Rocky Balboa is given the chance of a lifetime when the world heavyweight champion, Apollo Creed, chooses him as an unlikely opponent in his championship bicentennial fight. What was originally planned as a publicity stunt becomes a chance for Rocky to prove himself as a prizefighter while training with his cantankerous manager, Mickey, to rise to the challenge.
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OSCAR winner for Best Picture, Best Director, Best Editing
What is the first shot of Rocky? Jesus Christ. Which right from the start tells you there is a religious undertone throughout this film channeling a down and out boxer to a religious icon. Itís the story of the person who doesnít want material things, he just wants respect, and people alongside him who believe in him. Rocky has nothing. No girlfriend, no real job, no shot at going anywhere. No one believes in him. Until he gets a shot, then everyoneís ready to jump on the bandwagon. [Spoiler alert] Although he does not win in the end, he gets everything he wanted, everything he fought for Ė respect.
The Story: The first half of our story revolves around the day in the life of a down and out boxer. Someone who is tossed out of his own training club, refuses to be a bad guy while muscling around gambling addicts to pay their debts, canít get the girl he likes to talk to him and no one wants to align themselves next to him. Itís evident from this setup that Rocky isnít in pursuit of fame, but rather respect. Anytime thereís dialogue between him and anyone else itís the following exchange;
ďHey Rock, did you win last night?Ē ďI did real good, you should have seen me.Ē
Rocky isnít looking for admiration for a win, but rather respect from his pursuit. The journey heís taking. Once he has his shot, everyone suddenly aligns themselves alongside him. After a shouting match with Mickey in his home, Rocky has a second thought that this is the moment he can use to keep people with him forever, and starts embrace peopleís welcomes and working towards maintaining that allegiance. Now although he has a shot, the one thing that has not changed is that everyone thinks heíll lose. Rocky goes through his own personal hell to raise himself to a level that no one thought he could. And thatís how he wins. The respect is all he was after, and thatís what he attains Ė forging his success at the filmís climax.
Acting: Now maybe it was the times and Iím too young to realize it. But if I had to said one word to describe itÖitíd be ďweird.Ē Iíve never seen characterization like this, before or after. The protagonist repeats himself and kind of off. His best friend is ďoffĒÖand believe me, Paulie IS off. And his girlfriend is very silent and reserved. Something a lot of women characters arenít like in film. The only ďnormalĒ character is Apollo Creed. The showman and the talent. All of the actors were well in acting in this film because while itís a mundane plot for the first half, the characters are so off beat that you just want to keep watching. The only complaint I have is that I canít understand Talia Shire when sheís screaming at Paulie. Itís really jumbled and overacted at times. Annoying even.
Directing: This film made Avildsen the go-to guy for fighting movies. He went on to direct several more of the Rocky films and then the Karate Kid films. The film is well thought out and directed. Each scene has a purpose and an emotional arc. Everything comes out very strong capturing this story as if it really happened Ė which is what the audience was looking for.
Cinematography: Gritty and dirty but the way itís covered keeps it interesting. While some of the fighting scenes are shot close, itís not too close that it murders the message to the audience of what is happening. Itís just enough to see whatís going on and get the full impact of the power.
Production Design: While it appears to be standard, there is a distinct contrast from Rockyís down-and-out life and the life of Apollo Creed. The man from the ghetto and the man on top. It helps define the protagonist and antagonist as polar opposites that will balance even. Editing: The editing is on par. Itís definitely doing itís job of keeping the pace going. Although I said earlier that the characterization keeps the audience intrigued the plot for the first half is almost shotty. Itís non-existent. But the editing keeps a steady pace that lets us know things are moving along as they should be.
Score: Makes the movie. Without a doubt. Yes, itís a great story with interesting characterization, but without that inspiring music, itís just a boring montage or a boxing match. The music pushes it above and beyond and thatís what really gets the audience in the movie theater cheering.
Special Effects: There is none, sans I guess injury prosthetics and they donít bother me any.
In closing: Itís a great film inspired by an age old mythology. Rocky is about the journey, and not so much the destination. It creates a character that we understand and identify with. Everyone knows itís unrealistic to always win when you get a shot at something, but whatís even bigger than that is getting the respect from people for the journey youíve taken.