It’s difficult to refer to myself as someone who knows a lot about movies but then have to admit I have never seen Rocky. A classic film about an underdog boxer, Rocky not only has one of the most recognized theme songs in cinema, it has gotten to the point where everybody knows who Rocky is. No longer must I say that I have not seen the 1977 Oscar Best Picture Winner. Last weekend I watched Rocky and was very surprised by what I saw.
Rocky is a film about a boxer but it isn’t really much about boxing. There are very few scenes where boxing is actually shown. The film opens with one of the few boxing scenes, showing Rocky Balboa (Sylvester Stallone) in a match. The match ends and we get a chance to actually meet Rocky Balboa. An oddly charming man, Rocky has a fondness for animals and seems to genuinely care about people. Rocky is constantly flirting with Adrian Pennino (Talia Shire), his best friend’s shy and quiet sister. Begging his friend Paulie Pennino (Burt Young) to get him a date with his sister, Rocky and Adrian eventually go on a date and their relationship grows. The relationship between Adrian and Rocky, specifically how the two grow from that relationship, is one of the main aspects of the film. Adrian is finally comfortable enough around someone to come out of her shell and even gain confidence in herself. Rocky, a man who tries to take care of everything on his own, finally has someone willing to care for him and look out for him.
The other aspect of the film is the fight. Rocky is not a professional boxer, in fact boxing is not his main source of income. He only picks up side fights when the opportunity presents itself. Rocky’s real job is to collect money for a local bookie, using force if necessary. Made an outcast by his gym’s manager Mickey Goldmill (Burgess Meredith), Rocky is not considered a serious fighter. His manager does not treat him seriously because Rocky wasted his talent and took a job that was beneath him. Not taken seriously, an odd situation finally gives Rocky his big break. The world heavy-weight champion, Apollo Creed (Carl Weathers) had planned a match on New Years Eve but after being injured, his opponent had to back out. With no famous boxer willing to fight him with such a short amount of time to train, Apollo decides to give an unknown a chance. Picking from a book of names, Apollo thinks Rocky, the Italian Stallion, would be perfect for the fight. This decision sets off some of the most famous scenes in cinematic history, the training montages. Not even training to necessarily win, Rocky just wants to take advantage of his chance and go every round with Apollo Creed.
The movie is mainly a build up to the fight as we watch Rocky train and get ready. This film had a number of different positive and negative aspects. I though the character development of Rocky and Adrian was outstanding. Both characters grew tremendously throughout the film. Beyond the two main characters however, there is almost no character development. Supporting characters don’t grow or change much, they just kind of serve the same purpose throughout the film. I also thought that there were some holes in the dialogue. Often times conflict between characters escalated to a yelling match before it was obvious what the actual conflict was. It gets to a point where yelling becomes an acceptable form of communication during the film which sometimes creates a convoluted mood or masks the true intentions of the characters.
Overall I found this to be a well done film. It was not only the underdog story of Rocky Balboa, it was also Sylvester Stallone’s own personal underdog story. Writing and starring in the film, Stallone was a fairly unknown name before Rocky. Beyond winning the Oscar for Best Picture, Rocky director John G. Avildsen won best director and the film won for Best Film Editing. The other films in the Best Picture category were All the President’s Men, Bound for Glory, Network and Taxi Driver and I’m not sure Rocky is really the best of the bunch,. Rocky is a great film but it wouldn’t have been my vote for Best Picture. Rocky is an 8 out of 10 film, a classic that everybody should see.