First Time Watching: Rocky III

I watched Rocky III about three weeks ago and am relying on the “detailed notes” I took to write this post. So, I guess we’re all about to find out how great of a strategy that was.

Before Watching

After Rocky II, I was a bit tired of the Rocky vs. Apollo matchup and was hoping they wouldn’t go back to it in the third movie. If they did, I was expecting Apollo to try and cheat his way to a victory.

In A Nutshell

Rocky Balboa is the new Heavyweight Champion and is running through a gauntlet of challengers. However, we find out that Rocky’s trainer, Mickey, set up those 10 title defences against “has beens” so Rocky could feel good about himself.

A new challenger, Clubber Lang (Mr. T), emerges and Mickey says he’ll knock Rocky into the middle of tomorrow. Sure enough, he does. Lang wings via knockout in Round 2. After the fight, Mickey passes away.

Rocky is looking for a rematch and Apollo Creed becomes his trainer.

Rocky defeats Lang via knockout in Round 3. Rocky is once again the Heavyweight Champion.

The Opening

In Rocky II, the first five minutes were the same as the last five minutes of Rocky. So, I was prepared when they did the same thing in this movie. It allowed me to fast-forward a bit.

I think that’s a unique strategy, unless other movies were doing the same thing back then.

Hulk Hogan Is Here?

Rocky is participating in a charity benefit called, Battle of the Champions. His opponent is Hulk Hogan, though his character’s name is, Thunderlips. I will refer to him as Hulk Hogan.

A light bulb went off in my head when I saw Mr. T and Hulk Hogan in the same movie. All of a sudden, it made sense that they were tag team partners at the inaugural WrestleMania. As if I hadn’t already uncovered many things that professional wrestling had taken from these movies, this one was hitting me over the head.

Hogan beat up Rocky pretty badly and was chasing him all over the venue. He even beat up security and the referee. He was truly a menace. I found it to be a bit comical, if not ironic, because one of the knocks on Hogan is that he wasn’t a great worker.

He was just someone with a handful of moves and a lot of showmanship. That’s what made him popular.

The fans are freaking out and the ring becomes littered with garbage. If social media existed back then, you’d be hearing about a charity boxing event gone wrong. Someone would try to be witty and create a headline, “When it comes crashing down and it hurts inside”.

Less than three of you will understand that.

As soon as the exhibition match was over, Hogan snapped out of character, as he was only putting on a show. He took a polaroid with Rocky and his family.

Eye of the Tiger

The previous movie was practically begging for someone to make a song called, “Eye of the Tiger”. Well, Survivor did. They wasted no time in inserting it into the movie during Rocky’s title defence montage right at the beginning.

Fun story: In my Grade 9 gym class, they played “Eye of the Tiger” when we had to do the 12-minute run.

It didn’t really motivate me because (ready for the excuses?):

1. It was 8am
2. I had never really run for a length of time before, so I had no endurance built up
3. I had pulled a muscle in my leg playing sports in the summer and re-aggravated it a few days prior to the run, so I was hobbling
4. 12 minutes feels like an eternity when you’re 14-years-old

I pity the fool”

So, apparently this is where the famous phrase was born. Who knew? Not me.

When Mr. T said it, I just thought it was already his thing and they inserted it into the movie as a wink-wink, nudge-nudge. I guess not!

Honestly, the phrase didn’t stand out to me. It wasn’t a huge moment where I felt like I had just heard something that I needed to repeat to all of my friends.

Maybe the reason for that is because I’ve already heard it so many times in my life that it has lost its impact? I don’t know.

Maybe I’m just unable to detect when something is going to be bigger than it is.

For example, during Katy Perry’s Super Bowl halftime show a few years ago, Left Shark became the main story for their supposed subpar dancing It caught me off-guard because I hadn’t noticed anything amiss about the performance.

But no, Left Shark became the butt of every joke and turned into a meme.

To this day, I still don’t understand it. I just rewatched the part where Left Shark was “terrible” and I don’t see it. Sure, their timing was a bit off with Right Shark at one point, but it wasn’t anything egregious.

Am I the only one who doesn’t expect crisp choreography from someone in an overbearing shark costume? If anything, I got the impression that their arms were too short for the costume and the random flailing was intentional.

So, that’s my best explanation for why I didn’t see what the big deal was with, “I pity the fool”.

Rocky, Adrian, and Apollo

After Mickey passes away, Apollo Creed decides that he’s going to train Rocky for his rematch against Mr. T. But, of course, the training isn’t going that well. Surprise, surprise. He can’t forget his last fight and how he lost the championship, and Mickey, all within a matter of minutes.

A reporter says Rocky’s time has passed. He’s 34. Good grief.

Rocky’s wife, Adrian, gives him a pep talk on the beach and says he needs to fight for himself, not for anyone else. Rocky doesn’t think his title reign was real and questions why Mickey would schedule fights against lesser opponents.

A classic case of imposter syndrome, it seems.

Adrian turns around his mindset, so cue the comeback montage!

I swear, this movie series has no problem following the same peaks and valleys in every film. I wonder if they’ll go back to the same formula in the fourth movie. I mean, how else would they turn Rocky into the underdog (again) and feed us another training montage after he overcomes his confidence issues?

The Rematch

It’s Rocky and Mr. T, one more time.

Apollo gives Rocky his Stars & Stripes trunks from their first fight. Couldn’t he have gotten him a dinette set, instead? Who wants to wear someone else’s trunks?

I got major, “wearing a bathing suit you got from the lost and found” vibes.

Before the match, Mr. T shoves Apollo and a melee ensues inside the ring. I feel like they were recreating the skirmish that took place before the first fight, which resulted in Mickey getting shoved.

Rocky takes off his robe and the commentators say he looks like a middleweight. Forever reinforcing the “underdog” theme, even though he really isn’t that much of an underdog, in my opinion.

Rocky comes out swinging and Mr. T seems to have forgotten how to raise his hands to protect his face. He doesn’t move his hands at all. It’s very strange.

We move on to Round 2 and Rocky’s strategy is for Mr. T to tire himself out by throwing a bunch of punches. Rocky takes all the punches.

After the round, Mr. T sits down in his corner for the first time in this movie. If viewers were paying attention, they’d notice that. It’s subtle but it says a lot.

Rocky starts talking trash in the third round and invites punches to his face. At this point, Mr. T is blown up (tired), which is Rocky’s cue to knock him out.

He does. Rocky wins and is once again the Heavyweight Champion of the world.

The Favour

In exchange for training Rocky for his fight, Apollo kept mentioning that he would owe him a favour afterwards.

The favour turned out to be a fight between Rocky and Apollo, without an audience. Just them. Apollo could never get over losing by one second. If you remember, Rocky stood up at the count of 9, while Apollo stayed down for the 10-count.

So, the movie concludes with them fighting in an empty gym.

I like to think that this eventually inspired the Empty Arena Match by The Rock and Mankind in 1999 during Halftime Heat, which was specifically created as counterprogramming to the Super Bowl halftime show.

But who knows, right? It’s not like wrestling has ever stolen anything from the Rocky movies.

Conclusion

I liked the movie. We’ve seen Rocky grow into a responsible adult over the first three films, even though I don’t think his wife likes him getting punched in the face and would prefer if he’d retire.

Mickey passing away makes me wonder who will train Rocky in the next movie. Will Apollo Creed still be a character, or has his character arc reached its conclusion?

This movie really felt like they were capitalizing on the popularity of the Rocky brand. I won’t say they got too big for their britches, but they were definitely making sure we knew that they fit just right.

The unveiling of the Rocky statue and the inclusion of Hulk Hogan really screamed, “We know we’re a big deal”.

I’m curious to see where they go with Rocky IV. They’ve already planted the seed that Rocky is past his prime, but the fact that there’s a Rocky V tells me that maybe his run of success isn’t quite over yet.

We shall see.

Have you seen Rocky III? What did you think of it?

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8 Responses to First Time Watching: Rocky III

  1. Monty Vern says:

    I’m not one of the three…

    Liked by 1 person

    • Paul says:

      I’ll be honest, I didn’t know what you meant until Aaron said the same thing and I scoured my post for what you guys were referencing. I get it now haha.

      The reference was just the beginning lyrics to Hogan’s theme song whenever he came out.

      Liked by 1 person

  2. peckapalooza says:

    I, too, am not one of the less than three…

    But I have seen Rocky III, of course. If you liked the montages in this movie, just you wait. Rocky IV has more montages than the rest of the franchise combined. That might be a slight exaggeration. But not by much. I’ve said that the first two movies were more about the relationship between Rocky and Adrian, but this is where it really just starts to be about boxing. I mean, yes, there’s a lot of heart and emotion in dealing with Rocky’s grief after losing Mickey. But it almost feels like this is the point where the series jumps the (left) shark.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Paul says:

      Very good connection to left shark. Yeah, it feels like Rocky’s personal life is all squared away and now and it’s just boxing all (most) of the time. I can feel the series starting to slip into the “We’re making movie because people love them, but we already told the whole story” phase. Which is fine for them, make all the money you can. We’ll see what the next movie brings.

      Liked by 1 person

  3. Dutch Lion says:

    Rocky IV is probably my favorite. I think you’ll like it. Hey, didn’t we talk about Survivor’s “Eye of the Tiger” in your last review?

    Liked by 1 person

  4. I’ll always be partial to the original film, in part because I actually saw it outside of Philly as a college freshman in Pittsburgh. Just like me to be out of the area when the most iconic film in Philadelphia history is released LOL.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Paul says:

      Of all times! Yeah, the first one is my favourite too. I watched Rocky IV about a month ago that I still need to write about. As the series goes on it becomes more and more about the fights and less about Rocky and his personal life, which is what I enjoyed in the original.

      Liked by 1 person

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