From the Archives: Rocky Roundup: I Watched All 6 Movies So You Don’t Have To

From the Archives: Rocky Roundup: I Watched All 6 Movies So You Don’t Have To

In the interest of getting “hard” copies of my work under one roof, I plan to spend the next few weeks posting the entire archive of my film journalism here on ScullyVision. With due respect to the many publications I’ve written for, the internet remains quite temporary, and I’d hate to see any of my work disappear for digital reasons. As such, this gargantuan project must begin! I don’t want to do it. I hate doing it. But it needs to be done. Please note that my opinions, like everyone’s, have changed a LOT since I started, so many of these reviews will only represent a snapshot in time. Objectivity has absolutely no place in film criticism, at least not how I do it. 

Without further ado, I present to you: FROM THE ARCHIVES.
Originally posted on Cinema76.

Creed is mere days away from release, and advance reviews have been extremely positive. Not only is the film poised to step out from under that shadow of the all-time greatest sports film franchise, but it’s also a piece of the canon. As such, I’ve taken it upon myself to spend the last few days watching every Rocky movie, and I’ve summed them all up here so you don’t have to, even though you soooooo should. I know it goes without saying, but SPOILER ALERT!image1-6

Rocky (dir. John G. Avildsen, 1976)

Rocky Balboa (Demolition Man) is a street tough who breaks thumbs for a remarkably friendly loan shark. He fancies himself a bit of a boxer, but doesn’t have very high aspirations due to the fact that he is, for all intents and purposes, kind of an idiot. He tells stupid jokes that make no sense in an attempt to woo an extremely shy pet store worker, Adrian (Jason Schwartzman’s mom). He is also friends with Adrian’s brother, Paulie, who is the worst. Meanwhile, the heavyweight champion, Apollo Creed (Chubbs), is seeking an opponent to fight in his next match. The original opponent got hurt or something, and since nobody is even remotely good enough to fight him on level ground, he decides to offer a nobody a chance to fight. That nobody is Rocky Balboa. Balboa trains with Mickey (The Penguin) until he is able to eat lightning and crap thunder. On the night of the fight, Rocky loses, but it’s ok because he doesn’t get knocked out. He and Adrian fall in love and Paulie is still a jerk. I cry and cry. There’s also a dog named Butkus.


Rocky II (dir. Sylvester Stallone, 1979)

After going the distance with Apollo Creed, Rocky has damage to his vision and it is advised that he stop boxing. Creed, meanwhile, is craving a rematch with Rocky, and attempts to draw him back into the ring by frequently calling him a chump. Rocky is all whatever about it, but Paulie (who’s really just a big ol’ jerk) and Mickey decide that Rocky should “knock his block off.” They turn Creed’s strategy against him by calling him a chump as well. Nobody in these movies likes to be called a chump. It’s weird. If someone called me a chump, I’d be all like “actually, it is you who is the chump!” Easy peasy. Anywho, Rocky trains very hard, even going so far as to run through Philadelphia until he leads a large group of children into heavily trafficked roads. I’m not sure why they follow him, but it seems dangerous. Rocky and Adrian also get married and it’s pretty adorable. The friendly loan shark is there too. He really seems nice, unlike Paulie, who is a real jerk. Adrian announces she’s pregnant.  At some point Adrian goes into a coma and it’s BOOOORING. But then she’s okay. Rocky and Apollo fight again and Rocky wins because he stands up at the end of the fight and Creed does not. I cry and cry.


Rocky III (dir. Sylvester Stallone, 1982)

After winning the heavyweight championship from Apollo Creed, Rocky enjoys a string of victories and a healthy professional boxing career. He even fights Hulk Hogan and it’s the weirdest thing ever! Remember how Rocky had vision damage? Forget about that. Doesn’t matter. Surgery or something. Rocky decides to retire from boxing, but then Clubber Lang (Mr. T) says mean things about Adrian, and Rocky is like “Aw Hell no!”  Then Lang calls him a chump and as a result, it’s SO on. Mickey then reveals that he’s been setting up easy fights for Rocky, so now Rocky has to prove to himself that he can fight a tough opponent. Before his fight with Lang, Mickey dies. It’s partially because Lang shoved him, but I think it has a lot to do with the fact that Mickey screams every single word he speaks. He really needs to relax. A distraught Rocky loses his title to Lang, but that’s nothing a few montages can’t fix! Apollo Creed leads Rocky through these montages, and declares that Lang is tough, but deep down is nothing but a chump, and as such, has to have his block knocked off. He tells Rocky that he needs to have the “eye of the tiger.” After running around on the beach with Creed for a while, Rocky now has the tools to knock out Clubber Lang, and he does. Apollo and Rocky are friends now, which is nice. I cry and cry. I’m not sure why anyone hangs out with Paulie.

Rocky IV (dir. Sylvester Stallone, 1985)

A bunch of extremely friendly Russians ask politely if they can set up a boxing match in America. The Americans rudely accept and Apollo Creed decides to represent the land of the free in an exhibition match against Ivan Drago (himself). After dancing around like an idiot and being generally disgusting, Apollo is beaten to death by Drago. WHATEVER. He was asking for it. Rocky drives around while a montage of footage from the previous franchise entries happens. It’s a big old waste of time, and now he’s mad. Rocky decides that he needs to go to Russia to beat up Drago on Christmas. Adrian doesn’t want him to, but Rocky never ever listens to her. Ever. They buy Paulie a robot for his birthday, and Paulie (who isn’t very gracious about it) falls in love with it. It’s unsettling to say the least. Drago trains in a laboratory while Rocky has a montage where he throws logs at mountains. When he gets home from log throwing, he sees that Adrian has come to Russia to watch him pull sleds and chop wood. This inspires him to have another montage where he runs up mountains and lifts bags of rocks. Paulie’s robot-wife is left in charge of Rocky Jr., who is forced to spend Christmas without his family. Rocky knocks Drago out and Russia decides that America is the best. The Cold War is ended after Rocky tells everyone that they can change. No tears from me on this one. I was rooting for Drago.

Rocky V (dir. John G. Avildsen, 1990)

Rocky returns home from Russia to find that his son is much, much older, and looks like an entirely different person. He also learns that, due to his fight with Drago, he now has brain damage. His boxing career is over. But then Paulie, the total jerk that he is, blows all of Rocky’s money on bad real estate. Rocky is now forced to move his family back to South Philly. Rocky begins to feel pressure from Bobo-Don King to get back in the ring, but Adrian tells Bobo-Don King to step off. She doesn’t call him a chump, but it’s heavily implied. Since Rocky can’t fight, he decides to train a young boxer named Tommy Gunn (Larry the Cable Guy), who is a very good boxer, but a terrible actor. Rocky spends so much time with Gunn that his own son begins to resent him. Paulie slightly redeems himself by being nice to Rocky Jr., but it should be noted that he is still very much a jerk. Eventually, Tommy Gunn stops training with Rocky and begins a partnership with Bobo-Don King. Gunn becomes the new heavyweight champion, but no one cares because everyone likes Rocky better. Gunn decides to fight Rocky in a street fight, and Rocky wins. I’m almost positive that at some point during the fight, Gunn is called a chump, which is certainly an accurate assessment of his character. Rocky makes good with his family while Elton John sings “The Measure of a Man.” I cry and cry.

Rocky Balboa (dir. Sylvester Stallone, 2006)

Remember how Rocky had brain damage? Forget about that. He’s okay now, but Adrian isn’t. She’s dead. Rocky now owns a restaurant and mopes around. Rocky Jr. is a banker or something, and Rocky can’t seem to bond with him, even though they both talk out of the side of their mouth like Katie Holmes. Rocky befriends a local woman who he knew when she was a child and they become chummy (not chumpy, god forbid!). Rocky decides to see if he can get licensed to fight in local exhibitions, but the board denies his application. He then gives a speech about having heart, and the board overturns their decision. Since it seems pretty unbelievable that a man in his sixties could fight professionally, Rocky buys an old dog as a pet and says some things about how an older dog isn’t necessarily a lost cause. When I saw this, I was all like “Ohhhh, makes sense!” Meanwhile, the heavyweight champion, Mason “The Line” Dixon, is facing the same challenge that Tommy Gunn did: he has no one to fight, and everyone wants to see him fight Rocky. After a magic video game says that Rocky would have beaten Dixon in his prime, Dixon’s managers set up a good faith bout between the famed pugilists. For some reason, nobody says “whoa, this is a terrible idea” or “didn’t Rocky have severe brain damage?” The fight occurs and Rocky loses … but he goes all the way, just like in the first movie. Paulie says some pretty awful things about Native Americans at some point, but he’s reached the age where we just kinda forgive him and take solace that he won’t be alive for much longer and his ignorance will die when he does.

It’s a wonderful ending to an incredible franchise, except that it’s not the ending at all, AND I COULDN’T BE HAPPIER. Long live the Italian Stallion!

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