Thursday, February 10, 2011

Eating Thunder/Crapping Lightning

It's time for a long overdue rant fest about the Rocky Franchise. I feel like I might have already done this before so forgive me if I'm repeating myself. Blame AMC they're marathoning the entire series, sans Rocky Balboa from a couple of years ago.
But don't worry I saw that one.

I have this theory and I feel pretty good about it: There's only really 3 Rocky movies.
-Rocky 1 & 2 are pretty much the same movie except Rocky wins in part 2.
-Rocky 3 & 4 are pretty much the same movie - in 3 Rocky loses and Mickey dies then Rocky wins. In 4 Apollo loses and dies then Rocky wins.
Oh yeah spoiler alert.
-Rocky 5&6 are about Rocky being broke and not fighting anymore but returning at other peoples urging to take on someone much younger which he eventually does for various reasons.

The last two are actually the murkiest. It's like post boxing life and then post-post boxing life. I guess it's supposed to be post Adrian life. Adrian is dead in the last one yet Paulie has beaten the odds and is still around. They own or work at a restaurant. They must own it because Rocky gives one of his old opponents a job in the kitchen. That whole thing bothers me because I refuse to believe that no network would hire an ex-champ, who essentially ended the Cold War to call fights for them. And who wouldn't want to watch a movie about Rocky calling fights on TV? But whatever. As of Rocky V he is broke, (thanks Paulie) and back to wearing his old leather jacket and fingerless gloves which is a far cry from part 3 when his hair is feathered and he's draped in matching beige overcoats and gloves and silk pajama pants.

I don't really have the problems with V that everyone semms to. I mean it's bad, don't get me wrong, Tommy Morrison isn't much of thespian (in fact if you want to read something nuts Mickey's a ghost, and the fighting promoter is so over-the-top (speaking of which I might drag Over The Top into this.) it's embarrassing and the soundtrack is so drenched in bad early 90's hip hop that I remembered what my 8th grade classroom smelled like, which brought on a whole slew of other issues but that's beside the point. V is bad but it's sort of watchable and the last movie goes a long way fixing what was wrong with it. In the last film Rocky isn't getting beat up by Mr. T or Drago or even crazy ol' Tommy "the Machine" Gunn. (Or even his opponent in the movie Mason "the Line" Dixon who has the dumbest name out of all of them) . Nope, life is kicking the shit out of Rock in this one, and it's kind of a sad movie, and you kind of expect him to die in it, (though having two fighters die in exhibition fights in one franchise would suggest that it is an epidemic, which, you know, as far as I know, it's not) . But Rocky doesn't die which opens up the possibility for yet another one but I hope Stallone just makes 6 more Expendables movies. If for no other reason than at least we know some one is keeping an eye on Dolph Lungren.

Now, let me get the first two out of the way; Rocky is Rocky. I have nothing bad to say about it. It looks a little dated but it sucks you in and you kind of get hooked on it. All of them do really but this started it all and it was good movie. It wasn't corny. Apollo Creed was a great character and that made it even better. In fact I think Apollo was the linchpin in the whole series. Once he got his head caved in everything lost it's steam. Apollo was insecure but he showboated, he was multi-dimensional for a boxing movie, you were rooting for Rocky because he was humble, and simple, an underdog and for all those reasons but if Apollo was fighting anyone else you'd be rooting for Apollo. At least I'd be. So while I don't really like II that much I get that there was no point in making it unless Rocky was going to beat him. It had some good moments, but the tone is pretty much the same as the first one. which, isn't a bad thing, it just makes it very indistinct. It should also be noted that Rocky is already talking retirement in II.

Which brings us to III and IV
I watched some of III last night and realized that Eye of the Tiger is playing throughout at least 45 minutes of that movie. It's at the beginning it's at the end it's in the training sequences. It's everywhere. This might account for why I like this movie and why it might be my second favorite in the series. Mick dies and that's a bummer but you know, I don't want to wash it off to he was old, but he was old. Burgess Meredith however lived until 1997 which means he could have been in all the sequels up until Balboa . I mean he was a ghost in V but c'mon. Mick in Russia? That could have been it's own movie. Of course if Mick doesn't die then Apollo can't train Rocky, if Apollo doesn't train Rocky then we, the audience don't have the greatest cut-off-at-the-belly-shirted-high-socked-short-shorts-running-into-the-ocean-for-a-splash-fight-man-hug in the history of cinema. Let us not forget a young pre-Hulkamania Hulk Hogan as Thunderlips wearing lifts on his boots and calling Rocky "meatball" and beating up cops and fans until the ref finally calls the match. Then he poses for a Polaroid. There's Mr. T in his feathered earring/gold chained/felt vest pinnacle. In fact Mr. T, ahem, Clubber Lange, yelling "Hey woman, hey woman" at Adrian is one of the funniest scenes in any movie ever. Mickey should have had Adrian call him up one night and tell him she was up for it, just as a distraction if he was so worried that Rocky wasn't ready. Ah, but Mick was tired by this point and was ready for retirement. And let us not forget the real star of the film, a 1000 foot statue of Rocky in front of the museum where he so famously ran up those steps. It's amazing that the mayor of Philadelphia knew about that and that the high school marching band knew to play "Gonna Fly Now" because Rocky was listening to it on his I-pod when he was training.
III is the end of the serious Rocky stuff from the first two films. They try to account for it by showing Rocky glamming it up on the cover of magazines and doing magazine ads and hanging out with the Muppets but the whole series really just went Hollywood, baby. Which was fine. It was the 80's. Have a good time. And it was a dumb fun movie.
Then there was IV . It's too bad no one is going to read this because I'd love to have the Four-debate. I like watching it because it's fucking hysterical. And I have another theory that is entirely possible: If Eye of the Tiger is on the IV soundtrack instead of III maybe it's a better movie. I can't be sure. I suppose I could cue it up the next time I watch IV (tonight?) and listen to it over the training montage instead of that Survivor sequel (it's called Burning Heart I'm listening to it now, it's describing the plot of the movie, in fact here treat yourself or there's always this gem if you can't get enough).

Now to be fair Adrian probably looks best of all in IV and of course we get the Stallone training beard to point out that while Dolph Drago is getting pumped full of shit and has the full power of the government making him into a T-800, Balboa is just using a few piles of a rocks as weights and jogging in the snow up mountains to train. And there's another weird thing about this movie that I'm probably going to fumble and fuck up but let's give it a shot: Obviously it's a giant spoonful of propaganda and whatever, every bad guy in the 80's was Russian, but they were trying to show that Rocky, training on his own, was an individual and fighting to avenge the death of his friend, not necessarily national pride. Drago only fought for his country, or so you think. For some reason the crowd turns on him half-wary through the fight, probably because he didn't put the 40-year-old 5"5 man away in the first or second round and the Reds start liking this spunky little American southpaw. At some point the Premier or whatever they were calling the thinly veiled Gorbachav looking fellow comes over and wants to know why he hasn't won yet and Drago picks him up by the throat and says something like "I fight for me!" which completely turns the crowd on him, which makes sense, he's supposed to be fighting for Mother Russia in their eyes, but then shouldn't we like him more? He's like "Fuck y'all I'm doing this for me now" he is no longer aligned with our common enemy but somehow that just makes him worse. Meanwhile Rocky who was doing it for himself all of a sudden becomes the fucking ambassador from the United Nations. (

So there you have it. Rocky goes from breaking fingers for local loan sharks on the streets of Philadelphia to ending the Cold War.
And Apollo dies. Maybe that's why I hated it. I used to not like Empire Strikes Back when I was a kid because Han got frozen in the carbon freeze and I thought he was dead, so maybe it's just leftover childhood trauma. But couldn't Apollo have just been hurt bad? Couldn't he have been in a coma, and then at the end he comes out of it? Eh. That's the 80's for ya. Avenging friend-death was big.

Plus, and lastly, almost every fight these days, and especially ones that split, get a trilogy. How was there no rubber match in the Creed/Balboa or Clubber/Balboa fights. Maybe even especially that one. I get that fine, you couldn't have another movie dedicated to Apollo and Rocky fighting and Apollo retired, fine. But Clubber knocked Rocky out in 2 rounds. Rocky knocked him out in 3 rounds in the rematch. Now, if Clubber has a training staff worth a fuck, they're going to look at the film and realize that Rocky's plan was to tire him out and Clubber is going to hang back in the third fight. Unless Rocky starts taking his shots and yelling "Ain't so bad, ain't so bad" repeatedly. That's hard to put up with after a while and Clubber might just go off. Though I have to say, a third match in a neutral building, with Rocky training to Eye of the Tiger and not some bullshit retread, he might be unstoppable. I guess we'll never know. Although I guess that could be another sequel. Rocky Balboa II? Is that how that would work?


Anonymous said...

You also have to remember they did the coma angle with Adrian in 2, which is the point where I hit fast forward on the old VHS.

Blaaahhhhg said...

Oh yeah. I kind of pretend she was in a coma in all of them.

Evan Toth said...

The only thing I disagree with in your Rocky exegesis is that Survivor's "Burning Heart" is a mere "sequel." It stands on its own as one of the premier songs of the mid-late 1980s. To refer to it as a "sequel" is nothing but a short-sighted, ill-informed, flip comment meant to inflame the passions of Survivor fans across this blue marble called Earth. May "Burning Heart" continue to stand as a burning beacon to humanity's "unquenchable thirst" and "quest for answers!"

Blaaahhhhg said...

Take your Survivor love-fest somewhere else hotshot. Listen to that bass line and tell me you're not waiting for him to come in with "Risin' up/back on the streets". "Burning Heart" just describes the plot of the movie for the first verse. Stallone probably gave them a copy of the script or explained it to them, hell, maybe they even got a screener of the film. Survivor by this time was fat off their previous success and copied the Rocky 3 soundtrack formula not unlike Stallone copied the script formula. I mean don't get me wrong: it worked. But I will not stand, I will not stand idly by while comparing the two. If they got hired for Rocky V I'm sure the song would have been something like Hungry Fists or Flaming Punches on the Streets. In reality, they could have just called them Training Song 1 and Training Song 2. Alright. I have to get back to work.