At my current job I have to take a minibus to and from work each day. It’s a thirty to forty minute drive so each day I put some movies/tv shows my iPad and watch them as we go.
There’s a lot of tv and movies that I want to watch to fill in the gaps in my movie knowledge. Now a lot of these TV shows and movies are the ones that my girlfriend doesn’t share my interest in so this has been the perfect chance to fill those gaps without forcing her to sit through Twin Peaks or James Whale’s Frankenstein.
This is why I spent the past two weeks watching all of the Rocky films one after another.
Before this I had only watched Rocky V from beginning to end. The others I had seen scenes here and there but never beginning to end. Now I’m a boxing fan and a movie fan so how could I in good conscience continue walking around trying to live my day-to-day life with this huge gap in my movie knowledge? That’s right, I couldn’t.
So got them all on my iPad, got comfy on the bus and waited for the bell to ring for round one.
When people think of the Rocky films they think of Rocky III and IV. That’s where the idea that Rocky movies are all cheesiness and spectacle and constant montages.
I was one of these people and when I started this I was surprised by the original Rocky’s lack of these elements (actually there is one montage but it’s awesome…actually in all six films the training montages are awesome).
Rocky is a quiet, slow, character piece about this down on his luck fighter being given a shot at greatness. It is a drama and not a sports movie.
Now this probably isn’t the first time this has been said but while I was watching it I thought “so Rocky is America, right?”. It’s the mid seventies, Nixon’s been booted, the Vietnam war has limped to a finish. America and Rocky had hope for greatness and the potential but it’s failing fast but there’s a sense that if they can hold the line and if they have a enough heart to take the beatings they’ll come through it. This theme of Rocky representing America will continue throughout the series. For better or worse (mostly worse).
So Rocky Balboa is a fighter with talent whose making ends meet as a fighter and mob enforcer. He spends his time making terrible jokes and wooing/stalking his friend Paulie’s sister, Adrian, a shy woman who works at the pet shop.
Enter Apollo Creed, the smooth talking Ali-esque heavyweight champion of the world.
He’s an awesome character in the four films appears in and in this one after a fight in Philly falls through he has the marketing brainwave of picking a local fighter to have an exhibition fight with in the spirit of America being the land of opportunity. Of course he picks Rocky and in the finale they have a huge fight and Rocky goes the distance, staying in the fight for twelve rounds and even managing to knock the champ to the ground. And even though he loses on points he has proved to himself and the world and he ain’t no bum. Oh and he gets the girl.
Rocky is a great film. It is filled with rich interesting characters and I found myself at the end shadow boxing along with Balboa as he went toe to toe with the champ. As much as I enjoyed this film though I was surprised to see it won best picture at the Oscars against such films as Taxi Driver and All the Presidents Men. But then I guess it comes back to the thing I was saying about Rocky being America and all that. Here’s a film that shows a desperate hero rising against the odds to make something of himself. Taxi Driver and Pres’s Men are much more realistic portrayals of the sleaze and mess that was infesting America during this period, one from the point of view of the streets and one pointing the magnifying glass at the highest office on the planet. America needed Rocky. Needed that injection of hope right in the ass during a very dark time in that country’s history.
Another reason I started watching these films is that I like to watch franchises in long unbroken sequences. I have done it for most of the famous ones i.e. Lethal Weapon, Beverly Hills Cop, Die Hard, Mad Max, Indiana Jones etc. I like to view them as one large complete story rather than individual parts and sometimes this increases my enjoyment (I maintain that the Matrix trilogy is pretty good as long as your watch them in one ten hour continuous sitting as I did in a hotel room during a tropical storm) and sometimes it doesn’t (Terminator 3 and I never made it to watching Salvation.) I was intrigued how well this film would hook me in for the full ride and as the first film in a series I did feel at the end that I wanted more. I was interested where these characters would go from here and was eager to see that. If there had been no sequels I would have still been happy but as there are five of them I still have a lot of Rocky to go.
To be continued.