I Pity the Fool!
Yay! Halfway point! Boo! Drastically depleting amounts of quality! We haven’t really drudged the depths of the Rocky franchise yet, but perhaps we’ll be starting today. The first Rocky movie was fantastic, and the second one was still pretty good, though a little too familiar. And I’m pretty sure most of us are well aware of the fact that the Rocky franchise gets pretty awful at a certain point. Is this that point? We’ll find out today in my review of Rocky III, written, directed by, and starring Sylvester Stallone, and also starring Mr. T, Burgess Meredith, Carl Weathers, Talia Shire, Burt Young, Ian Fried, Hulk Hogan, Tony Burton, Wally Taylor, and Frank Stallone.
After the events of the last movie, Rocky Balboa (Sylvester Stallone) has taken the world heavyweight championship from Apollo Creed (Carl Weathers). Along with his elderly trainer Mickey Goldmill (Burgess Meredith), Rocky defends his title 10 times. Another boxer by the name of James “Clubber” Lang (Mr. T) watches the champion’s progress while rising through the ranks with his vicious, brutal style of boxing. When Rocky is honored with a statue on the steps of the Philadelphia Museum of Art, Lang publicly insults Rocky and his wife Adrian (Talia Shire) in order to draw Rocky into a fight. Mickey thinks it’s a bad fight and wants no part in it, but Rocky talks him into it. Rocky and Mickey go into training, but Rocky has lost his edge as a fighter and spends more time posing for pictures in the gym than training. This inevitably leads to Rocky getting the snot beat out of him by Lang, and Mickey dies of a heart attack during the fight. In his grief, Rocky returns to the gym Mickey used to run to find Apollo waiting for him. Apollo promises to help Rocky train for his rematch with Lang and help him beat a giant jungle cat to death and steal its eyes. Unless I’ve misunderstood the meaning of “Eye of the Tiger”.
We haven’t yet hit the bottom with these movies, but we can kind of see where it’s going. It’s still entirely by the book as well. The only real change up is that Rocky starts out on top, hits the bottom in the middle, and then goes into the regular despair/training/winning formula. And every fight Rocky has gotten into in these movies so far is supposed to be his last. Rocky quit before his first match with Apollo Creed, and then again after the fight. He came back to fight Apollo, which was supposed to be his last fight, but getting the title makes him keep up with the fighting for a bit. He quits, but gets goaded into another fight by Lang. That too was to be his last fight, but he gets beaten so he must give it another go. Then they keep talking about how the second fight with Lang is going to be his last. Makes you wonder how they’re going to fill the time for the next three movies, doesn’t it? They try to keep the emotional level with the death of Mickey, but it didn’t really have the impact that I’m sure they were going for. And though I know it gets goofier in the following movies, it’s getting there with this movie. Take, for instance, the entire piece with Thunderlips. And the goofiness doesn’t stop with the name of the character. The entire scene was stupid and needless. Then the whole training scene is over the top and stupid. Of course Rocky is going to lose; he barely trained at all for the fight that was going to be his most difficult ever. Then why would Mickey tell him to go into that fight when he would obviously be distracted by Mickey’s failing health? Then we have some homoerotic scenes with Apollo and Rocky training, proving further that Stallone loves him a montage, and then the inevitable and expected conclusion to the movie. I would say, in this movie’s defense, that the fight at the end of this movie was probably the most exciting and action-packed fight of all of the movies up to this point. Also, this movie brought the world the classic Survivor song “Eye of the Tiger”. Sure, it’s been super played out since this movie, but I maintain that no song has the ability to get someone pumped more than this one.
Most of the performances changed drastically, but I wouldn’t say it was for the better. It wasn’t really a negative either, it was just curious. Rocky doesn’t come off nearly as punch drunk as he did in the first two movies, and was mostly a lot more civilized and well-spoken, which was generally regarded as a negative thing by everyone around him. Sly had to do a crying scene over Mickey, but nothing about what he did in that scene made much of an impact for me. Burgess Meredith didn’t do very much in the movie. He had about two emotional scenes, first when he was trying to talk Rocky out of fighting Lang in the first place and second when he was dying. Meredith is still fantastic and knocked both of these out, but then he was gone. Talia Shire is a completely different character in this movie, but it’s one I can excuse. I could understand her becoming less shy over the years, but I can’t really get behind Rocky getting better-spoken because the opening montage didn’t show him hitting the books at all. Clubber Lang was a big step down for an opponent for me. He was like a cartoon villain. He was just a gigantic asshole to everyone for no reason, with no motivation for it or any semblance of humanity, so no one would give a shit about him at all. They might have just put a punching bag in the ring with angry eyes drawn on it and a little speaker box that would sling racial slurs at random.
The Rocky series continues its downward spiral in this movie. It hasn’t yet reached the bottom, or even really become awful movies yet, but it’s definitely on the way. The emotion in the movie never really hit, it was really goofy in parts, some of the characters were the exact opposite of the way that they were when we grew attached to them, and the pattern of the Rocky movies is getting really obvious. I would still say this movie is worth a watch because the final fight of the movie is the best one yet and, come on! Eye of the Tiger, people! I will homoerotically train (in montage form, of course) for an epic battle with you if you dare say this song does not amp you up. Rocky III gets “Eye of the tiger, man” out of “You don’t look so bad to me.”
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