What have we learned since the Cold War? Not much, apparently.

Above: Dolph Lundgren and Sylvester Stallone as eternal enemies in Creed II. Below: real-life competitors-turned-friends Joe Louis and Max Schmeling.

I finally watched the movie Creed II, which I had looked forward to for a while, since it’s essentially a sequel to the iconic Rocky IV of my childhood. If you haven’t seen either of these movies, let me summarize: in Rocky IV, the American boxer Rocky Balboa fights the Russian Ivan Drago during the Cold War. In Creed II, Rocky and Drago as old men serve as mentors to younger versions of themselves — in Rocky’s case, the son of his deceased friend and former competitor; in Drago’s case, his own son.

I saw Rocky IV as a kid but didn’t fully appreciate it until I got older. Why? Because the film, made in 1985, became a testament to American hysteria over the supposed Soviet menace that was prevalent before the USSR collapsed. The Russians are depicted in the film as technologically advanced and frighteningly efficient; the Americans, on the other hand, are poorly equipped and developmentally behind, but in the end triumph with sheer will and grit. A montage from the film is now famous for its ridiculousness: a svelte, clean-cut Drago trains in a gleaming facility complete with electronic gadgets and scores of lab coat-clad observers, while a bearded, woolen-looking Rocky pulls logs through the snow in what appears to be the Siberian wilderness. This seven-minute segment alone deserves to have a place in the syllabuses of college students seeking to understand the perverse psychology of the Cold War.

Of course, after the Cold War ended and Westerners got to look under the hood of the Soviet Empire, they realized they had it backwards. Yes, the Soviets had indeed managed to put a satellite in space and a man in earth’s orbit before the Americans. And just like the Americans, they had built enough nuclear weapons to kill all human life on earth many times over (impressive!). Of course, as the Iron Curtain was pushed aside, the world realized it was the Soviets who were struggling to keep up, not the other way around.

How does one follow up a film like Rocky IV, which so perfectly captured the erroneous thinking of the age? How do you make a sequel to a film that missed the truth so badly, its enduring legacy is as a farcical monument to national self-delusion? Apparently, by pretending that nothing happened.

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