ROCKY II opens just where ROCKY leaves off. Rocky, having lost his title match with Apollo, is back on the streets of Philadelphia. He's had some success, but doesn't want to pursue the fighting lifestyle for the sake of Adrian, and so tries to make his way in this world with regular jobs. Adrian and he get married, and even have a son in the course of the movie.
Meanwhile, Apollo is itching for a rematch, because, even though Rocky lost, he put up an amazing fight, and Apollo feels his credibility is on the line as a fighter if he doesn't put Rocky away once and for all. Rocky doesn't want to fight because of Adrian, but agrees to do a fight. He starts training, but only half-heartedly, and Mick takes him to the ringer for the way he is training, since he is so hung up over Adrian and her attitude toward his fighting. She ultimately falls into a coma due to complications with delivery of their son, at which Rocky stops all training and won't leave her side.
She comes out of the coma with those memorable lines "Rocky, I want you to do one thing for me. Win!" And Mick yells in the background "What are we waiting for" and so begins the training montage and the fight. The fight is much more brutal than in the first ROCKY, and it's only literally within the last few seconds of the last round we find out who wins the match (and it shouldn't be that hard to ascertain who the victory is this time around).
There's a pretty accurate summary. As far as the five sequels go, this is the most like the original film. All the characters from the first film are in this one. Rocky hasn't become as successful as he has in ROCKY III, and he is still struggling to get buy. The film really explores the bond that Rocky and Adrian have together, and it is only thru Adrian's blessing that Rocky is able to really break loose and give the fight his all.
The training montage is one of my favorites in the Rocky franchise, though admittedly somewhat cheesy. Rocky runs along the streets of Philadelphia, and all these kids start following up, and they run up the stairs of the art museum with the famous Rocky theme playing, and Rocky jumps up and down victoriously. Cheesy, but somehow it works, and you can tell that this is one of the points in Rocky's story where the city of Philadelphia really pulls together to support their favorite local hero.
The fight is much more realistic and brutal than the first film. At the end of the fight, Stallone looks extremely roughed up. It's probably the worst Rocky looks in all the films.
Like most sequels, the film doesn't quite capture the genius of the ROCKY, but it is the most similar in vein and atmosphere of all five sequels to the first. While the other movies got further and further away from Rocky's original life, this movie is easily closest in tone and atmosphere to the original, and it really does feel like a rematch, or an extension, of the original film, as opposed to ROCKY III, IV, V, and BALBOA, which feel like wholly separate, yet connected, entities.
ROCKY II simply takes us more into Rocky's world, and how that world has changed in light of the events in ROCKY. There are a lot of good lines and scenes in the film, and while it doesn't quite capture the success of the original, the film is just as sincere and just as big-hearted as its predecessor processor. The endorsement scenes in the beginning are worth the price of admission alone.
And of course, it has the immortal line "Yo Adrian! I did it!"
Rocky has become an American icon, and for those wanting to know why, this is a good movie to watch, even if the first is better.