In Praise Of Rocky Balboa

Some call the Rocky movies cheesy, predictable, formulaic. And, sure, they are.

When I tweet about them I always say that whichever one I’m watching is “The worst Rocky movie – except all the others.” And, sure, it is.

But the truth is the movies are great. The story is fun, the soundtrack is magnificent, the action is thrilling. They’re about overcoming the odds, never giving up, fighting for what’s important. The metaphor is clunky, but whether it’s fighting for recognition, love, respect, pride, friendship or to prove something to yourself, that’s what the movie is about. Not a dubiously refereed boxing match.

And for all the reliability of the formula, Stallone writes a great script: nuance, subplots, pathos and inspiring speech. When the unknown writer was hawking the script in the early 70s, it was turned down by several studios because [spoiler alert] Rocky didn’t win the fight. Those studios didn’t get it: it wasn’t about the fight, it was about taking your chance, doing your best. And it was a love story. Yo, Adrian.

People don’t watch the films because they think they’re about boxing. The people who do are missing out.

Not many film series can run for 6 films over 30 years, keep to their roots and get better each time. Look at Elm Street: same formula, increasingly rubbish. Look at Zombie flicks: successful ones have to reinvent.

And from an 8 year old movie, we’re beginning to recognise Rocky’s speech to his son as one of film’s great inspirational speeches. It’s about time we started recognising the rest of the movies as greats too.

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