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Musings from the Edge of Forever

Note: This blog expresses only the opinions of the blog owner,
and does not represent the opinion of any organization or blog
that is associated with RONIN ON EMPTY.

Gwailo Corner: ROCKY III (1982)

Rocky III

From left to right: Carl Weathers, Burt Young, Sylvester Stallone, & Talia Shire

Year: 1982

Director: Sylvester Stallone

Writer: Sylvester Stallone


Sylvester Stallone, Talia Shire, Burt Young, Carl Weathers, Burgess Meredith, Mr. T, Hulk Hogan

The Plot:

After narrowly beating Apollo Creed for the heavyweight championship of the world, Rocky has gone on to successfully defend the the belt against a whole slew of challengers for three years. In the process, he’s become both megapopular and ridiculously wealthy. However, as successful as he’s been, there’s one fighter that Rocky hasn’t faced — the vicious number one contender, Clubber Lang (Mr. T). On the day of his own announced retirement, Rocky is challenged publicly by Clubber. Against Mickey’s wishes, Rocky agrees to the fight, but the media circus surrounding his own celebrity during his training becomes a distraction, as does Mickey’s heart attack just moments before the match is to begin. In quite possibly the worst day of Rocky’s life, he is beaten handilyby Clubber Lang in two rounds, and Mickey dies. Some time after the match, Apollo approaches Rocky with an offer to train him for a rematch. Rocky accepts, but has ends up battling his own doubts and fears before truly embracing Apollo’s “back-to-basics” fitness regimen. Will Rocky beat Clubber Lang? And just what the hell is this “favor” that Apollo demands for his services?

Training Montage:

Apollo trains Rocky in California to the tune of “Gonna Fly Now.” It was probably a smart move to change the setting from Philadelphia, as it would’ve been highly derivative to have Rocky do the exact same thing three movies in a row. The unintentional homoeroticism abounds, as a muscled-up Rocky and Apollo frolic in the ocean after successfully completing the training regimen. Just try not to laugh.

Paulie’s A-Hole Factor:

Quite high, although admittedly sporadic. After the requisite recap of the previous film, Rocky III begins with a down-and-out Paulie acting all jealous and bitter toward Rocky. Funnily enough, after a quick dressing-down courtesy of Rocky, all gets resolved in the space of five minutes. However, Paulie’s quasi-racist comments while Rocky trains in an all-black gym increases his A-Hole points considerably.

Random Observation:

It looks like Stallone got a bit of plastic surgery between Rocky II and III. In fact, Paulie’s dialogue makes reference to it. Stallone is also in probably the best shape of his life, looking about a hundred times better than he did in the previous films. Rocky also appears to have become more intelligent and well-spoken, not to mention a better reader in the three years of “movie time” that separate the sequels.

The Big Fight:

Undeniably the most cinematic of the three bouts so far. All the conventions are there, and while there might not be as much at stake as there was in parts I and II, it’s hard to deny the pure vicarious pleasure of Rocky beating the hell out of a trash-talkin’ Mr. T. If the first two bouts were mini-dramas, then Rocky III’s final fight is a mini-action movie.

Major Additions to the Series:

Survivor’s “The Eye of the Tiger” makes its first appearance.

Rocky adds previously-seen characters Apollo Creed and his trainer, Duke (Tony Burton), as friends.

Best Line:

“The worst thing that happened to you, that can happen to any fighter: you got civilized.” — Mickey


1983 Academy Awards
–>Nomination–Best Original Song (”Eye of the Tiger”)

Final Decision:

Rocky III has some good moments between Rocky and Mickey, but poor Adrian gets the short shrift here. With little substantive dialogue given her way, Talia Shire is pretty much limited to shooting Stallone looks of encouragement, concern, or disapproval. A long pep talk to Rocky late in the film helps matters a bit, but as this is the first film to not deal in any substantial way with the Rocky/Adrian relationship, the “heart” of the film suffers considerably. It’s supposed to be about “getting back your self-respect” and “overcoming your fears,” but Rocky III’s version of an underdog story just doesn’t resonate in the same way that the prior two films did.


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