“Rocky IV” was the first entry in the Rocky franchise to get truly trashed by critics, but the people loved it. Just look at all the stats. The YouTube highlights have millions of hits and so does the Spotify soundtrack. Yeah, it may be a propaganda film, but it is enjoyable because of that, not despite it.
You likely know the premise. Apollo Creed dies in the ring against Ivan Drago, an enormous, inhuman, and seemingly invincible Soviet boxer. “If he dies, he dies,” says the Russian behemoth, indifferent to Creed’s suffering. Outraged, Rocky drops everything, including his championship belt, and takes the fight to Drago. True, accusations of thin plotting are not unfounded.
Anyway, the fight is supposed to be the main event, but it is the training sequences that define this ridiculous popcorn crowd-pleaser. It begins with a thumping synth beat as Rocky and Drago wake up for a day’s training and their regimens are strikingly different. Drago works the climber machine, Rocky pulls a sled full of rocks; Drago smashes the incline treadmill, Rocky climbs a mountain; Drago is injected with steroids in a laboratory with no natural light by a team of glum managers; Rocky works surrounded by snow, fire, wood, and his friends. The message is clear, America is the force of humanity here.