‘TIS THE SEASON TO WATCH “ROCKY” …PART III

At the very start of Rocky III, it was clear this series was headed in a slightly different direction. It begins with a montage of Rocky – now the heavyweight champ – pummeling his opponents left and right, while a plethora of various headlines and magazine clippings sweep across the screen. Rocky is now a superstar, no longer bumming around the streets and gyms of Philly, and shit, he hardly even looks the same. Stallone was also prepping for his debut as Rambo when he did Rocky III, and it saw him pack on the muscles while dropping dangerously low in body fat. (According to Stallone in his book Sly Moves, a typical day of shooting Rocky III also consisted of running several miles, swimming and weightlifting, all the while getting by on as little as a single can of tuna and multiple cups of coffee.) But the most glaring change is in Rocky’s personality; in an early scene where he bails Paulie out of jail, we’re introduced to the new Rocky: a stiff, articulate man wrapped in an expensive suit, and now living in a mansion. Rocky likes driving his son around in a golf cart, and trains for fights in a hotel ballroom while spectators eat finger foods and pose for pictures with him. Rocky III may be known most for introducing Mr. T and “Eye of the Tiger,” but to me it’s the movie where Rocky acts like a douche.

At least, for the first half of the movie. Rocky gets all butthurt when he finds out Mickey had been handpicking his opponents in order to keep him safe and at the top as long as possible, and puts off his planned retirement in order to take on a brash, big-mouthed challenger named Clubber Lang (Mr. T). Predictably, Rocky gets his shit ruined in the ring and loses his title, and (perhaps unpredictably), Mickey passes away. And so, the stage is set for Rocky to get back to his roots, rediscover himself, and win back the title. In a nice twist, he’s helped by former opponent Apollo Creed, who seems to hate Clubber as much as Rocky does, and seeks a return to the limelight, albeit out of the ring. Apollo takes Rocky (accompanied, of course, by Adrian and Paulie) back to the dingy old gym where he used to train, and after some melodramatic soul-searching, Rocky comes back around, and with Apollo’s help gets back the “Eye of the Tiger,” and the hunger to be the champ again. This, of course, leads to the most homoerotic ending to a training montage ever.

I’m sure there’s a lot of people who think the many sequels were largely unnecessary (and there’s plenty of evidence to back that up), but I like how they show Rocky at all stages of his career. We’ve seen him as a hungry fighter at the bottom, and now we see him as a wealthy champ who’s lost his edge. Rocky III, however, was the start of a different type of Rocky movie; for the first time, the opponent is portrayed as more of a straight-up villain. While Apollo was arrogant and a little obnoxious, he was still very human. Clubber, on the other hand, is vicious and hateful, and much more one-dimensional. Rocky III also tries to break from the pack by one-upping its predecessors in entertainment value: we’re treated to two big fights instead of one, plus a boxer vs. wrestler exhibition match that sees Rocky trying to topple “Thunderlips” (played by Hulk Hogan). As you might expect, it’s equal parts ridiculous and awesome. And then there’s Survivor’s “Eye of the Tiger,” which would pave the way for a succession of catchy, energetic pop/rock songs on a Rocky soundtrack. Overall, Rocky III is a good time. It may seem a bit shallow and ridiculous when compared to the original, but eventually Rocky IV would come along, and make it seem almost grounded by comparison…

Least favorite part: Not a bad part per se, but I always found it odd that the marching band plays “Gonna Fly Now” during the ceremony where Rocky’s statue is unveiled. Acknowledging Rocky’s theme song in a Rocky movie is like breaking the fourth wall.

Favorite (non-montage or fight) part: Gotta be Paulie smashing the Rocky pinball machine out of jealousy. I’ve wanted to do that to a pinball machine before, but for a different reason.


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One Response to “‘TIS THE SEASON TO WATCH “ROCKY” …PART III”

  1. Matt Stewart Says:

    Nice review! I love all of the Rocky films except the fifth. Stallone isn’t a favorite of mine, but he’s great in these.

    Cool blog!

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