Rocky III (1982)

<strong class="MovieTitle">Rocky III</strong> (1982)

(On Blu Ray, September 2018) I may not like Sylvester Stallone or boxing all that much, and most of the Rocky series has left me lukewarm at best, but there’s something surprisingly interesting about this third film in the series and how it evolves naturally from the first two instalments. The opening five minutes is a montage (set to Survivor’s classic “Eye of the Tiger”) that pretty much give Rocky everything he’s ever wanted: Boxing success, a happy family, money and the mastery of the media that so eluded him in the second film. Naturally, there’s only one way to go from there, and after a hilariously mismatched bout with a wrestler, it’s on to a fight with a boxer with more fury and drive than Balboa at that point. As it usually goes in movies, losing means finding oneself, and so steps in Apollo Creed for a third and far more sympathetic turn in as many movies. While Rocky III is seldom less than formulaic, it does evolve with its characters, balance humour and tragedy (even of the melodramatic kind) and ends on a satisfying note, closing off a trilogy of sorts with a full character arc. (It’s interesting that the underdog roles have been switched a few times, but the film is clear about character being the ultimate determinant of valour—the antagonist here is hungry and driven, but ultimately not nice and henceforth inferior to a humbled hero.) Rocky III does have a few other charms, chiefly being a terrific capsule of the early eighties with no less than both Hulk Hogan and Mr. T in early roles. Carl Weathers is once again very good as Apollo Creed, while Sylvester Stallone does put in a few impressive physical scenes in portraying a heavyweight boxer. Even Talia Shire gets a nicely overdramatic sequence to play with, showing how her character too has evolved over three movies. It all amounts to a surprisingly interesting sequel at a time when most series are getting winded. After all, how different can you make movies all ending with a triumphant match?

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