Rocky IV appears in an aspect ratio of approximately 1.85:1 on this 4K UHD Disc. Though never a great presentation, the transfer was more than acceptable.
Sharpness was generally good. Some scenes came across as a bit soft, partially related to the heavy usage of smoke effects during some scenes.
Nonetheless, general definition remained positive. When allowed to demonstrate strong delineation, the image shined.
No issues with jagged edges, shimmering or edge haloes occurred. Heavy grain implied no issues with noise reduction, and outside of a few small specks, print flaws failed to appear.
Colors seemed good. The film offered some nice patriotic hues with frequent use of solid reds and blues, and these appeared clear and acceptably vivid, though the murkiness often evident affected them. HDR gave the tones a boost in effectiveness.
Black levels were positive, as dark tones seemed fairly deep and rich. Shadow detail usually came across as appropriately heavy and concise, but again, those oppressive smoke effects brought on some problems on a few occasions.
HDR brought greater emphasis on whites and contrast. Rocky IV provided a positive picture that nudged into “B” territory.
Note that a glitch occurred at the 10:17 mark, so for nine seconds, the 1.85:1 ratio shifted to 1.78:1. While sloppy, I don’t think this became a significant distraction.
I also felt the film’s DTS-HD MA 5.1 soundtrack seemed more than adequate. The track remained fairly anchored to the forward channels, where I heard good usage of the spectrum. Audio appeared to be fairly well localized across the three speakers, and sounds blended together neatly.
The soundfield presented enough ambient audio on the sides to make it fairly involving. Surround usage seemed limited to general crowd noise and musical reinforcement, but that felt fine given the movie’s era.
Audio quality also felt dated but adequate. Dialogue seemed a little flat but seemed fairly clear and natural, with no problems related to edginess or intelligibility.
The cheesy synthesizer score provided decent clarity, though it focused mostly on mid-range material, so don’t expect a lot of power. That went for the pop/rock songs we found as well.
Effects were a little more problematic, but I think most of those concerns came from poor foley work and weren’t related to replication issues. The various elements seemed thin but relatively clear for the most part. Despite some weak links, as a whole the soundtrack of Rocky IV was fairly good, and it seemed satisfactory for its age.
How did the 4K UHD compare to the Blu-ray version? Audio seemed similar, and probably identical.
The 4K’s visuals boasted the usual improvements, as colors, delineation and blacks also worked better. The nature of the source meant the movie failed to impress, but the 4K turned into the stronger rendition of the film.
In addition to the movie’s theatrical version (1:31:30), we get Rocky vs. Drago: Ultimate Director’s Cut (1:33:52). Those running times imply that Sylvester Stallone simply added another 142 seconds of footage to the original film.
However, Stallone made much more substantial changes than that, as he added plenty of new material, dropped scenes, and altered others.
These variations became apparent from literally the start. Whereas the theatrical version offered a three-minute, 30-second recap of Rocky III, Drago used different shots and expanded the flashback o seven minutes.
From there the film leapt straight to Apollo’s home and his introduction to Drago. This meant we lost Paulie’s birthday party and the Rocky/Adrian early anniversary celebration.
Instead Drago allowed more from Adrian, as she expressed her concerns about future fights. We also got an alternate version of how Rocky and Apollo discussed potential bouts with Drago.
I’ll save additional alterations to leave surprises to new viewers. I went into some detail to demonstrate how much Drago differs from the theatrical version, as all those changes popped up merely in the movie’s initial 15 minutes.
So expect a lot more reworking during the remaining 79 minutes. Though not a radical redo of the original, Drago offers more than superficial changes.
Okay, I’ll mention one interesting change. In the theatrical version, Apollo’s trainer Duke repeatedly tells Rocky to throw in the towel, but this happens only once in Drago.
I think Stallone did so to make Rocky look less negligent – though he also adds dialogue to make Rocky seem more distraught about his role in Apollo’s death. The Apollo fight also gives Drago more to say after his victory, and in an unusual choice, he seems less heartless now.
The big question becomes whether or not Drago works better than the theatrical cut. I would argue it does, though I can’t claim Stallone makes it an actual good movie.
Drago does feel better focused on characters and story. The loss of the family scenes works because those come across as cheesy and superfluous, whereas much of the added footage helps drive the main narrative.
As implied a little earlier, this version also allows Drago to seem less like a robotic monster. I suspect some of this exists to connect the 1985 Drago to the kinder/gentler character in Creed II.
Whatever the reason, I like the more human Drago. The 1985 cut makes him seem like a complete cartoon, so these mild attempts to give him more dimensionality benefit the film.
Duke also gets an expansion here, as Drago allows more screen-time and development. Perhaps out of spite toward his ex-wife, though, Brigitte Nielsen’s Ludmilla finds her appearances cut to the bone.
Also: RIP Paulie’s robotic assistant. That device finds itself totally removed from Drago.
If you love all the musical montages, though, rejoice! They appear to remain intact.
Which means Drago can only improve on the original in a limited manner. Those “music video” scenes become so tedious that they needed to be radically altered to make those parts of the film work better.
Still, I do prefer Drago to the theatrical Rocky IV by a modest margin. While it doesn’t fix the original edition’s problems, it removes enough of them to make it fare better.
Viewers should anticipate a very different looking image from Drago, mainly because this presentation came with lots of noise reduction techniques absent from the 1985 image. What grain I saw tended to look “frozen”.
General processing removed most grain, though, and that gave the movie a too-smooth and artificial vibe much of the time. Some shots looked fine but many others felt mushy and vague.
To my surprise, Drago offered many more print defects than did the 1985 version. I assumed this 2021 scan would clean up the source, but a few dozen or so specks manifested through the film.
Colors tended to seem pretty good, and note that the “Rocky driving and thinking about the past” montage made the flashback shots black and white. Blacks and contrast also worked well.
Nonetheless, I wasn’t happy with the way Drago used noise reduction. The original came with so much grain that its removal inevitably made the new version look wrong.
Note that Drago cropped the original 1.85:1 down to 2.39:1. Why? I guess because people now view 2.39:1 as more “cinematic” than we did in 1985.
This left shots as tighter than in the past. No extreme issues manifested due to the cropping, though.
The DTS-HD MA 5.1 track for Drago became a more aggressive mix, especially in terms of quality. The new version went much more bass-heavy, which felt like a blessing and a curse.
On the positive side, the 1985 film’s 5.1 could sound anemic. On the other, Drago went a little too low-end happy, and the overactive subwoofer could become a distraction.
Drago also emphasized various effects to a greater extreme. Punches became even more exaggerated than in the old mix.
Still, audio quality was generally fine, though dialogue occasionally sounded awkward. Some looped lines came with an odd echo and they didn’t match the film well.
As for soundscape, it expanded the original in a moderate manner. The surrounds received greater use and the track became a bit more involving.
Whereas I clearly prefer the 1985 image, I think it’s a wash between the two soundtracks. While the audio of Drago could seem too exaggerate and artificial, it also became more engaging and dynamic.
Other than the Drago cut, the 4K includes no extras.
Rocky IV offers the least substantial of the series, but that does not mean it becomes the worst of the bunch. Although it feels excessively thin and flashy, it provides some moments of general entertainment. The 4K UHD provided generally good picture and sound as well as an alternate cut of the film. This will never be a good movie, but the 4K presents it well, and I like the new edit of the film more than the original.
Note that at most retailers, this 4K UHD edition of Rocky IV comes only as part of the “Rocky Knockout Collection”. It also includes 4K discs for the first flick and the movie’s other two sequels.
However, Best Buy offers individual releases of all four movies as steelbooks, and these come with Blu-ray copies. In terms of pursestrings, the “Knockout Collection” becomes the most affordable way to get all four films, as it goes for $60 MSRP, whereas each Best Buy steelbook sets you back $30. If you only want one or two of the flicks, though, the steelbooks might satisfy.
To rate this film visit the DVD review of ROCKY IV