Author Topic: What We Talk About When We Talk About Six Rocky Movies  (Read 626 times)

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jenkins

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What We Talk About When We Talk About Six Rocky Movies
« on: June 23, 2014, 04:03:37 AM »
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The equivalent feeling in movie land to finishing a tv show is finishing the filmography of a director, the notable products of a genre or style, or a full series of movies. After watching the entire Rocky series I feel a bit sad, because I've shared a beastly amount of my life's time with the character, I've grown to like the character, and now I've reached the end of the road. I'd travel further if I could.

I've written this in an easy-to-write form. My guess is this'll make the writing piece more enjoyable to read for outsiders, and it'll save me time compared with streamlining everything into an essay.

If you've seen Rocky Balboa (which I'll call Rocky VI) there aren't spoilers because the overall narrative is linear.

The character list:
Rocky
Adrian, the girlfriend turned to wife (I-V)
Paulie, Adrian's brother and Rocky's good friend (I-VI)
Mickey, Rocky's trainer (I-III)
Apollo Creed, rival turned trainer (I-IV)
Robert Jr., Rocky's son (V-VI)
Maria, street girl turned to ~girlfriend (I+VI)

The Rocky formula:
Rocky uses willpower to overcome obstacles he encounters through life.

The curtain scenes take place in the boxing ring during each movie, but a complimentary aspect of the series is the formula is used against different sets of obstacles, which obstacles I think reflect challenges faced by normal human beings and I see them as immensely relatable.

How Rocky gains willpower:
Nobody, including Rocky, hits harder than life. Rocky told me that in Rocky VI.

I agree with Rocky about life sometimes feeling unsustainable, and in every Rocky movie he gives great life advice. The series is basically a saga of self-help. Rocky has the power to persist through hard times, but he's often unable to realize his powers without the assistance of others.

The Rocky series as a reflection on the human need for other humans:
Mickey helps train Rocky to be ready for his first big fight and his Rocky II fight, Rocky's love for Adrian is continuously a significant force of personal energy, and Rocky is good at remembering other people exist. His good friend Paulie stays with him through the series, Apollo becomes his friend and trainer in Rocky III, Rocky loves his son right away but it's in Rocky V that Robert Jr evolves his own personality and becomes a structural part of Rocky's personality, and when Rocky finds his old-neighborpal Maria working in a bar he immediately becomes her friend.

Although each main character is a helpful assistant toward the development of Rocky as a character, how does Rocky help each character achieve their own goals? Well he doesn't do shit there. In Rocky III he gives Paulie a job, when Paulie is need of a job, and that's super nice indeed, and the job is as Rocky's ringside assistant. Rocky helps Apollo continue an adult professional career by allowing Apollo to become his trainer in Rocky III. Rocky helps Maria by giving her a vertical raise into his employment as a hostess in his restaurant.

A confusing thing for me is Rocky convinces his son to quit his job in Rocky VI because he tells Robert Jr he shouldn't allow other people to point their fingers in his face and determine who and what type of person he should be. What happens? His son becomes his ringside assistant. Isn't that kinda similar? Robert Jr chooses familial importance over business importance, he chooses to support his dad when his work doesn't believe in his dad's decision, which emphasizes the need of family support, and I like that, but outside the choice I'm unable to view Robert Jr's progress as a person.

The importance of others in our lives is a treasurable quality of the series, although once this aspect is stripped down there's the skeleton of a single person: Rocky.

But, you know. There's a saying that's becoming more popular: "Not every person is born to be popular." I like the saying because I see it as a reminder to people who aren't appreciated that they have valuable qualities regardless of their social stature. That's my interpretation because I don't think people need to be popular, I don't think popularity is an evaluation of human value. And in the blue-collar world, not every person is born to succeed. Not every person becomes or needs to become Rocky, and I do think it's sweet Rocky is sweet to others.

An overview of the formula's ingredients in each movie:
Rocky -- A fighter of local status is given a big ring chance, in which he performs well thanks to professional encouragement from Micky and emotional encouragement from Adrian.

Rocky II -- Adrian's love, and his son being born, gives Rocky the motivization (<-Rocky V joke) to dedicate himself to training for a big-ring win. This, right at #2 indeed, is when the naturalism of the first movie begins to shift to formula, and the series leans on the creation of drama through true-life materials. Hate it if you want to, but I do think the materials are true to the life of many people. Health risks and near-retirements are discussed then dismissed.

Rocky III -- Rocky learns about speed and rhythm from black people, because Mickey begins to feel disgust from the boxing business due to Clubber Lang's hungry rock star personality (Mr. T's), and Apollo becomes Rocky's trainer and Apollo makes it quite clear that he and his gym friends know speed and rhythm the best. Speed and rhythm as a black-people skill isn't introduced in a racist way, more like a racial way, meant to reinforce the idea that everyone has a value in everyone else's life, and I don't think Rocky is racist, which I see as a good creative choice because Rocky could have easily and believably been portrayed as a racist person. Paulie was racist at first, then he stops talking about that, and Paulie is a grumpy person in general so I think you're supposed to forgive him. Also, at first Rocky is terrible at training because Adrian doesn't support him, then Adrian supports him and he becomes great at training. Health risks and near-retirements are discussed then dismissed.

Rocky IV -- Within the context of Rocky, I see this as the worst movie.  The formula is implemented in a man vs science form. The Soviet Union has used science to create the perfect fighter, Drago (Dolph Lundgren), and no one is supposed to be able to defeat Drago because he's been scientifically created. During the fight Rocky says he realizes Drago is only a human, and Drago says he realizes Rocky is made of iron, and Rocky wins the fight. This contains elements of Cold War drama and since the Cold War isn't ongoing I think it's silly. Adrian flies to the Soviet Union to give Rocky emotional support, which helps him as always, but mainly he himself decides to have the will to win the fight. The best human elements of the series are useless here. The worst moment in the series is when Drago punches Apollo to death and there's slow-mo of people saying "Nooooo" and there's a ridiculous funeral. A bunch of training montages with rock music, great. I think this is the unnecessary Rocky movie. Health risks and near-retirements are discussed then dismissed.

Rocky V -- Has a reputation as being the worst movie, but to me Rocky II, III, V, and VI have the same amount of worth. The health risks and near-retirements of earlier movies are a central part of the story, and Rocky can't be licensed by the boxing commission because he has brain damage. Adrian doesn't approve of him boxing any longer. Rocky's son wants to be appreciated by his dad but Rocky forms a close relationship with a young boxer, Tommy Gunn, who seems talented but undeveloped and Rocky chooses to help train him, thereby becoming more important to Rocky than his son. Tommy's career grows and he enters the media world of boxing, which world Mickey despised, and Tommy drifts away from Rocky to fight for his own fame. I like a lot of the conversations people have with each other, and I think the movie gives terrific self-help life lessons. In the end Rocky sees himself as too old and health impaired to fight in the ring but he wins a street fight against Tommy because Rocky is better at being a human. He couldn't be in the ring because he couldn't have a license, but the street fight has the narrative mechanics of the typical ring fight.

Rocky VI -- First of all, health risks aren't mentioned. Second of all, I don't understand why Adrian is dead, is it because someone had a serious talk with Stallone about how ridiculous Apollo's death scene was? Adrian is dead for this movie, although the actress Talia Shire continues to live. Maybe she simply didn't want to act in another Rocky movie. Maybe the point is Rocky didn't need Adrian? Since it'd be rude for her love's importance to endure through five movies then suddenly disappear, Rocky says she lives in his heart and he visits her grave all the time, but he has a girlfriendy relationship with Marie. Is it because Marie is younger? A female character is helpful as a narrative tool, I guess, but I don't understand the motives here. Makes it obvious (if it wasn't already) that everyone else in the Rocky series is important only in terms of how they help Rocky. Anyway. Rocky is old now, too old to fight, there's a new world champion, and Rocky's glory has faded but he makes a personal decision to be strong again, the results of which decision are proven when Rocky has a ring fight with the new champion and loses but by a single point which is way less than everyone predicted.

My Closing Statement:
Its rigor to dramatic form develops from the second movie, and Rocky V and VI are quite similar to made-for-tv movies, which style transitioned from a succession of shifts. The styles change from I to IV as Rocky changes as a person, so I don't mind how the cinematic views alter themselves along with Rocky.

I appreciate how the series wants to help motivate people to endure hardships and challenges and barriers of society and bureaucracy. Everyone should keep fighting for their own personal values, hell yeah. There are many great self-help statements in each movie, Rocky does indeed always find a way to win, and I don't think the drama is awful except in Rocky IV.

You may have noticed I seem to fluctuate between liking and not liking the idea of "self-help" messages. My personal guess about myself is I like them when I can consider them as deliberate self-help material, and I don't like them when they don't think they're being self-help. For me it's a fragile, difficult line of artistic honesty.

I consistently felt emotions in each Rocky movie, including my least favorite, I think that's impressive, and I was happy to see a variety of cinematic styles. I don't regret watching six Rocky movies.

 

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