either couldn’t draw in the bigs or simply couldn’t fight their way out of a paper bag.

I'm pretty sure disappearing isn't allowed by the Athletic Commission.

I'm pretty sure that disappearing is against the Commission's rules.

It didn’t matter if you were grossly overweight, had a raging substance abuse problem, a history of concussions, a 99-fight losing streak, or were a comically insensitive racial stereotype — the WVBA hired you on the spot. Indeed, with sad-sacks such as Glass Joe, Von Kaiser, and Don Flamenco filling out its roster, in addition to rampant allegations of cheating by fighters such as Great Tiger (all of which were conveniently ignored by league officials), the WVBA was home to the most pathetic collection of professional boxers in recent memory.

The only reason the league was even able to scrape out a niche for itself was the explosive brutality of its champion, Mike Tyson. This man was a killer, a heavyweight boxer with knock-out power second to none. And when this man was shockingly upset by a scrawny kid in a pink tracksuit by the name of Little Mac, the WVBA promoters collectively shit their trousers, as they had lost their one and only meal ticket. Without Tyson, they had no star attraction — after all, who in their right mind would want to pay to see jerks like Piston Honda and King Hippo fight for a shot of Little Mac’s title? Nobody, that’s who.

The precise moment when boxing was ruined forever.

The precise moment when boxing was ruined forever.

The Next Generation — “Boxing’s Greatest Sideshow”

With attendance plummeting and the organization leaking money, the promoters had to figure out some way to put more butts in the seats. And so, in the mid 1990s, the WVBA dropped any notion of professionalism and opened its doors to any chump who knew somebody with a pair of boxing gloves. Lumberjacks? Clowns? Lucha libre wrestlers? Actors? Old geezers? Welcome to the WVBA!

To accommodate these less-than-stellar athletes, it no longer mattered if you actually knew how to box. In fact, the boxing rulebook was tossed out completely, with fighters actively encouraged to use headbutts, flying kicks, wooden sticks, juggling balls, and a variety of other weapons and illegal tactics. Boxing purists were outraged, but the fans absolutely loved it. The WVBA was back in business!

The new generation of WVBA "boxers".

The new wave of WVBA "boxers".

The WVBA’s new business model was to put on the craziest, zaniest, most extreme boxing show on the planet. Even though boxing insiders and sports commentators deemed it a “laughing stock”, the revitalized WVBA routinely sold out arenas across the country, as everybody wanted to know what sort of freak show would step inside the ring on any given night. As a result, the league’s promoters often found themselves sleeping on top of a pile of money with many beautiful ladies.

All natural, baby.

All natural, baby.

But it wouldn’t last forever.

Fresh off of its crackdown of Vince McMahon and the WWF, the United States government came down hard on the World Video Boxing Association — not for match-fixing, gambling, or even its profane mockery of the once-great sport, but for its unchecked steroid usage. The evidence was quite damning — just one look at top attractions such as the Bruiser Bros. or Super Machoman and you could practically see the bull shark testosterone and HGH oozing from their pores.

Even the league’s champion and all-around good guy Little Mac had been on the juice, directly supplied to him by WVBA officials. Indeed, millions of children wept openly as their hero confessed to his years of steroid abuse in a federal courthouse. Boxing’s one true shining light — the one-in-a-million shot from Brooklyn, the kid with a heart of gold and determination of a lion — had been extinguished.

Before and After. Note the roid-rage induced glint of insanity in his eyes.

Note the roid-rage glint of insanity in the eyes of the "After" shot.

Devastated by the scandal and financially ruined by tremendous legal fees, the WVBA was forced to shut its doors in the late 1990s. By then, however, the damage was irreparable. Boxing was now seen in the eyes of the public as a fraud and a joke (a froke, perhaps), no longer worthy of its time or attention.

As the years went by, the WVBA became an afterthought in the world of combat sports, remembered only be a few lonely souls on the Internet basking in the nostalgia of larger-than-life characters like Bear Hugger and Mad Clown.

That is, until recently …

The Revival

Over the past few weeks, rumours have been swirling like crazy that the WVBA is being resurrected by an unknown group of foreign investors. If this is true, all sorts of questions need to be answered.

First, what sort of fighters will we see in the revived World Video Boxing Association — the broken down has-beens of the early years, or the cartoon characters of the mid-90s? Is the public ready to forgive Little Mac, who has reportedly pledged his support to the new WVBA? What is the target market that the promoters are going after? And finally, can a revitalized WVBA bring boxing back to the top of the sporting landscape?

Little Mac and Glass Joe fight again.

Can Little Mac reclaim his lost glory and bring the WVBA back into the spotlight?

Time will tell, friends. Time will tell.