Rocky appears in an aspect ratio of approximately 1.85:1 on this 4K UHD Disc. The Dolby Vision image looked pretty positive.
Sharpness was mostly good. A little softness interfered, virtually all of which seemed to come from the source photography, so the majority of the flick came across as reasonably well-defined.
I noticed no jagged edges or shimmering, and edge haloes remained absent. With a nice layer of grain, the movie appeared to lack intrusive noise reduction, and print flaws remained minor, as I saw a handful of tiny specks and nothing more.
Colors were generally subdued – we got a gritty character drama, after all, and Philly isn't Miami – but they fit the film well. Hues appeared accurate and showed nice clarity, while HDR added a bit of pep and punch to the occasional brighter tones.
Black levels appeared fairly deep and dark, and shadow detail also was appropriately thick without any signs of murkiness. HDR gave whites and contrast extra heft. The low-budget Rocky will never offer a dazzling visual presentation, but this transfer brought it home well.
The DTS-HD MA 5.1 remix of the original monaural audio expanded the image in a modest but pleasing manner. Most of the sound focused on the front center channel, but effects spread nicely to the sides as well.
Probably the "showiest" instance happened early in the film when Rocky walked past some street singers and their voices panned from the center to the right. Other than that, it's mainly music - which boasted some very nice stereo separation - and ambiance on the sides.
The surrounds also included these factors. These never opened up the track in a dynamic sense, but they added a good feel for the settings, especially during fights, as those gave the mix a little involvement.
Quality seemed decent but unexceptional. Dialogue appeared vaguely flat for the most part, but it remained consistently intelligible and clear.
The one poor instance that involved speech occurred at about the 74-minute mark, when Rocky and Paulie talk in the meat locker. The dialogue sounded rough and edgy during that scene. This wasn't an issue at other times, though, and I strongly suspect the issues came from the source.
Effects were clean though thin, and the music sounded pleasantly crisp and distinct. Though the score largely lacked much low-end but it seemed adequately reproduced. The 5.1 mix stayed appropriately modest and worked nicely for the film.
Note that although the 4K claims to include the original monaural audio as well, Warner goofed and provided a down-mix of a stereo track instead. Presumably corrected discs will emerge at some point, but the product as released comes with the wrong mono track.
How did 4K UHD compare with the most recent 2014 Blu-ray of Rocky? Both came with identical 5.1 audio – though the 2014 disc included the correct mono track.
As for visuals, the Dolby Vision image offered a step up in terms of delineation, blacks and colors. I didn’t think this turned into a stunning upgrade but the 4K worked better than its prior Blu-ray.
When we move to extras, we find three separate audio commentaries, the first of which comes from writer/actor Sylvester Stallone. He offers a running, screen-specific chat that gets into characters and themes, sets and locations, the script and altered/deleted sequences, cast and performances, the boxing scenes, and various scene specifics.
Overall, Stallone provides a reasonably introspective and thoughtful look at the flick. His track comes short on filmmaking details and long on character insights.
These prove quite interesting to hear, and he throws in enough behind the scenes material to flesh out those elements. This ends up as an enjoyable and satisfying piece.
For the second commentary, we hear from boxing legends trainer Lou Duva and commentator Bert Sugar. Both sit together for their own running, screen-specific track.
They mostly joke around and razz each other. However, they do reflect on aspects of the movie as well as elements of their own lives and careers.
Don’t expect a great deal of depth or information. The good-natured ribbing between the pair dominates the track, and they even poke fun at the flick itself on occasion.
Some of the stories from their careers are fun, and the piece leaves a pleasant impression. It simply doesn’t have a lot of substance to it, as it remains entertaining but not much more.
Finally, the third track features director John G. Avildsen, actors Talia Shire, Burt Young and Carl Weathers, producers Irwin Winkler and Robert Chartoff, and steadicam operator/inventor Garrett Brown. Most of the speakers were recorded separately and the results were edited together for this commentary.
The commentary gives us a look at the project’s genesis and development before it digs into other issues. We hear about cast, characters and performances, sets and locations, budgetary challenges and accommodations, camerawork and cinematography, and general production issues.
We learn a lot of great details about the movie. A slew of production notes appear, and we also hear some great anecdotes about the making of the film. Ultimately, I thought this was an entertaining and compelling look at Rocky.
Note that the 4K drops a slew of extras from the 2014 Blu-ray linked above, as it only comes with commentaries. Some of the 2014 materials do appear on a “bonus disc” in this four-movie set, but it still drops some substantial components.
Rocky continues to hold up well after more than 45 years. The movie marks the creative high point of Sylvester Stallone’s career, and it offers a moving and inspirational look at a bum made good. The 4K UHD provides solid picture and audio along with some audio commentaries. Without question, this becomes the best home video presentation of Rocky to date, even if the set drops some bonus materials.
Note that at most retailers, this 4K UHD edition of Rocky comes only as part of the “Rocky Knockout Collection”. It also includes 4K discs for the movie’s initial three sequels.
However, Best Buy offers individual releases of all four movies as steelbooks, and these come with Blu-ray copies. Because I don’t have access to the Rocky steelbook, I don’t know which iteration of the Blu-ray accompanies the 4K.
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