Saturday, December 25, 2021

Rocky Redux: An In-Depth Comparison Between Rocky IV (1985) & Rocky vs. Drago (2021)

"If you could go back and re-cut your film, I guarantee you you would approach it with a sensitivity and a wisdom and a confidence; you'd go, "Ah, why didn't I see that before?"--Sylvester Stallone on making ROCKY VS. DRAGO.
Sylvester Stallone went back to the editing room to trim up and shave down his original version of ROCKY IV (1985). The biggest moneymaker of the series, the flashiness, the music video vibe, the dramatic moments balanced with humor, have all been drastically altered or outright removed in a strange new cut that plays entirely seriously. This is an article that takes a look at the differences, the alterations, and additions, director Sylvester Stallone did to one of the best action-dramas of the 1980s; from one of the greatest franchises of all time.
ROCKY IV: ROCKY VS. DRAGO (2021) is essentially an entirely new movie. Almost every frame, every scene, is an alternate take or has some additional shots or excisions. One radical change that's immediately apparent is Stallone has stretched the film out from its original aspect ratio of 1.85:1 to 2.35:1. This wrecks havoc with so many scenes, severing tops of people's heads; managing to make shots seem cramped when they didn't before.
With a running time of 93 minutes (two more than the theatrical release), that's about the only similarity shared between the two versions. The original was chock-a-block with everything big in the 1980s: larger than life heroes and villains; a thick air of MTV-style sensibility; and a perfect balance of humor and drama capped by a feel-good ending that one-ups the still-powerfully dramatic finales of the previous two installments. 
ROCKY IV was loaded with edits congruent with the film's fast pace. The RE-CUT relies more on longer sequences with fewer edits. The tone is vastly different as well. Eliminating nearly every moment of humor (all scenes involving the robot have been removed), the mood is of a much more serious nature. However, the re-cut does feature one humorous scene that wasn't in the theatrical release at all. 
Nearly all dialog delivered by Brigitte Nielsen has been edited out. In the original movie, all the Russians were depicted as villains. In the new cut, Drago is humanized to the point it's clear he and (to a lesser degree) his wife are pawns for the Soviet government. Michael Pataki's Nicoli Koloff is given much more dialog and is portrayed as the real villain representing the Iron Curtain. This new take on Ivan Drago was possibly done to bridge itself with the CREED films; reducing him from the Red Machine of the 1985 movie to a big man manipulated by a Communist regime. 

"The other ones were a little bit more realistic, a little bit more grounded in the streets of Philadelphia. I thought money had transported him into a different phase. He's lost his grip on the streets. He has a robot, he has cars, he has money... what I'm missing here is what's at stake, the soul. I missed it the first time around."--Stallone on making ROCKY VS. DRAGO.
In this new cut, it's mostly a story revolving around Rocky, Apollo, and Drago, with little of anything else. Not too dissimilar from a Chang Cheh bloody heroism epic, the re-cut is thick with the theme of brotherhood among men; a warriors code that foregoes familial responsibilities, while placing pride and even revenge at the forefront. The filmic essence of ROCKY VS. DRAGO is the deep friendship between Rocky and Apollo that supersedes everything else; and the only thing that trumps that friendship is honor. For example, when Apollo tells Rocky to not stop the fight out of friendship in the new version, if Rocky were to stop the fight and save Apollo's life, that would be a betrayal of both the Warrior's Code and their friendship.

One aspect of this new version is Stallone including little nuances that links the film with the previous movies like the scrolling main title. The original release of ROCKY IV (1985) was the first film in the series to dispense with the title of the movie scrolling across the screen. Elsewhere, Stallone puts minor bits back in that call back to earlier entries.
This article doesn't cover every new shot as there are far too many of them. Most, if not all, are mentioned while the major additions and alterations are discussed at length. There are eighteen covered, and each major alteration contain additional changes. Some of the changes are more expansive than others. The most impactful alterations occur during the Apollo vs. Drago and Rocky vs. Drago fights. Unless otherwise noted, every image in the 18 sequences discussed are new to the re-cut.
1. The original release of ROCKY IV opens with 'Eye of the Tiger' playing on the soundtrack. In the 1985 movie, two boxing gloves--one decorated with the American flag and the other with the Russian flag--explode after they collide together (see insert). We then see a brief recap of the final fight in ROCKY III (1982) between Rocky and Clubber Lang; preceding the last scene with Rocky and Apollo getting into a ring for a friendly throwing of hands for old time's sake. The footage of Rocky coming home to Paulie's birthday where he receives a robot as a present, and his and Adrian celebrating an "almost anniversary", as Rocky puts it, has been edited out. As mentioned earlier, all scenes with the robot have been extracted. The Russians arrival at the airport has also been cut out of Stallone's new version.

In the re-cut, we open with a recap of the entire ROCKY III movie that runs over 7 minutes. Accompanying Clubber Lang's defeat, the song 'The Sweetest Victory' , plays as the title ROCKY IV: ROCKY VS. DRAGO scrolls across the screen (in the same manner and font as the preceding ROCKY movies). That song is on the ROCKY IV original motion picture soundtrack, but was never heard in the original release of the film. 
It's important to mention the original opening of the 1985 release because the first ROCKY 4 footage we see in the new version is Apollo in his swimming pool watching the Russians in their first presser on his poolside television. This occurs at 00:07:20 into the re-cut to give you an idea how this version jettisons exposition to jump head-on into the pre-fight with Creed and Drago. The music is also different from before. There's some extra shots of Apollo playing with his dogs and the presser with the Russians is different.
There's a handful of additions and alterations in the dialog between Ludmilla (Nielsen), Nicoli Koloff (Pataki) and an off-camera reporter. Such as Koloff stating a match with Balboa would be a good way of introducing Drago to America; and then being asked if Rocky has responded to their challenge and he says "no, he did not respond". Another is a reporter stating Drago is an amateur, questioning his ability to contend with "the pressure of someone as seasoned and strong as Balboa". The original cut omitted "and strong" in the line referring to Rocky.

2. The next scene exclusive to the new cut is Apollo at Rocky's house talking about the fight. Gone is the scene where Rocky is washing his car and talking to his son who is playing with the robot just as Apollo calls asking to come over. In the newly added scene, Apollo asks Rocky about the fight to which Rocky says he was contacted about an exhibition bout but has yet to give an answer. So Apollo says "you don't mind me beatin' up on'em a little bit, do ya'?" Apollo explains how this is all political and a fight against the Russians would be one for the history books. Rocky asks Apollo to come in for dinner and he accepts--using a line about Rocky's Italian heritage that hearkens back to one Apollo delivered in ROCKY (1976) about Balboa being able to cook in case he couldn't fight.
3. The next scene in the new cut is an alternate sequence of an existing one in the original version. It's the first time we see Drago demonstrating his power. The dialog plays out largely the same, but with slight difference. Instead of a Russian trainer beginning to speak before Koloff interrupts, Pataki's character simply enters the frame with Nielsen's Ludmilla and begins talking. The entire scene is from a different angle and minus the numerous edits of the original version. The reporter asking about anabolic steroids being used on Russian athletes is removed entirely as is Ludmilla's response about Drago eating his spinach everyday like Popeye. The lightning bolt sound effect of Drago hitting the punching machine is removed--presumably to further lessen the original film's depiction of Drago as an invincible machine.

4. The next scene is Rocky, Adrian, Apollo, Paulie, and Rocky's son at the dinner table. The new cut removes the robot's brief entrance where Rocky discovers its voice has been changed to a female. Then there's some newly added dialog from Adrian: "it's not the Middle Ages when armies sent over their best fighters to kill each other... we're supposed to be civilized."  This is a reference to the Warrior's Code these men feel compelled to uphold when faced with a foreign foe that threatens dominance on their home turf. From Adrian's point of view, it's mostly just aging warrior's wishing to stay relevant as they grow older. Paulie asking Apollo about reading comics is removed and replaced with Rocky telling Apollo he'll be right back. 

5. Immediately following that is a new addition of Rocky having a conversation with Adrian while their housekeeper (Rose Mary Campos) does her work in the background. They talk about Apollo, with Adrian stating she believes he doesn't want to be forgotten and the only reason he wants to fight the Russian is to keep himself in the public eye. 
When Rocky exits, it cuts to a sequence from the original version with Rocky and Apollo watching old footage of one their boxing matches before discussing setting up a fight with Ivan Drago. This sequence is modified with bits of dialog cut and some of what's here is different. Piano music replaces the sound of the boxing match Rocky and Apollo were watching. An example of the differences is this exchange from the original movie and the new cut as follows...

Apollo: ".... so I'm asking you... as a friend... stand by my side this one last time."

Apollo: "... alright... so I'm asking you... as a friend (camera cuts to Rocky then back to Apollo) ... stand in my corner, just one last time."
The new cut removes the rest of their exchange and moves on to the exhibition bout presser. 
6. First difference is when Apollo tells the reporter that "some folks got to learn... the hard way!" Instead of a closeup, Apollo delivers this line with the camera far back into the crowd. This is another instance where multiple edits are done away with, replaced by longer shots before a cut occurs. There's some extra dialog between Rocky and Apollo and Rocky's line about Apollo needing a ladder is an alternate take. Another difference is right after the ladder joke--neither Adrian nor Apollo's wife, Mary Anne, are laughing as they were in the original release. Their congenial demeanor has been replaced with shots of noticeable discomfort.

The biggest change in this sequence is after Apollo asks Drago if he believes he's gonna whip him in the ring (this line is also an alternate take). Drago leisurely drinks water and says, "I didn't come here to lose". In the original release, his wife Ludmilla says this as, "We didn't come here to lose", but all her lines have been edited out. Then, in the new cut, when Koloff states Drago shouldn't even fight Creed because he's a "has-been", he continues with this additional dialog that adds fuel to Creed's fire...

Nicoli Koloff: "To defeat him is an accomplishment not worthy of Drago! But, to fight the REAL champion... this means something!"

When chaos erupts, shots of Ludmilla clinging to Drago's arm and yelling are removed.
Adrian and Mary Anne holding each other, fearing a fight will break out during the presser, is a new addition. Alternate shots of Drago reacting are used at a different angle from the original movie. When Apollo says, "We'll finish this in the ring", an added line from Koloff is heard off-camera when he yells, "Wherever you like!" 
7. The cut to Drago tearing down the Apollo cardboard cut-out with a freeze-frame on his face is reduced substantially; it's now a quick dissolve straight to the marquee and the Grand Hotel in Vegas. Rocky and Apollo having fun in the dressing room and discussing postponing the exhibition has been eliminated entirely. Another removal that's a detriment to this new version is the exchange between Ludmilla and Mary Anne about how she hopes they can be friends afterward. There's some new shots of Ivan by himself in the shadows awaiting the ceiling to open up above him right after Koloff gives him fight instructions.

8. Just before the fight, some of Rocky and Apollo's dialog is cut as is Rocky's introduction by the ring announcer. When Apollo's name is announced, there's a closeup of Drago's face with a disdainful expression. The new version retains longer booing from the crowd and Apollo saying, "I want you" a few more times, adding "I want you, Drago!"  to his last pre-match proclamation.
After the referee issues instructions to both fighters, Apollo's line, "Alright, it's time to go to school, son"  is gone. Also different, instead of Apollo trying to knock Drago's gloved fists down as seen in the original version, Apollo puts his up, prompting Drago to smash Apollo's gloves down before uttering the line, "You will lose".

As the fight begins, there's more of Apollo dancing around, throwing more punches, and some extra shots of Rocky giving him ringside instructions. There's also a shot of Koloff giving Ludmilla a puff off his cigarette. In the original movie, this shot is seen right after the end of the first round but from the front instead of the side as it's seen in the re-cut. 
When Drago finally throws his first, damaging punch, there's some additional shots of Apollo taking more punishment and putting up more of a fight then was seen in the original version. There's also an added reaction shot from his wife after that first blow he takes from Drago. Another extension is Apollo being knocked down and getting up at the six count.

There's some new dialog after Rocky says he's got to stop the fight. Below is the comparison...

Rocky: "Champ, look, I gotta stop it. This fight's finished. I gotta call it."

Apollo: "No!"

Rocky: "Look, champ, you can't do no more out there."

Apollo: "I'm here to fight..."

Rocky: "He's killin' ya. I gotta stop this thing."

Apollo: "I'm here to fight. Promise me you're not gonna stop this fight."


Rocky: "Champ, look, I gotta stop it."

Apollo: "Don't you stop this fight."

Rocky: "Don't do this to me."

Apollo: "I'm doin' this for me! I'm here to fight... don't you stop this fight!"
Then, when the bell rings for round two to begin...
Apollo: "You don't stop this fight... no matter what. (puts his mouth guard in) ... no matter what."

Apollo: "If you're my friend... don't you stop this fight, man... no matter what (puts his mouth guard in)."
At the start of round two in the new version, Creed immediately takes more punches; then Drago taunts him, allowing Creed to throw punches to his midsection that do no damage. Duke yells instruction before Drago unloads on Apollo. After Duke yells to throw in the towel, the shot of Apollo yelling back to Rocky "NO!" is cut; his yelling "NO!" off-screen is also cut. The shot of the Russians smiling is cut as is Mary Anne going "My God!".
In the new version, she yells Apollo's name a few times before rushing towards the ring. A shot of Nikoli looking around at the hysteria has been added. There's some additional shots of people running in and Rocky taking a bloodied mouth guard from Apollo's mouth. Some of Drago's original lines are cut but gains some new ones like, "Soon, I defeat real champion... soon, all world will know my name... Drago". He says his name twice right as Koloff and Ludmilla, who are seen leaving the arena, turn their heads back to the ring. The reporter asking about Apollo's serious condition and Rocky talking to an unconscious Creed, are cut.
The wide shot of Rocky cradling Apollo, right after Drago's iconic line, "If he dies, he dies", is replaced with a closeup of Rocky's face; then a closeup of Apollo's bloody face in Balboa's hands. Instead of the slow zoom into Rocky's and Drago's faces before dissolving to Creed's funeral, it now dissolves to the funeral from a closeup of Apollo.
9. The funeral of Apollo Creed is very different from what we saw in the original movie. In the original cut, the wide shot of the mourners shows Rocky at the right just before he speaks at Apollo's casket. In the re-cut, it's Duke who is standing in Rocky's spot in the same wide shot. There are also two shots of Creed's children--a son and a daughter--with Mary Anne, now a widow. Also in the new cut, Duke's eloquent eulogy about the Warrior's Code has been restored. His dialog is as follows:

"Men are made for the end in the beginning. Apollo Creed was a warrior. He lived and he died by the Code of the Warrior. The Warrior has the right to choose his way of life... and his way of death. And we are bound to respect this sacred right. In this life we live, there's always a possibility of holy intrusion and so it was that Apollo came to know that NONE of his successors had come close to satisfying the questions he had inside. He gave his life to know those answers."

Rocky speaking before Apollo's grave is also different. In the new version, Balboa is much more emotional than he was in the original cut. Rocky accepting blame for Creed's death while Adrian consoles him near the grave is a new addition as well. Below is a comparison between the two exchanges of Rocky speaking at Apollo's gravesite:

"There's a lot I can say about this man. And I don't know if it matters. I guess what matters is what he stood for... what he lived for and... what he died for. You always did everything the way you wanted it. I didn't understand it but... now I understand. I'll never forget you, Apollo. (Rocky places Creed's championship belt on his casket) You're the best."
"I owe everything I got... and my family has got... to you. You gave me a break... when no one else would. You believed in me, when no one else would. I really loved you, man (Rocky places Creed's championship belt on his casket)."

10. Immediately following the funeral, there's another new scene where Rocky is before the Boxing Commission requesting they sanction a fight between himself and Ivan Drago. They refuse, citing the Russian has yet to have a legitimate fight. Naturally they're worried the same result may happen with Balboa ending up dead. So he decides to go it alone. All you see of this scene in the original version is a still photo on the cover of the New York Post. It then cuts to the presser; and it, too, is different from the original version.

The line of questioning from reporters is different. In the original movie, a male journalist asks a question about Rocky's punching power preventing his match against the Russian being an easy one; while in the re-cut it's a female reporter asking if Rocky is moving too fast to have the fight. Unlike the original movie where Drago sits there like a machine, he's questioned by the media and reluctantly responds while Koloff continuously tries to speak for him; noting his 11 year age difference and him being the genetically superior fighter.
Some of Rocky's dialog regarding the fight taking place in Russia--like mentioning he's not taking any pay and Ludmilla's rant about America and how she fears for her and her husband's life--have been removed. The emphasis here is furthering the humanization of Drago. There's also a wide shot of Drago standing up from the table, looking at Rocky, and then exiting the room.

11. Just prior to the driving sequence, Rocky talks to Adrian on the staircase in their home. The new cut trims some of the dialog but also subs a wide shot in place of the closeup of Adrian telling Rocky it won't matter if he wins or loses, that Apollo will still be gone. This is prior to her memorable proclamation of "You can't win!". The lines from Rocky about how Drago will have to kill him in the ring are changed and moved to a later scene as a voiceover (refer to section 14). It's replaced with some minor alternate shots of Rocky talking about how Adrian always tells the truth and he thought that this time she'd be wrong, that he could beat the Russian. 
The driving sequence with 'No Easy Way Out' playing on the soundtrack features a montage of scenes from the previous ROCKY movies. They're in color in the original release but are presented in B/W here for the re-cut version.

12. Before departing for Russia, there's a scene Rocky shares with his son. This sequence is altered and contains new dialog as well as lines that are trimmed. Several of the cutaways to Rocky's son listening intently to his father have been cut (but moved to the portion of the added dialog moments later), leaving the camera mostly on Balboa delivering his speech about being scared in a fight. What's new is a section where Rocky is explaining to his son that he has to live for himself no matter if everyone else is against him; he must do what he feels he has to because he has to live with himself and his decisions. Curiously, shots of Rocky hugging his son have been excised as well.

A newly added scene has Adrian stopping Rocky in the hallway begging him to stay. You can hear Paulie outside yelling, "C'mon, the meter's runnin'!"  In the original movie you see Paulie say the line. As Adrian cries, Rocky says, "Remember a long time ago... I once said to you I'll never ask you to stop being a woman? Don't ask me to stop being a man". In a nod to a previous movie, Rocky said this to Adrian in ROCKY II (1979). They embrace, and Rocky leaves for the Soviet Union.

13. Upon landing in Russia, Paulie, Duke, then Rocky, exit the plane. Other than Paulie saying "Rock" in the original and "Rocky" in the re-cut when Paulie says Russia doesn't look so tough, there's one of scant few examples of new humor added. Rocky asks "Hey, Paulie. What you doin' with Adrian's earmuffs?" Paulie responds, "They look better on me". The music placement of 'Burning Heart' is slightly different as well. 
Paulie talking to the Russian driver once they reach the training cabin is cut and a heated exchange between Duke and the driver takes its place. Duke demands to know where the sparring partners are, that they're supposed to have them; and the Russian says they have everything he's been instructed to provide. 
Paulie's whining and complaining outside the cabin is, sadly, cut; but his falling in the snow is left in. His line of "Goddamn"  is replaced with an alternate line where he looks directly into the camera and says, "It's a good place.. to die".

14. Once they're in the cabin with Duke playing chess with one of the Russians, and Paulie toasting marshmallows, you can hear'The Chipmunk Song (Christmas Don't Be Late)' playing in the background in the original 1985 version. Stallone has replaced it with Vince DiCola's music, minimizing the Christmas time atmosphere (although Stallone adds some back in a later sequence) with a somber cue. After Duke wins the chess game, the shot of the Russian knocking the chess pieces over has been edited out.
Meanwhile, Rocky is upstairs placing pictures of his family and one of Drago onto a mirror (something he did in the 1976 original as well). In the re-cut, Stallone has added voiceover of the lines he replaced during the exchange between Rocky and Adrian just prior to the driving scene (see section 11). The lines now added as voiceover are as follows: "You know, maybe I can't win? Maybe the only thing I can do is just take everything he's got. But to beat me, he's gonna have to kill me. And to kill me, he's gonna have to have the heart to stand in front of me; and to do that, he's gotta be willin' to die himself. And I don't know if he's ready to do that... I don't know". Music accompanies this scene where there was none before.
When Duke goes upstairs to see Rocky, the scene plays the same in both versions, only a wide shot is used for the re-cut when Duke tells Rocky he knows what to do and to do it; as opposed to a close angle on Duke in the original as he says the lines. 
15. The first training montage likewise plays largely the same between the two versions aside from some trimmed frames and a few minor shots edited out and a few new ones and alternate takes put back in (extra shots of Drago training; Rocky losing his hat while pulling Paulie on a sled, etc). One replaced shot is when Rocky is carrying the log on his back and he falls in the snow. In the original, it cuts to a closeup of Drago's face and then to Rocky shadow boxing at night in the barn. In the re-cut, Rocky falls with the log on his back, stands up and throws the log over one shoulder. Some additional shots exclusive to the new version is Rocky working on a punching bag while Drago runs around an indoor track. 

Adrian showing up in Russia is the same except some shots have been shuffled around for the moment when they embrace. In the original, it's from Rocky's back followed by a closeup; and in the new version, it's a wide shot with them both center of the screen followed by a closeup of their embrace. What's unique about this replacement footage is that the same wide shot is also in the original 1985 release (see above) but the camera is in a different spot. When you see them from afar, there's mountains directly behind them that are no longer there in the new re-cut (see insert).

The second montage with 'Hearts On Fire' playing is much the same as the first--starts out virtually identical but midway through there are edits (like the removal of shots of Ludmilla) and some inserts of Rocky doing pull-ups with a fire in the foreground; and extra bits of him jumping rope at a fast pace. The shot of Rocky taking Drago's picture from his mirror and balling it up has been removed in the re-cut.

And now for the big finale...

16. As Duke wraps Rocky's fists in the dressing room, there's two shots with a small Christmas tree visible on a table near a window where two Russian agents watch intently. The first time is from a wide angle and the second is a closeup of Duke with the Russians watching outside. 
There's also a few alternate shots of Paulie and Adrian listening to the roaring crowd in the arena; and a closeup of Duke applying Vaseline just above Rocky's eyes. Also added, when Rocky is kneeling before going out to fight, he thinks back to something Apollo told him the night of his fatal exhibition match; via B/W footage: "You may not understand what I'm talkin' about now, and I can appreciate that, but you will when it's over, believe me... you will when it's over"
Thankfully, Stallone left in Paulie's big emotional moment, opening up to Rocky about how if he could be anyone else he'd want to be the Italian Stallion. Newly added to that scene is a closeup of Adrian comforting her brother Paulie before they enter the arena.

17. Heading to the ring is longer in the re-cut, with Rocky absorbing the full-on hatred of the crowd surrounding him. A shot of Rocky kissing Adrian is added to this version while all the brief scenes of his son and his two friends and the robot watching back home have been removed. There's some added voiceover from the two ringside commentators that is wedged in between comments about the insane crowd and when they announce the Russian boxers entrance: "The power of Ivan Drago is virtually a bio-chemical product. The man is infinitely stronger than Rocky Balboa and a foot taller. Every punch is a lethal weapon".

Drago's ring entrance is also longer, with some additional shots of him making his way to the ring and the rejoicing crowd cheering for him. When he steps through the ropes, it's from a different angle in the new version. There's also some new shots of Drago drenched in blue lighting; much like the photographic overhaul Stallone performed on this new cut of the film. The voiceover from a reporter stating, "As I say, I would like to point out again, this is a non-sanctioned fight. This is not for the title. The American Boxing Commission have not sanctioned this bout", has been edited out of the re-cut.

During the playing of the Russian National Anthem there's a handful of new closeup shots of Rocky, Duke and Paulie; but the most notable is right at the end of the anthem as Adrian looks over at Nielsen who smiles at her. There's also an additional wide shot of the ring composited into the frame with the camera positioned behind the General Secretary of the Soviet Union and the Politburo members.

Ring intros play the same but with alternate and new shots of Drago showing appreciation to the crowd; this is different from the original movie where he was depicted as basically a mind-controlled automaton. Some of Duke's instructions to Rocky have been edited in the new version just before the first round begins.
In the original movie, Rocky gets tagged quite a bit right out of the gate. He tries to return fire but misses. In the new version, Rocky gets a number of punches in to Drago's mid-section that are ineffective. Like Apollo in his deadly exhibition match, Balboa gets knocked down once early on before taking a punishing left hook that sends him "15 feet across the ring". Stallone uses some added sound effects to emphasize the power of Drago's punch. 
There's also an added closeup of satisfaction on Koloff's face and Adrian standing and saying, "Get back up!" Also added to the new version is Rocky taking longer to get back to his feet. We hear his thoughts, saying to himself, "Breathe... Don't be scared... you can do it... get up". His vision blurred, he looks over to Adrian before finally standing.

At the end of round one, after Rocky says he sees three Ivan Drago's, Duke doesn't repeat Paulie's instruction to "hit the one in the middle"; he just says "keep takin' it to this guy, okay? You can hurt him. No pain... no pain. Keep takin' it to him". Some new angles and new dialog is present with Duke telling Rocky to "Keep walkin' towards him, keep walkin' towards him, walk right in the middle... take his heart!" There's more added shots of Rocky taking punches. Once Drago is finally cut near the end of round two, one added bit is Adrian standing up yelling, "Again!"

Before round three begins, there's some added Drago dialog asking about his eye in what is more of his humanization in this new version. The bit where Drago says Rocky isn't human is an alternate take as a closeup instead of the medium shot seen in the original 1985 version. Duke's pep-talk to Rocky is slightly altered as well. Duke says "Hey, Rock! No fear! No Pain! You want it more than he does!" And then begins round three...
Rounds three through seven are cut tighter in the new version. An example of new shots is an image of a bloodied Rocky replacing one of Ludmilla looking over at a despondent Adrian watching Rocky take an unbelievable amount of punishment. There's also a sequence just before round eight where we see an uninterrupted stretch of blows between the two men, noticeably worn; and Rocky doing damage to Drago's mid-section.
A shot of Rocky taking a massive left hook from Drago at the end of round nine is amped up in the re-cut. Stallone presents it in slow motion and punches up the sound effects, as well as a reaction from Adrian not in the original version. The montage of rounds ten through fourteen are mostly left alone in the new cut till the end of round fourteen. There's extra shots of an exhausted Drago, Adrian shedding a tear, and the Russian crowd standing and cheering for Rocky. 
One major difference is when an enraged Koloff heads for the ring to chastise Drago and his trainers since the crowd are now cheering for Rocky to win. There's an added shot of Koloff scolding Ivan after he's tossed him off the ring apron. You no longer see Ludmilla yelling to her husband "Nyet!" You only hear it. When Drago says "I fight to win. For me", it's an alternate, and longer take.
Just before the Fifteenth and final round begins there's some new footage between Rocky, Duke, and the Russian referee. It's as follows:

Duke: "Listen to'em, Rock. They're callin' your name. They're callin' your name!"

Referee: "Your boy hurt. We stop fight now."

Rocky: "Don't stop nothin'! I didn't come here to end this fight sittin' down!"

Referee: "I watch closely!"

Duke: "Yeah, you do that! Go talk to him! He's hurt too!"

As the bell rings, the two bloodied and beaten fighters move slower when approaching the center of the ring in the new version. There's also a great shot--possibly the best one re-instated to this version--of a bloody Drago in medium shot with the giant painting of himself and Russian flag adorning the wall behind him. When Drago says "To the end", Rocky now answers, "Yeah". The shot is flipped around from how it's shown in the original cut. As the round begins, Drago throws some punches and, in the re-cut, says "C'mon!" Rocky clobbers him with a volley of blows in newly added footage. 
The punch that takes Drago down has been enhanced with sound effects. Drago's knockout is quicker in that some shots have been removed--such as Rocky's son counting at home. Arguably one of the strangest replacements is when Rocky is declared the winner.
In the original he stands triumphant in the ring with both hands in the air. In the re-cut, Duke runs in and lifts him up into the air; Rocky extends his arms and it brings to mind Patrick Swayze and Jennifer Gray having the time of their life in DIRTY DANCING (1987). 

18. Another radical alteration is to the ending, which is nearly entirely different. Rocky's in-ring speech is an alternate take, delivered in a less inspired fashion from a man out of breath. There's a mention of Apollo about a man changing in the speech that's missing in the original version. Rocky no longer yells his last line about how everybody can change. The big change to this sequence, though, is Rocky not telling his kid "Merry Christmas", nor do we see shots of him back home.
The General Secretary no longer claps along with the now pro-Rocky Russian crowd. He stands up in disgust and walks off with the rest of the Politburo members leaving Koloff behind with a look of fear on his face like he knows he won't be seeing the next sun rise. 

As soon as the Gen. Sec. stomps off, 'Eye of the Tiger' hits the soundtrack, replacing 'Hearts On Fire'. With the crowd cheering, and Balboa draped in the Stars and Stripes, Rocky approaches Drago and they touch gloves. They exchange glances as Rocky and his team exit the ring. As they make their way into the crowd for the dressing room, it's a freeze frame as the credits begin. 
They, too, are new, with the first B/W image from the original version of Rocky with the robot gone. When 'Eye of the Tiger' ends, 'Hearts On Fire' begins as the credits finish, including a new set for this release that includes some new songs added to the soundtrack: an opera piece 'E Lucevan Le Stelle'; and Ornella Vanoni's 'E Cosi' Per Non Morire', conducted and arranged by Bill Conti (the original ROCKY composer who reworked this song for the famous 'Going the Distance' music in ROCKY) back in 1973. Incidentally, two songs from the score, 'Double Or Nothing' and 'One Way Street' are no longer listed. Two orchestral tunes, 'War/Fanfare From Rocky' and 'Training Montage' are no longer listed outside of Vince DiCola receiving musical credit.

ROCKY IV: ROCKY VS. DRAGO (2021) never quite reaches the heights of Stallone's original version. He tries to change the entire tone of the movie in what appears to be an attempt to make it flow more in line with the newer films, particularly CREED II (2018). Unfortunately, this delivers too many blows to the movie's narrative as so much is sacrificed to place greater emphasis on Rocky, Apollo, and Drago. There's some great things put back in, and it's worth seeing simply for the plethora of alternate takes dominating virtually each of its 93 minutes. In the end, it's a 15 round novelty that would've been better served had a handful of the crucial sequences just been added into the existing, and superior, 1985 spectacular.

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