IHAO on ... Rocky

I've had this really nice collection of Rocky films on blu ray for a long time now, but I've been hardpressed to really dive into these films.  You see, I've seen bits and pieces of them, mostly 3 and 4 because Ted Turner's TBS played them quite often, but I've never actually sat down and watched these.  Which is a huge shame, because they have become a huge part of our culture as a whole.  So I'm spending the next 6 days reviewing them one at a time, in chronological order.  And that means we start at the very top, with Rocky.

Rocky was always expressed to me as a sports story about the ultimate underdog who went the distance in a match that he never needed to be in, proving himself a contender.  And that is ... kind of accurate.  But that is also roughly ... 10 minutes in the film?  It really misses the point.  This is not a sports film at all.  This is a character study.  And I LOVE those.  I've mentioned it before, and one of my favorite films of all time, the Hurt Locker, is one.  Hell, Hurt Locker is to war films what Rocky is to sports films.

This movie is not perfect.  Some of the technology is dated, which hurts it some, mostly in the sound department.  The sound is basically atrocious.  Levels are never consistent, the foley never quite matches up, and it is overall kind of sad.  Really sad in fact.

And there you go.  I've now talked about the only thing bad about this movie at all.  Really, I mean it.  The acting from everyone is so incredibly immersive and engaging, even when it is just Rocky (Sylvester Stallone, just in case you didn't know) making terrible jokes or trying to give advice to a little girl or being really uncomfortable on camera.  Adrian was at first a character I hated ... but she slowly transformed and strengthened into this full fledged girl that I fell in love with, and I saw what Rocky saw in her, even though no one else did, not herself, not Paulie, and not ME, the audience.  Paulie is unrepentant, just completely terrible as a person, with no change at all even at the end of the film.  He's STILL terrible Paulie.

At least, he is for now.  We'll get to THIS on Friday.

The script is impeccable.  Stallone did an amazing job slowly parceling out these moments in Rocky's life as we watch him.  He crafted a story that is both believable and without cliche.  The loan shark is not a villain to Rocky because he's a loan shark.  He's not a villain at all.  He's just another person, like Rocky, who has a job that is unsavory.  Rocky's outburst at Mickey ... the one he is unable to say at all until Mickey has left the apartment, is so incredibly honest.

And the music.  Wow ... we all know the Rocky theme, but the rest of the music is so wonderful.  The score as Rocky begins his training and is unable to run up the steps, the triumphant steps we all have seen the scene of, is just heartbreaking.  The way the love song is just played over the radio as Rocky and Adrian have their first kiss in an awkward scene that becomes very passionate is phenomenal.

Beyond all that, the imagery of Philadelphia is immaculate.  And the cinematography is just wonderful.  So many shots are just perfect, like Rocky making amends with Mickey out in the street after their argument.  There are some shots that are a little bit off, but overall it is really great.

This movie is so perfect in so many ways, it pains me that the sound is so off.  I cannot in good consciousness give this film any less than an A.  But the sound ... oh man.  WATCH THIS IF YOU HAVEN'T, because I bet you anything that if you haven't, then you have the entirely wrong conceit of what this film is.  You will not be disappointed.

Grade: A++ 

See you tomorrow for Rocky II!

Rocky Movie Review Bank

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