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Rocky Balboa’s a bum,
Who thinks himself brutish and dumb.
Some nights he spends fighting,
Which proves unexciting
And leaves him all sore in his slum.
 
He tries to cajole and impress
His friend Paulie’s sis, with success,
But no one, you see,
Takes him seriously
Or thinks he will ever progress.
 
But then the world champ has a need
For someone to box him with speed.
Some fame he will loan
To a total unknown,
Who’ll have a chance battling Creed.
 
But Rocky is shocked at the chance
When he is hand-picked in advance,
And Mick at the gym
Then requests to train him
And no longer eyes him askance.
 
Rock trains, jogging down every street,
And spends his days pounding on meat.
He swallows eggs raw,
And the dogged southpaw
Soon is ready to fight the elite.
 
Though no one expects Rock to win,
Apollo Creed loses his grin,
When he stands, toe to toe,
In a fight, not a show,
And frets at the bell’s every din.
 
The punchy pair pummels and pounds,
And when the concluding bell sounds,
Though Apollo has won,
Philly’s new favorite son
Is proud he went all fifteen rounds.
___________________
 

With all the entertaining but formulaic sequels that threatened to caricaturize the familiar setup, it’s easy to forget the singularity of the original underdog tale Rocky. After a few minor film roles, Sylvester Stallone essentially made his own success by conceiving the story of Rocky Balboa and insisting he play the role himself. Stallone has an unusual face that may seem blank and expressionless to some and to others expresses subtle emotion that the viewer imagines Rocky is feeling. Either way, Rocky is the closest Stallone ever got to an Oscar-worthy performance.

Compared to Stallone’s more dynamic direction of the next three sequels, director John G. Avildsen takes a much slower pace with several long scenes lacking music, which is sometimes boring and sometimes perfectly utilized, such as in the famous raw egg scene. Rewatching the film again, after seeing the sequels so often, I was reminded of just how low Rocky was before fortune smiled on him and how he essentially owed everything to Apollo, who chose him specifically based on his rhyming moniker, the Italian Stallion. Indeed, Rocky probably would have remained a bum had it not been for a random gift of Providence.

Compared with later entries in the series, the fight scenes aren’t the best, and sometimes the soundless punches are clearly not landing, but the film is about more than the sport. It’s a story of a dream come true, at once realistic, romantic, and improbable, and at the end of the original training montage with that memorable “Gonna Fly Now” anthem, Rocky stands at the top of those stairs, imagining all the possibilities that success could bring, such as the crowd of cheering kids that would join him by the same point in the second film. Though they ignored Rocky’s and Apollo’s declaration that there would be no rematch, the sequels fill a purpose in showing how far Rocky succeeds (except for the depressing fifth one, also directed by Avildsen), but the original Best Picture winner packs just the right emotional punch.

Best line: (Mickey, during the final fight) “Your nose is broken.”
(Rocky) “How does it look?”
(Mickey) “Ah, it’s an improvement.”

 

Artistry: 9
Characters/Actors: 9
Entertainment: 7
Visual Effects: N/A
Originality: 9
Watchability: 8
Other (iconic theme song; the beginning of a winning series): +7
 
TOTAL: 49 out of 60
 

Next: #133 – Sleepless in Seattle

© 2014 S. G. Liput

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