I’m probably the only person who would buy a solo edition of Rocky V, but I still understand packaging the first four together. With the release of Creed III, it’s a good start on the 4K collection.
I actually got to see the first Rocky’s 4K transfer in a theater a few years ago. The home video edition holds up, bringing a clarity to the grainy 1976 film but still a natural look. It looks like the cool, crisp Philadelphia streets with deep shadows. Stallone’s black leather jacket and hat cuts a mean figure walking the streets.
When he wakes up at 4AM, he’s got a nice silhouette running down the alley. The sunrise is absolutely gorgeous over the factory yard, and Rocky’s run to the Philadelphia museum becomes a tour of Philly locations in daytime.
Rocky II maintains the ‘70s aesthetic. Now Adrian walks the streets with Rocky, her red coat brightly contrasting his black outfit. After the Creed fight, the hospital rooms are pitch black until Rocky opens the door. His basement gym with the heavy bag establishes nice shadows too, and it’s quite a sight when Mickey stands in the beam of the fight footage.
Rocky III has a smokier look. You can still see subtle details like the fabric in Rocky’s suits now that he’s rich, and mood lighting in his mansion bedroom. Rocky’s yellow ring colors are a nice new flamboyant look.
Rocky III may have the most daylight scenes of the series between the statue unveiling and the beach training. It looks like you’re in Philly and L.A. in 1982. Rocky’s gaudy media circus training contests with Clubber Lang’s sweaty DIY methods. The standout scene is when Apollo comes to talk to Rocky at Mickey’s gym and their figures cut through the dark.
The Rocky IV director’s cut was clearly remastered as even footage from III looks clearer than the actual film on UHD. It’s also masked to 2.35: 1 in an odd choice. James Brown’s “Living in America” is more flamboyant than ever in 4K. When Rocky talks to Adrian on the stairs, it casts nice shadows on his face. The pure white snow banks of Russia are a nice 4K training ground.
The theatrical cut of Rocky IV is closer to the presentation of Rocky III. It’s still smoky in the arenas, though “Living in America” still stands out.
All four films make use of surround sound, most notably in the Bill Conti score (or Vince DiCola in IV). Hearing Rocky music all around you makes you want to get up and train too. They’ve also put street noise and boxing crowds in the rears, and the video arcade at the opening of Rocky III.