Thursday, June 4, 2015
Before watching the Rocky movies again this year on the recent BluRay collection I acquired, I only watched the first five Rocky films once each after a marathon session of one a week when I bought them in a DVD set back in 2004. So this marks my first time watching Rocky III (trailer) since. My memories of it were that aside from the awesome fight scenes, it was a bit too campy and that it tried to do too much in too little time resulting in one of the weaker films of the series. For the most part, Rocky III is a shift in tone as it no longer is going for the dramatic prestige tone that the two films before it did. It opens with the closing moments of Balboa (Sylvester Stallone) finally beating Apollo Creed (Carl Weathers) to win the world title at the end of Rocky II.
During this montage we witness Balboa transform from the loveable everyman underdog into a corporate champion doing charity work, birthday parties and countless commercials and endorsements. It was like when Steve Austin almost accepted Vince McMahon’s evil offer of selling out to become a corporate champion right after he won his first world title back in 1998. Stallone directed both of the films I am covering today, and I think he was a little too successful in making me hate the Rocky character during this montage. You know what grinds my gears…wait for it…corporate sell outs with holier than though commercials, like the pretentious ‘Michael Vick Experience’ ad from when Vick was lighting up the Falcons in the early 2000s and awful memories of nearly everyone abusing his overpowered scrambling ability in online Madden games. Vick was doing all kinds of awful commercials like this taking in every easy endorsement, it was almost like all this money shoved in his face was a precursor that would lead him down a dark path to….oh yeah.
The Michael Vick analogy somewhat relates to Rocky as we witness Balboa transform into this not-so-loveable character anymore doing all these endorsements, while during the same montage we are introduced to Clubber Lang (Mr. T) who shared my disgust of Balboa selling out and being fed easy contenders. Yes, Rocky III was the breakout film for Mr. T that lead to him launching the successful A-Team TV series and doing countless commercials afterwards for many years to come. Lang vents his frustrations to move his way up the ranks to #1 contender status and challenges Rocky to a fight at a special ceremony unveiling the legendary Rocky Balboa statue in Philadelphia that is still standing today. Rocky’s trainer Mickey (Burgess Meredith) warns Balboa he has been handpicking him easy fights and that Lang is a killer not to be messed with, but Rocky does not take his warning seriously as we witness him in a so-cheesy-bad-it’s awesome AWFUL TRAINING MONTAGE! Rocky III is filled with so many montages I could not find this one to link to, but I swear it is hilarious watching Balboa mug for the camera for pictures and take kisses from adoring fans during his training while Lang is tearing up a dark, gritty gym. It is legendary material!
The last half of the film has Apollo Creed catching up with Balboa in mourning back at Mick’s old gym. Carl Weathers is once again masterful as the smooth-talking Apollo Creed as he convinces Balboa to be his trainer and get him ready for a rematch with Lang! Apollo convinces Rocky that he needs to recapture that fighter’s “eye of the tiger” which also happens to be the new hit single on the soundtrack that is essentially the theme song for this film, and now associated as one of THE top songs of many runner playlists. From here we get out of the awful, corporate sellout atmosphere to a much more appreciate back-to-basics tone when Balboa trains with Creed at his first gym. The training starts off poorly for Rocky, but a good-natured and well delivered speech from Rock’s wife Adrian (Talia Shire) is all the impetus Balboa needs to get ‘the eye’ for an awesome training montage with Rock and Apollo busting out all kinds of sports gear for then-newcomer sportswear company Nike.
After Balboa emerges (SPOILER!) victorious in the rematch, the film has an unforgettable closing scene where Apollo wants a favor from Rocky for tacking him under his tutelage. Creed gets that favor in a one-on-one closed gym fighting session with Balboa that Apollo kicks off with his metaphorical bell ringing proclamation, “DING-DING” that has lived on in infamy and quoted many times over ever since. I went into Rocky III kind of dreading it, and while the film takes the franchise in a campier direction than I wanted with a few cringe-worthy moments of Balboa living the high life that is a bit of a pain to sit through, it all makes sense in the form of Rocky regaining his fighting spirit and vanquishing Lang in the end and making a new best friend in former rival Apollo Creed.
I was going to combine my review for Rocky IV here, but I went far longer than I anticipated with this review that I am going to have to dedicate a new blog to Rocky IV. Long time readers know I love indulging in behind-the-scenes extra features, but thank goodness in this case there are none on the BluRay or else this review would be even longer for you to endure.
Past Rocky Blogs