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Rocky (1975) – Review

Overview

As an era appropriate film (45 years ago), Rocky plays a pivotal role in modern “champion movies:. It has the heart, the intensity, the foreshadowing, and subversive ending that would place it in its time while creating inspiration for movies that were to come.

Also all of that good stuff is in the second half of a two hour film. (Netflix Version)

The first half of the movie is a literally different story making this something progressive which is an interesting challenge in its own right.

A Rocky Start to a Champion Finish – A Review

The Story

The movie can easily and discernably be split right in half telling two stories that merge at the end. The first is of Rocky as he goes about his daily life and routine as well as slowly introducing it’s plethora of characters that would leave first time viewers confused to the nature of their relationships. It is difficult to determine who is friend and who is foe creating a grey line at the beginning. In addition to the first time viewing, much of what happens in the first hour appears to be nonsense and tame hammering points of Rocky’s financial struggles and morality to be able to meet those struggles. 

Al’s comment : Either Rocky’s got some shitty friends or everyone was a dick in the 70s.

However, after letting this movie ferment for analysis, it is easy to see the intentions of Stallone’s writing. Rocky is constantly conflicted, he has minimal pleasure for what he does to meet his duties and those of which around him treat him poorly for it. And yes, this is blatant and obvious during the movie, however it is muddled by pace and constant distractions that draw the viewers’ attention away from making these connections feel meaningful. Which is why the movie needs time to settle so the viewer can sift through the dirt for the nuggets of meaning. Even Rocky’s love arc with Adrian initially feels heartfelt due to Adrian’s inability and anxiety all throughout. But even that establishes itself in a distracting way… I’ll let Al explain.

Taken from google images

Rocky and Adrian on their date, Source: The Best Picture Project

Al’s comment :  Man, Rocky? More like fucking Rapey… That scene with Adrian, making it more difficult for her to decline his advances, that gross ass bottle couch and knife stabbed into his punching bag. Even literally closing the door refusing to let her leave until she kissed him. That shit may have flown back then but that has not aged well, like a half bottle of $5 merlot left in the sun on top of a radiator putting overtime for nearly five decades. Honestly that first date had far too many serial-killer-rapist red flags for anyone’s taste really.

All of these issues are immediately alleviated the moment Apollo Creed chooses to fight Rocky. The themes of luck, friendship, love and suffering begin to accelerate resulting with the plot pulling the viewer right back just when their interest and care for the movie had waned. Rocky’s friendships become less grey as do his feelings, thoughts and motivations. He is humbled and doubtful of even himself as everyone around him gives him the emotional, literal and physical breakthroughs he needed to fight Apollo. His friendships were tested because of this, but overall everyone emerged stronger and closer for the result of that ending.

That ending. The fight felt long and not in the sense of length that the first hour of the movie portrayed, but rather to the favor of the movie. The score was tight right up until the end.

Rocky and Creed going at it, Source: Cleveland Sports Talk

*SPOILER ALERT SKIP TO THE CHARACTERS SECTION IF YOU HAVEN’T HAD A CHANCE TO WATCH THIS MOVIE IN THE LAST 45 YEARS*

Though technicality Creed won the fight, the beauty of this movie is that winning was never important. The scores were listed in the background as Rocky called for Adrian. The fact is that Rocky was never going to win the fight, it was about having a fight rather than a slaughter, about being able to overcome obstacles beyond oneself and it was a movie about love.

Without that, this movie would not have had the predicted chance of Rocky’s victory against the test of time.

Characters

The movie was about Rocky, so his journey is mostly discussed. Stallone is…. A sub-par actor. Though he can get tones across, his speech, looks and actions are off-putting. Even after letting it ferment, I can only picture a static mask in place of his face.

Sylvester Stallone’s unmoving face, Source: The Epoch Times

Al’s comment: The top half of Stallone’s face remains motionless, you can count the amount of times this fuckin robot blinked throughout the 2 hours with one hand. He had to have his fuckin eyelids literally swell shut for him.

Adrian is anxious and anti-social. However she goes through a tremendous amount of character growth that is comparable to Rocky’s journey. She is mistreated and lacks the confidence to step up to the sources of mistreatment through her timid nature. But ultimately gains that confidence against her brother Paulie and for Rocky.

Paulie’s buddy relationship with Rocky and Adrian respectively shifts in the favor of benefit to himself. He is deluded and selfish into thinking that he has an entitlement to every success that they both have.

Mickey is also selfish enough to look past his morals to help train Rocky the same way he criticized Rocky for looking past his own for money. He is hypocritical, but his training, motivation, humility and friendship is key to Rocky’s success.

Apollo Creed is self-absorbed, cocky and confident as he pays little to no interest to his entourages warnings or concerns with the fight to Rocky. His underestimation becomes his greatest downfall causing the match to last  as long as it did.

All the actors played their roles excellently and were able to immerse the viewer into the world of the story.

Al’s comment: Hollywood back in the day (and still arguably today) struggles with casting white people for non-white roles. You’ll know what I’m talking about….

Aesthetic : Visuals, Sounds, Soundtrack and Score.

This movie adopts all the various tropes of its time including long zoom-happy shots of characters walking, wide views of characters walking off screen and the unmistakable moody lighting of the gross ecosystem that was the United States (and much of the world) in the 70s. The quick zoomed shots, fades and long pace of combat accentuates the length of the match in the finale.

The soundtrack has disco and funk influence that merged together with standard movie scoring to create one of the most iconic character themes. That and the training montage is enough to satisfy most viewers aesthetically.

Conclusion

Rocky is a good representation of its time. Whether it’s cinematic tools and practices, or a visualization of the Eastern United States. The story is filled with heart in an era of grit (after the first hour has passed), confusing characters that display friendship, manipulation and adversarial gain, wrapped with a soundtrack that is head bobbing. Most importantly, it had hit a algorithmic sweet spot that “champion movies” to come would build their foundations on. Today it’s nothing too special or grand, being superseded in many ways socially and technicality. However, it being memorable and still having influence this far later is definitely something to boast.

Al’s Comment: I mentioned how this movie resonates ideas to even this day… one good example is writing a love story that’s comparable to the cringe-fest that old Geroge did for Attack of the Clones…

I’d recommend this movie if you like: Sylvester Stallone struggling to function, Carl Weathers, boxing, sports, and a big fan of 70s movies.

I would not recommend this movie if you like: Boxing, sports, Sylvester Stallone, long pace and poorly written romances.

Al’s Abstract: Rapey balboa, connects the hit, I rate it 2864178481767132119041708491309182 rib breaking meat jabs out of 22324385287257943985385937591975.

I have a list of movies and games I wanted to review and a shocking amount of movies that I had only seen in fragments or not at all. It’s pretty bad. I get roasted for it. However, I’ve also been told that I’m lucky enough to be able to experience many of these stories for the first time. This is review #1 of the movie series.

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