“If I Fight You Fight”: Rocky on his 40th Anniversary

When I was growing up, I knew about Rocky. That’s to say – I knew of Rocky. I’d seen the poster, I knew that Sylvester Stallone was a movie star, I knew that at some point he shouted “Adrian!” Like most that haven’t sat down and watched any of the Rocky series, I felt like I already knew the story – and in a way, I did. It is a fairly straightforward underdog story in a lot of ways, which makes it hard to convince non-believers of its worth. The language that Rocky himself uses is simplistic, but the melodrama of the series’ middle casts a shadow over what is otherwise a nuanced, delicate character study.

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Rocky/Creed Podcast

Sean Fallon has an excellent podcast called From First To Last, where he talks to people about the first and last episodes of their favourite shows. Back in May I starred on the show to talk about Twin Peaks with him, and I recently recorded another episode with him for the movie special. Every 10th episode Sean will change the focus from television to film.

I chose the Rocky series, so we both get to talk about the series in general, why Rocky himself is my favourite character in film, and our personal experience watching all seven. We couldn’t decide whether Rocky Balboa or Creed count as the “last” in the series, so our conversation is far more focused on both of those films, as well as the original Rocky.

You can find it on iTunes now, as well as on Podbean.

A Defence of Rocky V

Rocky V was not, to put it mildly, well-received. I came to this series late, and after hearing so many bad things about this movie in advance, I was expecting the worst. What I found is that I actually really enjoy this installment. It is definitely one of the weaker entries to the series, but for all its flaws it is still a good film. In fact, with the exception of Rocky Balboa, Rocky V is the most faithful and ambitious of the sequels. Continue reading →

A Takedown of Rocky IV

This might be a bold statement as a fan of the Rocky series, but I’m not a fan of Rocky IV. I love to talk about its strange quirks and ham-fisted approach to Cold War politics, but it’s a mess that I can’t get behind. It did well with the fans of the series at the time of release (certainly better than Rocky V did), and it is the most successful entry at the box office, but I want to ask: is it a good “Rocky Movie”?

What staples are commonly associated with the Rocky series? American flag shorts, montages, “Eye of the Tiger”-style anthems, patriotism, the final fight. These are all present in these films, but they are not even close to the most important aspects. I think of the love story between Rocky and Adrian, I think of Rocky’s sweet nature and patience, I think of Apollo’s boisterous charm, Paulie’s tortured soul and Mickie’s regrets. These are the things that make me love these movies, and those aren’t the images I was given before deciding to watch them all. There has never been anything interesting to me about jingoistic, repetitive films full of montages, films that predictably lead to two guys wailing on each other. Still, that is the imagery that surrounds the series, and it all seems to come from Rocky IV. I was shocked at the indie sensibility of the original film, the emotional weight of its sequel, and the pure joy of the third film – mostly because I had been sold that this was a dumb franchise with little to offer. If anyone ever rolls their eyes when I mention my love for these films now, I believe it’s down to the shadow this entry casts. Continue reading →