By: Garrett Collins
Starring: Sylvester Stallone, Mr T, Talia Shire, Burt Young, Carl Weathers, Tony Burton, Burgess Meredith and Hulk Hogan
By the time Rocky III was released in 1982, the Rocky series’ formula was apparent. Star Sylvester Stallone scripted human drama and combined it with Rocky not being able to train for important fights up to capacity. Then, he somehow does find the inspiration (usually through Adrian) to go train, and come back as the fighting machine he always had the ability to be. The other thing Stallone always did was incorporate parts of his life into the films. In the first Rocky picture, he is given a shot from total obscurity. In Rocky II, our title character once again has to prove himself after he was had successfully lasted with (but not beaten) the champion of the world. So, in following the pattern of these films being a metaphor for Stallone’s life, the third film is about both the personal and physical costs of being a celebrity. In life, it is costly to get comfortable. Because, either the woman who loves you before all of it happened leaves you or someone who is younger and hungrier comes along and takes your spot. Well, it would be blasphemy for Stallone to take Adrian from Rocky (that would come much later). So, he went with the latter. And, I would have to say that while the film feels different, the formula he had established before is still there, and it is helped greatly by the new soon to be big stars he injected into Rocky III.
Rocky III, more than anything, has been known as the film that launched Mr T’s career. And, as upcoming hungry challenger Clubber Lang, T brings the goods. Onscreen and mohawked, the man is scary and imposing. The way the film is edited blankets his hooks as devastating, and you feel that if he swings and hits Rocky with these things, they could kill him. However, before we get to get to that order of business, Stallone reacquaints us with the characters whose journeys have been taken with our lead hero. There’s Paulie (Young) whose story pretty much fills the film’s first ten minutes or so. And, it is flat-out bizarre how he sees a pinball machine with Rocky’s likeness and subsequently gets put in jail for throwing a whisky bottle at it. Paulie’s character never really develops an arc. But, that is like many people in our daily lives who we never see progress. So, in this respect, Paulie is someone we all know. It’s just, in Rocky’s case it happens to be his brother in law.
Where Stallone’s (who also directs once again) script falters, unfortunately, is when it came to the character of Adrian (Shire). Whereas in the first couple films she is the woman who kind of stays in the background and gives him that big push, here, she is an annoying shrill who once again gives him said push. But, the first couple films were powerful because during the final fight, she was either watching it on TV or from the dressing room, and we get her reactions at certain times. Here, from the very opening sequence, she is a presence at the fights. She blows him kisses and makes her presence known. And, it certainly was apparent during the final fight that, and I have no idea what happened to Shire’s acting ability, but it wasn’t nearly as endearing. She yells for them to stop the fight when Rocky gets in trouble. She counts along with the referee as he counts Lang out. If she had delivered these scenes a different way, it would have come off better. But, even in the beach scene, in which she once again screws her husbands head on his shoulders and makes him focus, her delivery of that entire monologue felt…off.
One last thing that Rocky III did was turn a series of dramas with some boxing into boxing movies with a little bit of drama. Sure, the scenes of Mickey (Meredith) dying and Apollo (Weathers) convincing Rocky to take him as a trainer had some dramatic impact. But, we know, that in the dawn of MTV, films were going to have a different feel. And the Rocky films were no different. Eye of the Tiger was the start of this aesthetic, and, quite honestly, it told the contrasting story of Rocky’s celebrity and Lang’s determination very well. And then, of course, was the inclusion of Thunderlips (Hogan), which was a very amusing portion of the film. Overall, I would definitely say that Rocky III is a step down for the series. While it no doubt delivered on all the boxing goods (and was responsible for the inclusion of the term ‘Clubber Lang Stamina’ into my daily venicular), it lacks the human drama that made Rocky so great to begin with.
3 out of 5