Movies & TV / Columns

The Man Movie Encyclopedia: Rocky Recap 1-3

December 6, 2015 | Posted by Caliber Winfield
Rocky III


Greetings, all.

Lately, because of the release of Creed, there’s been a lot of Rocky talk. Well, I figure, if there’s any place that needs to be talking about one of the burliest franchises of all time, it’s The Man Movie Encyclopedia. Now, normally I review a movie individually, but I didn’t want to lay out 6 weeks worth of reviews, especially after coming off the Friday The 13th marathon. Also, only a couple Rocky movies really work within the MME style of reviews, as a few others are just too….real? I guess is the word. It’d be like trying to do an over-the-top review of Goodfellas or something, it just wouldn’t click.

So, I thought we’d go through the franchise and I’d talk about each movie fondly, as well as offer up my favorite moment and offer up some random facts. Now, because I tend to prattle on about these films, I’m breaking them up. We’re gonna cover the first 3 this week, and the remaining 3 next week. Otherwise, this article would take you guys a week to read.

Alright, without further ado, buckshots, let’s get it.

Rocky, I mean, I feel like an ass for almost saying that’s all I need to say. It’s one of those films that no one ever needs to explain why they like it, because it’s fucking flawless. As a guy who grew up without any sort of decent male role model in my life, the minute I saw Rocky, I felt like I finally had someone. Someone I could look up to, someone I could learn life lessons from, and someone that would flat out be there for your boy when things weren’t so hot, even if he was nothing more than a film character. I’d feel like a bit of a dork for that admission, but I think Rocky is without a doubt one of the most inspirational characters in fiction, and without a doubt in movies.
Rocky starts off as a hard-scrabble, unsophisticated brute that just can’t seem to catch a break, despite being a fair, honest, and hard-working guy. He works for a loan-shark, but just can’t bring himself to do the violent things he’s asked to do, even though he knows it’s going to mean a brow-beating from his boss. He’s disrespected at the gym he’s been going to for years, and a girl he digs won’t seem to pay him much attention. However, it all turns around as he gets a chance not only with the girl he’s been digging, Adrian, but a chance at glory as he’s been selected to face the World Heavyweight Champion, Apollo Creed.
From here, the movie just beats from top to bottom with awesomeness, as you get the awesome interactions between Rocky & Mick, training montages & moments that any and every athlete tried, from drinking raw eggs, to chasing chickens, and the sheer joy that Rocky gets from simple things, such as being able to say Adrian’s name on TV. Another brilliant thing is that despite the fact the “underdog goes for the big-time” sports cliche wasn’t a cliche yet, Stallone not only didn’t have Rocky win, but he also had it so that it wasn’t even his goal. He merely wanted to go the distance, because no one else ever had. He just wanted to prove everyone fucking wrong in regards to him not being worth a damn.
The original Rocky is a fucking film, make no bones about it. It’s a brilliantly made piece of work that only people with the worst taste in movies could dislike. You’ve got a brilliant story, brilliant characters, directing, score, action, and dilogue. There’s nothing about this film that is lacking, and it appeals to the snobbiest of film snobs, to the guy who’d rather watch Fast & Furious 7 for the 100th time than some French film that’s sweeping all the awards.
My Favorite Moment: There’s two. The first is when Mick comes over to Rocky’s place, and he’s playing all nice now, because Rock’s got a shot, and he wants to make sure things are done right for him, and that he doesn’t get screwed over. We then hear about some of the brutal shit Mick went through, and he’s a character you could just listen to all damn day. Rocky however is pissed that it took this long for him to offer his help, and flips out. It’s just a fantastic dramatic scene that really shows how down Rocky is about his situation in life, despite his upbeat demeanor.
The other is when he wakes up to go running. It’s cold out, it’s dark, he was in his nice warm bed. But now he’s gotta chug eggs and do some road work. I know exactly what that feeling is like, but you do what you have to.
Random Fact: Stallone had around $100 in his bank account when he turned down a $300,000-350,000 offer for his Rocky script. Reason being? They didn’t want him attached. But he believed in this project enough that no matter what sacrifices were to be made, this film would be done with him. He even at one point had to sell his dog for $50, because he couldn’t afford to give him a good home. However, when he finally got a bit of money, he bought the dog back. For $3,000. Oh, and the dog, Butkus, eventually made his big screen debut in the very film that reunited him with his master, Rocky.

I have to admit, I didn’t like Rocky II at first. It depressed the hell out of me. I know what it’s like to have a dream, a big dream, a passion, and you’re fucking stuck doing something you hate. Me, personally, I’m kind of a germaphobe, with uncooked meat being the worst offender, so the idea of working with it like Rock was too much to take.
Well, Rocky gets a big pay-day from the fight, and it’s an absolute blast watching him truly enjoy life. He’s bouncing around with a smile, making constant jokes & quips, truly feeling like he doesn’t have a care in the world. Besides the house, he’s buying all this ridiculous stuff, such as a car despite the fact he doesn’t have a license, and can’t drive. As he sputters down the street, he stops in front of this shop and feels that without a doubt, they gotta get these coats. For Adrian, a massive fur, and for him, a insanely God-awful silk, black jacket with a lion on it [“I say we get them before someone else does!”]. I love it. He gets the new collar for Butkus, along with one for his wrist [“Now that’s what I call class!”]. He buys watches as well, expensive ones. Now, after all this, he has to get a real gig, because he’s retired from the fight-game, and due to the fact he can’t read, or act, commercials are out as well. Eventually though, Adrian’s got a bun in the oven, and Apollo won’t quit talking shit, so it’s go time. However, at this point Rocky has already proved his point, now he wants the title. Once again they go the distance, but this time Rocky is able to defeat Apollo, becoming everything that everyone said he’d never be.
Now, right here I gotta nit-pick. I don’t like how the fight ended. Rocky wasn’t exactly on his feet, he was using the ropes, and there’s absolutely no way a ref would call that a win for him. Regardless, we got one of Rocky’s best moments as he screams into the microphone “YO ADRIAN, I DID IT!”, and I have zero problems saying that it makes me tear up every time. Because here’s this guy, this guy who just busted his ass, who played fair, and treated people fair, who was never given a chance, never considered one of the beautiful people, who was able to get his foot in the door, and followed it up by kicking the motherfucker off the hinges. You know, he’s got his wife now, his wife and his son, and here he wins with his own 2 fucking hands, guts and heart, the very pinnacle of his sport. It’s just an awesome moment, a moment that every man who’s worked hard and played by the rules deserves to have.
My Favorite Moment: I absolutely love it in the beginning when Rocky is in the hospital, and they’re asking him things like “Do you think you have any brain damage?” and he responds “I don’t see any”, then all of a sudden, out of no where, Apollo Creed is wheeled in and he’s screaming at everybody, saying that Rocky is the luckiest chump in the world, and then he even tries to get up so they can settle the fight right there. It’s fucking hysterical.
Random Fact: There’s a version of the script that includes a scene showing us how Rocky first met Mick and we learn that Rocky’s first name is actually Robert.

OK, now we’re talking. Look, Rocky I & II are some of the best films ever made, but when we get to Rocky III, we’re talking MOVIES, baby. We’re talking some of the burliest, watch-it-and-you’ll-fail-a-test-for-anabolics, most-fun kinda movies ever. The 3rd film absolutely catapults Rocky into the stratosphere and takes him from a simple underdog into one of the biggest icons of all time. I know snobs will thumb their noses when the franchise takes this turn, and it absolutely blows my mind. How you can’t have the absolute fucking time of your life with Rocky in overdrive is beyond me.
We start off with one of the most 80’s songs of all time, Eye of the Tiger, leading us into a montage of two lives. One of them is Rocky Balboa. After winning the World Heavyweight Title, he’s living the dream. He’s crushing everyone he steps in the ring with, he lives in a mansion, has tons of endorsements, motorcycles, cars, fame, adoration, fans, everything a person could ask for. The guy is constantly on cloud 9. Else where, we’ve got Clubber Lang, a man who lives in the shadows and doesn’t care for much else but destroying anyone foolish enough to stand in front of him. Money? Cars? Fame? That’s all horseshit. He wants to hurt people, and that’s it.
Before we get to Clubber Lang, Rocky has a charity event, boxer vs wrestler. Rocky Balboa vs Thunderlips. The Ultimate Male. The Mountain Of Molton Lust. Needless to say, this entire scene is fucking awesome. Thunderlips not only out-weighs Rocky by over 100lbs, but he looks like he’s 10ft taller, the different between the two is insane. When he begins suplexing, body & powerslamming Rocky, it looks like he’s cradling a child, all the while mocking him, “It’s all fake, meatball, it’s all fake!”. Rocky does what he can, and even gets help from Paulie and a chair, but Thunderlips just can’t be stopped. Finally, Rocky has his gloves removed and starts pounding on him, working the body in order to chop him down, and is finally able to subdue him with a sleeper hold. It’s an absolutely over the top scene that helps set the pace for the movie, and lets you know that you’re not gonna get more of the same from the first two.
Later, at a statue dedication Rocky announces that he’s going to retire. This prompts Clubber Lang to show up and let everyone who will listen know that he’s displeased with this news. He claims Rocky has been ducking him, and any real contenders. Rocky takes umbridge with this, and says anytime, anywhere. However, when he gets alone with Mick, he finds out his trainer isn’t on board. He says that Clubber is too serious, too brutal, and will hurt Rock. However, he’s able to talk Mick into one more go at it, and that’ll be that. Unfortunately, Rock doesn’t take Mick’s warnings serious, as he rents out a theater for his training. He’s got a live-band, concession stands, bubbles, and photo-ops during his exercises. Hell, at one point he’s working out in a silk jacket. Meanwhile, Clubber is basically sparring with Truckasarus, and being as serious as a heart attack.
The day of the fight, Clubber gets out of control during a confrontation in the hall-way, and as a result Mick goes into cardiac arrest. With Rocky’s head all fucked up now, and the fact he didn’t train right, he’s absolutely destroyed. He heads back to the trainers room, and too ashamed of what happened, he let’s Mick die believing he won. It’s an incredibly sad scene as Rocky wails and keeps repeating that they have more to do.
It’s at this point that the genius of Stallone once again kicks in, as Apollo Creed returns, not as an enemy, but as a friend. He says that Rocky lost the last fight for all the wrong reasons, and he believes he can help him get back the eye of the tiger. Which I suppose represents fighting spirt, or something, I dunno, I never really understood it. What follows is more awesomeness from Rocky III, as Paulie does nothing but bitch and moan about everything, including the fact he doesn’t really dig black people, prompting Rocky to say “maybe they don’t like you”, to which Paulie replies, with hurt feelings “Why? What’d I ever do to them?”.
Despite agreeing to all of this, Rocky can’t get his head on straight, and keeps losing his focus during training, and most importantly, the beach races. There’s another great scene where he appears to give up all together, so Adrian has to drag it out of him, why he’s doing this, and Rocky finally admits that he’s afraid. Adrian assures him that everything he holds dear will still be here after the fight, but he has to want that win for himself. Not for any guilt he may be feeling, or any debts he feels he may owe, but for himself. Naturally, after the awesome Adrian pep-talk, Rocky is good to go. We get another classic Rocky training montage that sees him prepped for the fight, and most importantly, win the race with Apollo and secure that scene as the Most Homosexual Scene That’s Suppose To Be Heterosexual. I mean, seriously, can anyone watch this scene with a straight face? What the hell is up with what they’re wearing? I mean, two dudes kissing would be less homosexual than all of this, and it’s that very reason that helps to make it so bad-ass. I mean, they’re two of the biggest bad-asses ever in belly-shirts, socks up to their knees, frolicking in the water, and it’s all so unaware. It’s fucking fantastic.
The day of the fight comes, and we get a bunch of classic lines from Clubber, such as his one word prediction for the fight “pain”, and his simple utterance of “dead meat” to Rocky as they stand in the ring. Once the match gets under-way, it blows any other Rocky fights that have come before it out of the water. Instead of the usual 15-round spectacle, this one is over in 3 rounds, and we see every second of it. Because the fight is much shorter, Stallone made sure that just as many punches that were in the first two fights from Rocky 1 & 2 were in this fight, so, that’s a lot to cram in there. However, it works, and this fight delivers on all levels. Rocky’s taunts in the end are awesome, as everyone thinks he’s done for, but Paulie lets everyone know that Rock is just getting mad. He knocks out Lang, and all is well. It also needs to be noted that while Rocky is most well known for wearing the American Flag boxing shorts, he didn’t don them for the first time until the final fight of this film.
My Favorite Moment: Man, this film is stock-piled with favorite moments. I guess I’ll have to go with the fight between Thunderlips, because not only is the action great, but there’s a ton of funny moments between Rocky & Mick. Like when Mick is telling Rocky he’s ridiculous for doing this, and that no one would do this much for charity, Rocky responds with “Bob Hope would”, to which Mick gives him a knowing nod and says “That’s true”. Then, when Thunderlips is in the ring, and they’re being introduced by the ring-announcer, Rocky asks Mick “geez, what do you think that guy eats?” and he responds “About 202lbs”, just as the announcer gives out Rocky’s weight of 202lbs, which causes Mick to smile proudly at his slick joke.
Random Fact: There’s a book called Rocky: The Ultimate Guide, and it expands on the Rocky universe. Through there we learn that Clubber grew up in foster care, was a troubled youth, and even spent some time in jail. After this fight, he retired, due to the fact he was destroyed so badly, and because he had such a bad attitude, most didn’t want to deal with him. Apparently there was thought to having him reprise his role in Rocky Balboa, as a much wiser, calmer person who was at the fight doing commentary. I would have really liked to see that.
Clearly, Rocky is in freaky shape for this movie, and he got that way by being trained by Arnold Schwarzenegger’s best friend, and former Mr. Olympia, Franco Columbo. At 5’5, 190lbs, Franco is one of the all-time greats, strong as an ox, and had such great lung conditioning he was able to blow up a hot-water bottle until it burst.

Alright, that covers it for this week. Tune in next time as we cover another classic, the most hated entry in the franchise, as well as an entry we never thought we’d see.

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