Rocky III

Main Cast: Sylvester Stallone, Mr. T

In the third rendition of Sylvester Stallone’s Rocky series, it’s the first time that Rocky is actually on top and has to deal with fame and fortune. Mickey actually calls it being “civilized” as in fighters can’t be civilized because they’ll lose their edge if they are. After beating Apollo Creed to win the Heavyweight Championship, Rocky is shown as an Oscar De La Hoya like celebrity. There’s also something different about him. It’s almost as if in the three years since the second film, he actually becomes younger. He is all of a sudden ripped to shreds and looks to have had some facial work done. I wouldn’t ever make a claim that anyone took steroids, but let’s just say Sylvester Stallone probably wouldn’t have passed a medicine test. Rocky literally goes from rags to riches as instead of dressing like a bum, he’s now wearing Italian suits. Civilized.

This film is much tighter than the second film, which was one of my biggest issues with Rocky II. This film doesn’t really skip a beat and doesn’t waste any scenes. Rocky fights twice and also does a charity match with Thunderlips The Ultimate Male, played by a young Terry Bollea (Hulk Hogan). One of the more popular fringe characters in Rocky history, Hogan was handpicked by Stallone to portray the huge Thunderlips, but Hogan had to actually leave the then WWF because Vince McMahon Sr. wouldn’t let him take the time off. Stallone was a fan of wrestling, going back to doing Paradise Alley with Terry Funk. There are also two training montages, which in addition to the three fights, mean that the actual dialogue and non-action scenes are to a minimum. And that has both it’s good and bad points. On one end, Stallone’s goal of being a great actor and following up on his Oscar nomination from the first film is long gone. Though Stallone’s character has to deal with depression and fear, the way Rocky deals with it is to simply mope and feel sorry for himself. When the acting needs to be done, Burgess Meredith and Talia Shire carry the scenes. On the other hand, this helps the film because the story doesn’t permit an artistic film. But it does a good job being a pretty good action/sports flick

The key scene in the entire film has to do with up and coming slugger Clubber Lang interrupting Rocky’s retirement ceremony in which he receives a statue. While trying to retire in front of his fans, Lang, played by Mr. T, calls him a coward for ducking him and not defending his title. “Getting out while you can?” he screams at Balboa during the ceremony. Balboa wants to take the fight, but Mickey tells Lang that it’s not happening. Rocky and Mick argue because Rocky doesn’t want to look like a chump, and Mick leaves and Rocky has to follow him. In their dialogue, Mick lets Rocky know that as his trainer, it was his job to protect Rocky. And this makes Rocky even more intrigued about testing his own worth as a fighter. Being that this is the last film that Meredith plays a large role in the Rocky series, he steals the show when he’s allowed to. He would also do a cameo in a flashback role in Rocky V.

The build up in this movie is not only for Rocky to fight Clubber (not once, but twice), but also for Rocky to stand up to the fear of fighting without his trainer and getting up for a second fight after getting his rear end handed to him. It’s Shire’s Adrian who goes toe to toe with Stallone in a scene where she wants him to be truthful about why he’s not training hard for his second fight with Lang. If the scene were like a boxing match, Shire would’ve scored a first round TKO. The twist in the movie is that Apollo Creed decides to train Rocky for the fight, to give him back the eye of the tiger, which he supposedly lost as he became famous. And civilized.

This movie jump started Mr. T’s career. He was a bar room bouncer and fought in some toughman competitions before being plucked as Clubber. In order to make Mr. T look huge compared to Rocky even though they are near identical height, Stallone lost some near forty pounds. Being that he’s supposed to be a heavyweight, Rocky looks no bigger than a welterweight fighter. Lang is given a great character. The mean spirited non-caring loner is the scariest character in Rocky history. He was also given some great lines that still hold up today. I’m sure you’ve heard a few people say, “I pity the fool.” The disguising of Mr. T’s actual real life size helped him throughout his career as everyone perceived him as this butt kicker. He worked with Hulk Hogan in the WWF helping Vince McMahon make the original Wrestlemania a success. Interestingly enough, one of Hogan’s main opponents in the WWF was Roddy Piper who was small compared to Hogan. To show how small Mr. T really was, Piper was at least 3 inches taller than him and outweighed him as well. A boxing showing against Piper at Wrestlemania 2 really showed how bad of an athlete Mr. T was compared to the wrestlers as Piper blew him up quickly and Mr. T was exposed.

Rocky III is the only film of the five in which Rocky is on top and is humbled and has to bounce back. He plays the underdog role in every other movie, where there is no pressure on him. But in this one, it’s pretty much the opposite. It was definitely the right move for the franchise, but if I was Apollo Creed, I’d have been mad that I didn’t get to make a ton of money fighting their rubber match.

When I was a child, this was my favorite of all the Rocky films. It didn’t have the long dialogue of the first two films and was the most action packed as well. And I was deathly afraid of Clubber Lang. I used to hide behind the couch while watching the scenes with Lang. But as I grew older, it didn’t hold up. I grew to like the dialogue of the first two films (more the first than second), and noticed that in this one, the continuity editor wasn’t there to save Stallone’s direction. In the second film, Stallone’s right eye is so bad that he is instructed to never fight again. In this film, the right eye is forgotten. Also, during the film, Rocky thinks back to his first fight with Lang, but in fact, there’s a shot in there from the second fight, which hadn’t yet happened yet.

This is probably the most fun of the films as far as the action sequences go. Stallone definitely decided to go take the movie into a blockbuster like film, more so than an artistic one, which he tried to do with the first two. It was a smart move as this is the second highest grossing film of the Rocky series. But it doesn’t hold up as well as the first or second as a movie. But it did create a hit song for the band Survivor with Eye of The Tiger and helped make stars out of Mr. T and Hulk Hogan (who was already a wrestling star, but definitely used his fame here to become the most famous wrestler of them all).

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