Any time you’re watching a film in which a character has to train/prepare for something quickly, you’re often treated to a sharply edited series of images set to a rousing score or pop song. Inevitably someone in the room will make a joke comparing what you’re seeing to a certain boxing movie from the late 70s that has become firmly ensconced in the visual vocabulary of American cinema.
For this week’s For Your Consideration, we hope you’ll revisit Rocky, just added to Netflix’s Watch Instant service.
Who Made It: There is a common misconception that Sylvester Stallone directed Rocky. This is partially based on the fact that he directed parts II, III, and IV. The first Rocky was directed by John G. Avildsen, who also directed the first three Karate Kid films and the rodeo drama 8 Seconds. Stallone did however write the script for this classic sports film.
Who’s In It: Obviously it’s impossible to talk about Rocky without talking about star Sylvester Stallone—the two being inextricably linked. Rocky was the movie that put Stallone on the map and, to this day, is the role for which he is most remembered (equaled possibly only by Rambo). Stallone may not be the most emotive of actors, but there is something sweetly charming and wholly authentic about his performance.
The story of Rocky and Sylvester Stallone’s actual life story are far more similar than one might suppose. Stallone was basically flat broke when he wrote the script, even considering giving away his beloved pet dog for fear that he couldn’t afford to feed him anymore. Despite this, Stallone only agreed to sell the rights to the producers of the film if they allowed him to star in it; a bold gamble that definitely paid off.
What’s It About: An aspiring Philadelphia boxer, working as a collector for a loan shark, dreams of competing for the title. When current champion Apollo Creed visits the city, he decides to set up an exhibition match with a local upstart in order to improve his own image. Rocky gets the shot. What was supposed to be a quick victory for the arrogant champ turns into the fight of his career when the hungry, and well-prepared Rocky fights his heart out just to earn a little respect.
Why You Should Watch It:
Why is it that a movie like Rocky still resonates with audiences today? Are there really that many boxing fans out there? No, in fact Rocky is a film that speaks to those among us who don’t even count themselves sports fans at all. Rocky’s journey from humble beginnings to success and acclaim is one driven by tireless dedication and an unflappable dream. This is the reason that Rocky is the quintessential underdog story. That same adherence to a dream, and the resolve to do anything and everything necessary to achieve it is a trait to which people in all walks of life aspire. Rocky is a reflection of our collective need to rise above our station in life and achieve greatness.
Apart from Stallone’s performance, the most indelible aspect of Rocky is that seminal training montage. Spurred on by his lovably surly trainer (played by the incredible Burgess Meredith), Rocky puts his body through hell. He proceeds through a rather unorthodox regimen that includes sparring with sides of beef, running with bricks, and climbing a now legendary pair of steps. It is possibly one of the most inspiring sequences in cinema, made all the more powerful by Bill Conti’s thundering “Gonna Fly.”
That final fight is fantastic for a number of reasons. Apollo’s entrance into the ring is punctuated by overconfident garishness and he taunts that Rocky will be knocked out in three rounds. But as round after round ticks by with no sign of quit from Rocky, the champ begins to get nervous. Rocky climbs back to his feet after getting knocked down even as his trainer advises him to stay on the mat. Rocky opts to have his swelling eye cut open rather than throw in the towel for crying out loud! He gives the champ a fight, and a rib injury, he will not soon forget. The film’s ending is a proud moment in which Rocky celebrates the fact that he has proven to the world his ability to compete; that a hard-working nobody can stand toe-to-toe with cocksure, complacent legends.