Sylvester Stallone stars and writes Rocky, It’s truly known for being one of the greatest films of all time, and in 1976 the Oscars proved that point by giving Rocky, 1976: Best Picture, Director, and Editing, Directed by John Avildsen with a mere one million pound budget. But as Stallone has stated before, it’s a love story not a story about fighting.
It tells the rags to riches American Dream story of Rocky Balboa, an uneducated but kind-hearted debt collector for a loan shark in the city of Philadelphia. Rocky starts out as a club fighter who later gets a shot at the world heavyweight championship. It also stars Talia Shire as Adrian, Burt Young as Adrian’s brother Paulie, Burgess Meredith as Rocky’s trainer Mickey Goldmill, and Carl Weathers as the champion, Apollo Creed.
The character Rocky is a minor local Boxer, and represents the average American man from 1976, unnoticed and never given the chance, but this story has got a twist, with Rocky getting that million to one shot. But Rocky doesn’t need to win, he just wants to stand toe to toe with the champ and go the distance, “Cos all I wanna do is go the distance.” As many may not know, this character was inspired by a real-life boxer named Chuck Wepner, who went toe to toe with the champ Muhammad Ali in 1975 and survived 14 rounds, when everybody expected this underdog to lose within 3 rounds. Rocky and Apollo Creed is very much “David and Goliath” territory, with Apollo Creed being the biggest champion of all time and Rocky being a local Philadelphian boxer. Apollo Creed (played by Carl Weathers), is a character with a certain similarity to Muhammad Ali. Apollo Creed is the huge opponent that Rocky has to rise above, and go the distance.
Rocky finds true love with the sister of his friend Paulie, (played by brilliant actor Burt Young), who is defeated and resentful, loyal and bitter, who hurts the people who care about him just to draw attention to his own grief. the sister being Adrian ( played by Talia Shire), who is very shy and nervous, and only Rocky can see past her protective mask which are her thick glasses, woollen hat and dull coloured clothes. Rocky takes Adrian on their first date in which they went ice skating, despite These two characters appearing as opposites Rocky and Adrian are in fact very much alike
Rocky: “He says to me “You weren’t born
Rocky: much of a brain, so start usin’ your body.
Rocky: So I’ve become a fighter.
Rocky: You know what I mean?
Rocky: Why are you laughin’?
Adrian: My mother, she said the opposite thing.
Rocky: What did she say?
Rocky: What did she say, the opposite?
Adrian: “You weren’t born much of a body,
Adrian: So you’d better develop your brain.”
The manager of Rocky is a character called Mickey, (played by Burgess Meredith, who puts on a magnificent performance). He was the opposite of Rocky, he never got that one shot he needed, very frustrated, and feels he needs to give this wasted experience onto Rocky, and that’s why he wants to become Rocky’s manager for his big fight, (and of course Rocky is frustrated with Mickey because he asked for a manager a few years ago, and he feels Mickey is now only asking because he has this world heavyweight championship shot, which brings us to the scene, “I needed your help about ten years ago, You never helped me none- You didn’t care.”)
Mickey is in Rocky’s flat, and when Mickey is rejected on his offer on becoming Rocky’s manager, Mickey then tilts his head in a certain way, and it was a man who had been rejected in such strong terms, but his dignity would not allow him to drop his head, and put his tail between his legs, and slink away. With no dialogue when exiting Burgess Meredith makes this scene even more powerful.
Rocky was one of the first films to use Steadicam, Which was an attachment to the camera. which was used for a steady picture whilst moving, the main reason the director John Avildsen included this was to make the audience feel as if they’re with Rocky, rather than they are just zooming in on Rocky. The Steadicam was famously used in the iconic training montage with Rocky running up the steps of the Philadelphia art museum. The uplifting images combined with Bill Conti’s orchestral score, has become film history and the use of an inspiring montage has since influenced many films such as ‘The Karate Kid’ (1984).
One flaw in the film some may say is the scene in which Apollo Creed books the fight, and chooses another boxer based on the name, (Italian Stallone). The reason why certain audiences may not enjoy to watch this scene is because some say it’s not believable, picking this huge fight from a book , not only that but also on his nickname (The Italian Stallone). Although some audiences feel it’s pulled off by some breathtakingly good acting by Carl Weathers.
One of the greatest scenes in Rocky is when he walks home troubled school kid Little Marie. It is one of the first scenes where the audience see the kind nature of Rocky’s character. As Rocky walks her home he tries to talk to her about making the right choices in life and not going down the wrong path. Little Marie’s reply is to shout “Screw you, creepo!” This scene instantly gets the audience on his side as you feel sympathy for Rocky who didn’t need to go out of his way to try and help this girl. This just adds to the already built up frustration Rocky has, and it’s the first time the audience see’s this kind hearted generosity, from a loan shark.
Symbolism is used throughout the film, such as the first shot which features an image of Jesus Christ and then tilts down to Rocky. Stallone has said how this shot symbolizes that Rocky is a character who is similar to Jesus, in how he has been chosen to go on a journey. Another example of the mise en scene is when Rocky visits Adrian, in a pet shop where she works. In the scene we see Adrian feeding the budgies in their bird cage. The shot is cleverly framed by Avildsen, who shoots with the bird cage in the foresight creating a metaphor that Adrian is caged and trapped.
One of the times you see Rocky finally releasing his pent up frustration on how his life has turned out is the scene in which Mickey offers to be his manager. Rocky declines in anger and Mickey leaves. You finally feel the pain, the suffering, and the frustration that Rocky is feeling, Rocky lets it all out, but he lets it all out at an empty room, because he didn’t want to hurt anyone’s feelings,
Rocky: “Took you long enough to get here. Ten years to come to my house.What’s the matter? You don’t like my house? My house stink? That’s right. It stinks!
Rocky: I didn’t ask no favours from you! Don’t throw it around! Talkin’ about your prime. What about my prime, Mick? At least you had a prime! I ain’t had no prime! I ain’t had nothin’! Legs are goin’, everything’s goin’!”
Another example of Rocky releasing his anger without hurting anybody is in the meat house where Paulie works. Paulie badmouths his sister who Rocky is now dating but instead of punching Paulie, Rocky starts pounding the meat. By releasing his anger and built rage by hitting the meat, it means Paulie now knows he has crossed a line yet, without Rocky necessarily needing to tell him or physically hurt him.
I conclude with saying that that when watching the film Rocky with a 1 million pound budget, I found little but no flaws within the acting and story. The audience really can relate with Rocky which makes it even more of a spectacular film, and is the reason why it’s stood the test of time and is just as brilliant as viewing the film 36 years ago.
“This underdog character is really the average man who never was given the chance” as said by Sylvester Stallone, so you can really see why this film works when viewers watch. The story is great for so many reasons, whether it’s Adrian the love interest, problems with the lone shark, and going the distance with the champ Apollo Creed, with all these sub plots, and with great directing by John Avildsen, along with breathtakingly good acting all round, this really sums up to be in my opinion the best film of all time.