On March 3rd, 2023, Adonis Creed (Michael B. Jordan) stepped into theaters with Creed III, the ninth film in the Rocky Universe. It’s a film that takes the character, the offspring of original Rocky (1976) character Apollo Creed (Carl Weathers), to the next logical step in his journey, from fighter, to father, to breaker of chains. To a degree, it’s a journey across three films (thus far) that mirrors the original six starring Sylvester Stallone as Rocky Balboa, the Italian Stallion from Philly. Though audiences can leap into the first two Creed stories relatively easily, in order to understand the emotional depth of these films (and they each do possess an emotional core that drives them), then you need to know the whole journey. Enter WB Home Entertainment with Rocky: The Knockout Collection that includes the first four Rocky films, including 2021’s Rocky vs. Drago: Ultimate Director’s Cut of Rocky IV, and many of the previously released special features all in one 4K UHD collection, available on shelves now.
Written by Stallone and directed by John G. Avildsen (The Karate Kid I – III), the first Rocky sees unknown boxer Rocky Balboa get a title shot against reigning champion Apollo Creed, a fight he loses despite going through great personal transformation. 1982’s Rocky II, the first of several directed by Stallone, follows the aftermath of that confrontation, leading to another bout with Creed that’s more about their respective lives and honor than it is seeing who takes home the belt. Now champion, Rocky III (1982) finds Rocky defending his title against another newcomer, Clubber Lang (Mr. T), a battle which pushes Rocky out of the comfort zone he’s found himself in. By Rocky IV (1985), Rocky is still the reigning heavyweight champion when a fighter from then-USSR, Drago (Dolph Lundgren), arrives in America. However, instead of Rocky fighting him, Apollo gets in the ring and is killed. This leads to an unsanctioned showdown between Drago and Rocky that started as revenge but turns into something more.
It makes a certain amount of sense to re-release the four films ahead of Creed III, especially for the first time in 4K UHD with HDR. These films mean a great deal to generations of audiences — those who saw them in theaters, those who watched them at home, and those who had these stories passed down to them. As Apollo’s son is set to go to war in the ring, allowing home viewing audiences a chance to catch up on the four films which have created the very circumstances which led to where the universe is now is smart. While the collection includes previously released special features, the fact that the first four films are remastered in 4K UHD with HDR is typically enough for hardcore fans or those who’ve sat on the fence about adding the films to their physical collection to pick up a copy. However, this collection *also* includes the first home release of Stallone’s director’s cut of Rocky IV, a version that was released in the U.S. for one-night only in November 2021 before being available on VOD and digital. So if you either couldn’t get to the theater to watch this passion project *or* you just prefer to have a copy not restricted to internet access, picking up the Knockout Collection is your chance to see Stallone’s full version of the film. (Do keep in mind that this was released after Creed I and II, so what occurs is not likely considered cannon.)
Don’t worry completionists, while there’s no mention of Rocky V (1990) or Rocky Balboa (2006) in the official WB Home Entertainment press release for The Knockout Collection, there’s still 2014’s Blu-ray Rocky: Heavyweight Collection available for purchase that does include all of the previously released Rocky-centric films. Additionally, for those who would prefer to have more control over which Rocky film they have in 4K UHD, it appears that Best Buy will be selling 4K UHD Blu-ray Combo solo steelbook editions of Rocky I – IV. So there are options.
A few things to be advised of if you haven’t yet snagged this:
The digital code is for Vudu and Vudu only. So if you use MoviesAnywhere or iTunes, you won’t have access to the digital copies unless you add that digital wallet to your collection of apps. I, personally, find Vudu less intuitive than MoviesAnywhere, plus I enjoy having the flexibility to use any of my Apple devices or browser to watch the digital versions of the films I own when physical isn’t an option (or it’s more convenient.) Being forced to use Vudu isn’t a dealbreaker, but it does often feel like an extra step, so if this sounds like you, be forewarned. Additionally the packaging and discs come with little fanfare. The slipcover is a simple cardboard cover that the slim five-disc case slides into horizontally. There are no liner notes, essays, or anything else to make the physical experience feel elevated, implying that the selling points of the collection are the 4K UHD with HDR discs, the Rocky vs. Drago cut, and included documentary on the making of the aforementioned director’s cut. To that end, the package feels a little underwhelming for what could be a celebration of these films, especially as it relates to where the current films are going.
As for the on-disc experience, the first Rocky includes three different audio commentary tracks and Rocky IV only offers the option of theatrical or director’s cut. There are no special features at all on the II and III discs. This isn’t too surprising as a lot of new 4K UHD discs don’t include bonus features, opting to use all of the storage for the film and using a Blu-ray (either with a film or without) to handle the special features load. This is the case with The Knockout Collection with nine different items to enjoy and explore. If, like me, you didn’t own any of the Rocky films prior to this, all of this will feel new and exciting to check out. However, if you’ve been picking up these films as they released on home video, there may be little about this that entices.
With Warner Brothers Studios celebrating 100 years of cinema, The Knockout Collection is slightly underwhelming. Yes, the opportunity to see the films in a brand-new way is great, but there’s no new audio mix, the packaging is minimal to the point of average, there’s a lack of bonus materials, and the on-disc features are available elsewhere. However, I maintain hope that this is but a first salvo and that perhaps they’re working on a larger collection that’ll either gather all six Rocky films together with a top-down remaster, if not something that includes the Creed films, too. When faced with adversity, it’s important to maintain the eye of the tiger as we wait for WB to set our hearts on fire in the future. For now, though, this is a good collection to get you in the mindset for the new addition, in theaters now.
The Knockout Collection Special Features:
- Audio commentary with Avildsen, Winkler & Chartoff, Talia Shire and Burt Young
- Audio commentary with Sylvester Stallone
- Audio commentary with Lou Duva and boxing commentator Burt Sugar
- Choose the theatrical or Rocky vs. Drago Ultimate Director’s Cut
Rocky I-IV Collection Bonus Features Blu-ray:
- “8mm Home Movies of Rocky” with commentary from director John G. Avildsen and pre-production supervisor Lloyd Kaufman
- 3 Rounds with Lou Duva
- Steadicam: Then and Now with Garrett Brown
- Make-Up! The Art and Form with Michael Westmore
- Staccato: A Composer’s Notebook with Bill Conti
- The Ring of Truth
- A Tribute to Burgess Meredith
- Stallone Meets Rocky
- The Making of Rocky vs. Drago: Keep Punching
Available on 4K UHD and digital in the Rocky: The Knockout Collection February 28th, 2023.
Available as individual films in a 4K UHD Blu-ray Combo March 7th, 2023.
For more information on the Rocky franchise, head to the official MGM Studios webpage.
Categories: Home Release, Home Video, Recommendation, Reviews, streaming
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