Saturday, May 26, 2012

Rocky III at 30 ... as good (and cheesy) as ever

If my son ever asks me about the era I grew up in, I will simply say, "Let's go watch Rocky III."

The 80s were cheesy, but it was my decade. "Rocky III" defines the 80s, good and bad. The film celebrates its 30th anniversary on Monday, and it's just as good as it was when I was 12.

When it was released on May 28, 1982, the film clearly distanced itself from the gritty, tough streets of Philadelphia, were Rocky Balboa just tried to survive. In III, The Italian Stallion is heavyweight champ, living the good life. Stallone said the film mirrored his life as an actor coping with celebrity, money and success.

Let's not kid ourselves. The third movie in the Rocky franchise mirrored the 80s as well. It was a decade of excess, bigger being better and vanity. "Rocky III" has all that covered and more. Let's review:

-Stallone looks like a different person from the first two films. He's in tremendous shape (reports say his body fat percentage was 3), and appears to have had "work" done to his face. As heavyweight champ, Rocky is now an articulate pitch man for all the high-end companies (American Express, DeLorean, Nikon, GQ, there's even a Rocky Punch candy bar). It also means he's getting soft and losing his edge ... or the eye of the tiger, which everyone knows about.

-It's arguable Survivor's "Eye of the Tiger" is one of the 80s' most recognizable songs, if not the most recognizable. Many fans love it, but a lot loathe it. Either way, it's as unforgettable as it gets for the 80s. (A somewhat related note: Stallone tried but failed to get the rights for Queen's hit song "Another One Bites The Dust" for the intro to the film).

-Speaking of the film's intro, what a spectacle. No film franchise had the market cornered on montages, and the opening montage may have been the best ever. It starts with fireworks, and is carried by superhuman Rocky knockouts, commercials ... you name it. If you're not fired up after the movie's few minutes, you either despise Rocky films or don't have a pulse. On an 80s over-the-top scale, that montage ranks as an 11, and that's being conservative. 

-There's also the old reliables Adrian, Paulie, Mickey and the Master of Disaster Apollo Creed, but there's no doubt two characters clearly define this 80s flick ...

-Mr. T and Hulk Hogan. T plays the baddest villain ever in a sports movie (name me another if you don't agree) in Clubber Lang, the up-and-coming contender who knocks Rocky's block off early in the film. What makes the Lang character so 80s is his smack-talking, over-the-top persona, mohawk and over-sized feather earrings. Clubber is the man. A man of the 80s. But there is someone perhaps bigger than Stallone or Mr. T.

-That someone is the Hulkster, as in Hulk Hogan, who plays the hilarious pro wrestler Thunderlips. Rocky agrees to wrestle Thunderlips (who refers to himself as "The Ultimate Object of Desire") for charity. Their match is beyond ridiculous (Thunderlips punches out cops, Rocky - all 180 pounds of him - body slams him)  and make no sense to the plot of the film but it doesn't matter. It was the 80s after all, right?

- Mark Podolski | @mpodo


Anonymous Matador said...

Thanks for this Mark! This is my favorite movie of all time. Probably have seen it 30x or so. It came out when i was 18. I'm 48 years old now. I still cry every time I watch the beach scene when Rocky is confronted by Adrian. I know it's cheesy, but it has gotten me through a lot of tough times. Matador

June 4, 2012 at 3:03 PM 

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