Second Union

Second Union


Rocky III, 1982 (Sylvester Stallone) MGM/UA

“It’s too bad we gotta get old, huh?”

We do a little bit of time-shifting with Rocky III (the same as we did with Rocky II). If you’ll remember, though Rocky II was released in 1979, it actually takes place minutes after the first Rocky movie, which took place in 1976, so basically, 1976 lasted for three years, after which we skipped over 1980 and now we’re safely ensconced within the realm of 1981 for Rocky III. Wibbly-wobbly, timey-wimey … It was a sudden shift that resulted in some changed hairstyles and clothing (noted for the full shunning of bell-bottoms).

Rocky is a successful businessman, much in the same mold as Apollo Creed, who has retired and is now a commentator. Meanwhile, there’s a monster on the loose in the form of Mr. T’s Clubber Lang, a young, angry, hungry boxer who wants to take on the champ. Lang’s a braggart who does rounds with the slow-witted Rock and claims Balboa can’t handle a real match anymore because he’s “civilized.” Rocky accepts Lang’s challenge, and they duke it out at the Spectrum, but because his trainer, Mickey, has just collapsed (and will eventually die of a heart attack), Rocky can’t keep his mind on the fight and Lang knocks him out.

After a period of mourning, Balboa wants a rematch and he goes to Apollo Creed to train him. Creed takes him to Los Angeles, and it just doesn’t feel right Rocky not running down Philadelphia streets, Broad Street, Ninth Street, straight to the Art Museum (where a statue of Balboa was unveiled at the start of the movie). Instead, we have lush beaches and magic-hour sunsets. Creed trains him in the proper sense; as an athlete, where Balboa was a hulking freight train with power in his punches and the ability to take the abuse, Creed teaches him footwork and dancing. The movie is replete with montages and my favorite shows Creed and Balboa running along the beach.

Again, we get diminishing returns as far as story and characterization goes. Clubber Lang is a fierce creation, but he’s one-note. Talia Shire’s Adrian does practically nothing but complain and worry for her husband. I keep forgetting to mention Burt Young as Pauly, Adrian’s brother. I wonder why. The sequels seem to exist only for Balboa to get in the ring with yet another palooka after receiving a comeuppance of some sort, and then ultimately triumphing in the end, yet Rocky was an enormously successful franchise and Balboa became a film icon.

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