Making a sequel to a sports movie is hard. Finding a way to continue the story of the lead character(s) in a way that doesn't feel like it retreads the original too closely or has a predictable outcome is so important in keeping the film fresh for viewers. Making a sequel to perhaps the greatest sports movie ever should have been impossible. Rocky II, however, manages to stand alongside its predecessor well enough, even if it does sometimes fall into those aforementioned pitfalls of any sports sequel. What truly keeps this film afloat is the returning presence of Sylvester Stallone. Once again, Stallone shows his clear passion for this character he's written. Whether he's in the ring giving it all he's got physically or in a quieter character moment alongside Talia Shire or Burgess Meredith, Stallone completely embodies Balboa's sense of na´vetÚ about the harsh realities of life, especially those that come with his newfound fame and the increasing tensions from an opponent who is far from satisfied with his last-minute decision win. Stallone also inherits the director's chair from John G. Avildsen, but completely matches the same tone of the original that's needed for a nice underdog tale like this. There's no fancy camerawork, outside of another training montage set to Bill Conti's endlessly catchy "Gotta Fly Now," but this isn't a movie that needs a flashy sense of style. It's a movie about character, and in that regard, Stallone's trifecta of directing, writing, and acting makes this a worthy successor to the Best Picture winning film. This film itself deserves its own victory cry like the ever-famous one that concludes this tale: they did it.