Jacob Zinn :: journalist + photographer

Hang up the gloves, Rocky

Posted in Boxing, TV & Film by Jacob Zinn on June 8, 2009

Last week, I got around to watching the final film in the Rocky saga, Rocky Balboa (about two-and-a-half years too late).

After seeing Rocky V, I kept my expectations low, knowing that the series was getting worn out. Even The Simpsons made fun of the franchise when Bart only remembers Roman Numerals by adding Rocky V plus Rocky II to equal Rocky VII: Adrian’s Revenge.

I was greatly surprised by how well-made the latest and last film was. Until that point, I’d thought the previous two films were unnecessary, but Sylvester Stallone redeemed himself, making it more relevant to todays boxing while remaining true to previous eras.

Having seen the whole series, I’m writing a brief summary and review on Rocky‘s one through six (no seven, that was just a joke.)

Spoiler Alert: If you want to learn the outcomes yourself, don’t read any further and watch the movies.

Rocky (1976) – Rocky Balboa v. Apollo Creed

In his script-writing debut, Stallone starts off the most successful film series of his career with Rocky, which won Best Picture and Best Director at the 1977 Academy Awards.

Rocky is the true underdog story of an unknown boxer getting an opportunity to prove himself in the ring against the greatest. Champion Apollo Creed (played by Carl Weathers) gives Rocky Balboa a chance at the title. They fight 15 rounds with neither opponent backing down, and when the final bell rings, Creed finds respect for the Italian Stallion while Balboa has gained credibility in the boxing world–he may not have beaten the champion, but the champ didn’t beat him either.

Rocky II (1979) – Rocky Balboa v. Apollo Creed II

But there would be a rematch–the boxing world was begging for it and Creed felt he needed to prove himself to the public by laying Rocky out in the middle of the ring. Though Balboa was apprehensive, even considering retirement over a rematch, he got back in the ring and got up by the count of 10 to become the world champion.

Though a sequel of any genre can ruin a classic, II was a necessary addition to the fued and made for a great match that lead to a trilogy.

Rocky III (1982) – Rocky Balboa v. James “Clubber” Lang

After becoming the champion, Rocky finds fortune and fame as he gets a winning streak of 10 title defenses. His streak comes to an end when a new fighter named James “Clubber” Lang (played by Mr. T) becomes the number one contender and knocks Rocky out to win the title.

Fortunately, this is only halfway through the movie, allowing time for Rocky to train with former opponent Creed and run up the steps of the Philadelphia Museum of Art to a bronze statue of himself. (Also, “Eye of the Tiger” by Survivor was recorded specifically for this film.)

Rocky returns to the ring to take back what is his, taking every shot Lang throws at him and asking for more. When Lang gets worn out, Balboa lays him out for the win and leaves III with arguably a better ending than II.

Rocky IV (1985) – Rocky Balboa v. Ivan Drago

With the title back in his possession, Rocky wants to quit while he’s ahead and retire, but his plans change when a roided-up Soviet named Ivan Drago (played by Dolph Lundgren) fights Creed. His punches are so devastating that Rocky pleads with Creed during the match to throw in the towel, but Creed presses on until a shot by Drago knocks his lights out–forever, because he’s dead.

For retribution, Rocky takes on the 6’5″ Russian muscle man, and though he wins in the end, the only potential saving grace (for me, at least) is that the fight was filmed at the PNE Agrodome in Vancouver, BC.

Rocky V (1990) – Rocky Balboa v. Tommy Gunn

This one isn’t very interesting. Balboa returns home to find that poor investments by his attorneys have left him bankrupt and he quite literally has to fight to survive, even though his body’s been beaten up enough. As he heads back to the boxing gym, he meets a hungry fighter named Tommy Gunn (played by nobody special) and takes him under his wing.

Something else happens and they end up having a street fight at the end of the movie. This one was predictable as Balboa wins, but it’s no longer a boxing movie. Stallone himself didn’t like it all that much–that’s why he made…

Rocky Balboa (2006) – Rocky Balboa v. Mason Dixon

Rocky Balboa, which was written and directed by Stallone. By this point, Rocky is a legend in the boxing world, but he hasn’t stepped in it for a while, and the passing of his wife has kept him ringside. His son has also grown up to be an office-working pencil pusher, but he’s so busy that he barely has time to spend with his dad.

New talent has taken over the HBO Pay-Per-Views, namely Mason Dixon, a young, black fighter who is undefeated and has gold around his waist. A segment on ESPN shows what a fight between Dixon and Balboa would be like with both in their prime, and when the computer says Balboa wins, Dixon is none too happy.

Dixon and his associates convince Rocky to take part in an exhibition fight, which proves to be to Balboa’s advantage to as he wants to show the boxing world he’s still got it and get out some frustration along the way. This is his retirement fight.

He and Dixon fight, but neither can keep the other on the ground. The judges vote (just barely) in favour of Dixon, who keeps his undefeated record, but Rocky gets the chants. Both men come out on top, and so do viewers. This one saves it for the series.


One Response

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  1. Rocky in four words « From J to Z said, on June 22, 2009 at 3:46 PM

    […] Posted in Boxing, Sports, TV & Film by Jacob Zinn on June 22, 2009 To go with my review of the Rocky series and the Will Ferrell four word film review, this is the Rocky FWFR. Enjoy. Rocky […]


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