Posts Tagged ‘Stallone’

Robert Mckee wrote one of the better known books on screenplay writing. In his book, simply called Story, he said a strong ending can make the audience forget the weaker parts of a movie. Such is the case in Rocky II, it ends on such a emotional high note, it makes us forget about the slow ploddingness of the rest of the movie.

Rocky II is one of the rare sequels that picks up immediately after the events of the previous film. It begins the tradition of the opening recap of the last film’s fight. It then takes us to the immediate aftermath, with the opening credits running over scenes of Rocky’s ambulance rushing him to the hospital. For anyone that doesn’t know, Creed won the match of the first movie by a split decision. The rest of the movie is about Creed, embarrassed that a no name fighter went the distance with the champ, wanting a rematch, and Rocky wanting to live the rest of his life quietly with Adrian.

Once he gets out of the hospital, Rocky proposes to Adrian at the zoo (which is weirdly ironic since in the last movie someone insulted them both by suggesting Rocky take her to the zoo because “retards like the zoo.”) They marry and buy a new home. Rocky’s lack of sophistication is played up here, as he recklessly spends money on new clothes, a nice car, etc. It’s the only time of the series where Rocky is kind of un-likable, and at times comes across like an early Homer Simpson. Naively, he attempts to get an office job, but his lack of education and criminal record bar this. He briefly attempts to do commercials but, embarrassingly, he has trouble reading the cue cards.

Meanwhile Apollo keeps goading him into trying to fight again, but Adrian doesn’t want him to. There’s also a plot point about Rocky’s one eye being damaged/not being able to see well. (This plot point is dropped for the rest of the series. Maybe once he got rich he got some magic surgery to fix it.) Adding to the pressure is Adrian’s pregnancy. She delivers the baby but falls into a coma afterwards. At this point the series delves into soap opera melodrama, though I fully admit tearing up upon first seeing this at age 13. Maybe in 1979 the whole slipped into a coma angle wasn’t cliche yet. Either way, Adrian turns out to be fine, encourages Rocky to fight, and away we go.

There’s two training montages this time, with the familiar Rocky theme returning. We see him running through the city getting followed by school children, showing how the city of Philadelphia has truly embraced him. They all run to the top of the steps together, and I always thought it would have been funny if they did a fake outtake where Rocky accidentally belted one of the kids.

Possibly one improvement Rocky II has over its predecessor is the final fight is filmed much better. Now that they have a real budget we get to see an arena filled with people watching the match. While the first fight was more dramatic, this one is filmed more for excitement, with Bill Conti’s “Conquest” score which ended up being used a few times throughout the series. There’s also an angle of southpaw Rocky training to fight right handed, only two switch to his left at the end. However, he doesn’t end up doing the switch, which was due to an injury Stallone had while making this movie.

While visually an improvement over its predecessor, the fight is also a bit more ridiculous. If you know the littlest thing about boxing, you know that you always keep your hands up to defend yourself. Rocky has almost no defense, he seems to willingly take Apollo’s punches. Now granted most of the Rocky’s are guilty of this sin, but in II it’s the most blatant. It’s just too hard to believe that he is able to take this beating and not get knocked out. It’s arguably more ridiculous than Rocky IV, because that whole movie is over the top so it’s just kind of understood. Like the first movie, Rocky II is somewhat grounded in reality, so to go from something grounded in reality to this absurdity is a lot to take.

Rocky II runs two hours, just like its predecessor, but unlike the first one, which won an Oscar for best editing, this one feels a lot longer. The scenes of Rocky trying to live a normal life really drag at times. Rocky V is widely considered the worst of the series. However, I would suggest Rocky II might actually be worse. The thing is, the audience forgives its slowness because the very very end is highly exciting and emotional. Stallone comes up with a clever ending in that Rocky simply doesn’t knock out Apollo. Instead both fighters fall to the mat, and the situation is whoever gets up first wins the match. It’s a real nail biter done very well. It should be no surprise that Rocky wins, and afterwards give a speech ending with him addressing his wife who was watching at home on TV. Ending with the now famous “Yo Adrian, I did it!” Rocky II ends in an undeniable emotional high, which makes us remember this movie being a lot better than it really was.

I’ll leave you with the ending below.

In hindsight, the 1982 film Rocky III turned out to be an important piece of the 1980‘s. Continuing the tradition from the last sequel, it opens with a recap of Rocky’s victory over Apollo Creed in Rocky II, before that famous guitar riff starts and the Eye of the Tiger montage begins. We see Rocky enjoying wealth and fame, doing commercials, and appearing on the Muppet show. All the while Rocky is defending his title against various opponents, eventually stacking up ten title defenses. Meanwhile, a young hungry southpaw named Clubber Lang (Mr. T) is racking up victories, and calling out Rocky in front Mickey, Rocky’s manager.

Just as the first film, Rocky III parallels where Stallone was in his life at the time. In this film, Rocky is caught up in his fame and fortune, and doesn’t take Clubber Lang seriously. In short, Rocky loses the belt to Lang, Mickey dies, and Apollo Creed offers to help Rocky train for a rematch. They go to L.A. to train, and Rocky wins the title back.

This movie takes a departure in tone of the first two movies. There’s more glitz and glam, and the fights are filmed more like an action movie than a drama. It’s also the only Rocky where we see the fight at the end in its entirety.

For the first time we see Rocky doubt himself, which is interesting. Unfortunately Stallone at this point wasn’t really an actor anymore. There’s a scene on the California beach where Adrian gets Rocky to snap out of his funk. Actress Talia Shire completely carries the scene through some really stiff dialogue.

For me personally Rocky III is noteworthy because it’s the first Rocky I’d ever seen. I watched it on HBO when I was little. In that part where Mr. T. taunts Rocky, he says Adrian should come to his apartment so she can see a real man. I remember not understanding what that meant, but my young brain presumed it had something to do with her seeing him naked. Before the first fight scene I remember telling my mom that Mr. T. was going to be all washed up. Then I was surprised of course when Mr. T. won. As the movie kept going and I realized they were going to have another fight, I assured my mother again that Mr. T. would be all washed up, and this time he was.

There’s a really great piece of music for the scene when Mickey died, and Rocky wanders around his old neighborhood (places from the first movie). In my Rocky Balboa post I’d mentioned how I went to Korea. I ended up staying there a lot longer than I planned. When I came back I remember wandering around my hometown, as well as the town I went to college in and other places, and I could hear that piece of music in my head. It was a real morose haunting kind of feeling.

Rocky III is certainly not a masterpiece in film, but it’s important to 1980’s culture in that it introduced the world to two classic 80‘s icons, Hulk Hogan and Mr. T, along with his iconic catch phrase “I pity the fool.” Just a year later Mr. T. went on to star in the hit series the A. Team, and also had his own Saturday morning cartoon show and even his own breakfast cereal. Hogan of course went on to be a mega star in the world of professional wrestling. In fact, both Hogan and Mr. T. would headline the very first Wrestlemania in 1985. Rocky III also introduced the Rocky statue, and the song “Eye of the Tiger,” by Survivor, which is now synonymous with the franchise. All in all it’s a punched filled time capsule of 80’s awesomeness.

Grudge match is pretty much Rocky vs Raging Bull, with Sylvester Stallone and Robert De Niro playing 2 retired boxers who agree to fight each other. The backstory is that during their prime in the 80s the two fought each other twice, with each fighter getting a win. However, the rubber mach never happened, as Stallone’s character retired from boxing after winning the second fight.

Slightly borrowing from the premise of 2006’s Rocky Balboa, the two fighters are hired to do motion capture for a boxing video game. The two encounter each other for the first time in 30 years and get into a real brawl, which gets recorded and goes viral, prompting the rematch.

The first act is very clunky and heavy handed. It slightly improves in the second and third act as dramatic elements are developed. There’s lost loves, estranged family, and the reason for Stallone’s character for retiring. There’s also the theme of mistakes and regret hanging over your life for 3 decades.

There is the issue of Stallone actually being in shape in real life vs De Niro, but a plot point relating to Stallone addresses this.The fight follows the Rocky format of showing the first two rounds, then a montage, then the final rounds. However, seeing two old boxers fight was not cinematically exciting, and overall felt like Rocky on the cheap.

I’m not as familiar with Raging Bull so if there were any references to that I didn’t catch them. There are two Rocky references. Stallone tries drinking the eggs, and there’s a joke about him punching slabs of meat. Also it doesn’t take place in Philadelphia, but Pittsburgh which is still PA. His character is also more working class, while De Niro owns a car dealership and is more of the showman.

The fight has a winner, but by this point I don’t care as much. Someone like me is the target audience for this movie, which makes it an even bigger disappointment.