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ROCKY (1976) Analysis

Rocky is a 1976 American sports action movie which was nominated for Oscar awards in 9 categories and bagged 3 of the Oscars including the awards for Best Picture, Best Director and Best Editing at the 49th Academy awards. In 2006 it was inducted into US National Film Registry for being “culturally, historically or aesthetically significant”. The film was also a commercial success, although a sleeper hit and went on to have 7 sequels added to its chronological timeline with one more coming up in December 2018.

The movie is set in Philadelphia and revolves around the sport of Boxing while being character centric in its narrative. The eponymous protagonist of the movie is Rocky Balboa, who is played by a debutant Sylvester Stallone. Other Characters include Adrian (played by Talia Shire), Paulie (Burt Young), Rocky’s trainer Mikey (Burgess Meredith) and his opponent Apollo Creed (Carl Weathers).

Rocky is a small-time local heavyweight boxer who now works as the muscle for Gazzo, a local mafia. Although brawny and uncouth as you would expect a debt collector to be, he does not wish to cause harm to the people. He visits a pet shop to get pet supplies, where he takes liking to the shopkeeper, Adrian. The two of them begin dating.

In a set of events after his opponent withdraws from the title bout, Apollo Creed who is the undefeated Heavy Weight Boxing Champion unexpectedly selects Rocky to be his next contender. Although reluctant at first, Rocky later accepts this offer though he believes that he lacks the ability to go up against someone of Creed’s stature and skill set. After coming to know about this, his former gym trainer Mickey comes to meet Rocky and offers him help but ends up returning in despair after some heated conversation in which Rocky accuses Mickey of not helping him when he needed it the most and now coming when he sees an opportunity. Rocky later accepts his help and begins training. Rocky who until now had no training equipment would use the meat carcasses on the hooks for punching, at a meat shop owned by Adrian’s brother, Paulie. However, Paulie becomes jealous of the newfound fame Rocky gets due to the overwhelming media attention due to which he gets mad at his sister’s romantic involvement with Rocky. After an incident where he violently threatens his sister, Adrian moves in with Rocky.

During the course of the rigorous training that he undergoes, he is shown as transforming into a more disciplined and strong minded person. However, a day before the big day he still doubts himself and has second thoughts, but after some deliberation Adrian convinces him to try his best and to “go the distance”. On the final judgment day, Rocky enters the ring as an underdog and the crowd is clearly in favor of the reigning champion. Creed enters the arena in a pompous manner and keeps on taunting Rocky. Even after the match starts he continues these taunts in a very condescending manner towards Rocky. In just the first round Creed is knocked down by Rocky but manages to get up in time to continue his match. This amazes the crowd as this is the first time Creed is ever knocked down. As the match builds up Rocky takes several hits but keeps coming for more. In spite of Creed’s technical superiority Rocky manages to keep going due to his determination and never dying spirit. In the thirteenth round he is knocked down but he refuses to stay down and this amazes even Creed who has never seen anyone take so many hits but kept fighting. The crowd also becomes more pro-Rocky as the match goes on. By the end of fourteenth round Rocky manages to land a lot of heavy punches on Creed. The match goes for a full fifteen rounds and judges proclaim Creed as the winner. Even as he loses, he wins the respect of the crowd and his opponent. The announcers call it the greatest fight ever in a ring.

From the training sequence to the final climax scene, Rocky is an out and out inspirational movie focusing on how important it is to “go the distance” and never give up. It’s a riveting story of grit and determination showing the journey of a man. Beyond the action sequences, the movie wonderfully captures the emotional relationship between Rocky and the various characters in the film, which makes it a near perfect film. Having mentioned that, the movie does become very slow in the middle before picking up the pace but in spite of that it continues to engage its audience for the complete duration. The movie remains one of the best movies of all time and has given rise to a pop culture with its associated sequels and soundtracks.

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