'Rocky III' Review: The Eye of the Tiger
Monday, January 28, 2008
The Rocky films are often thought of as boxing movies, but the first two entries in the franchise are actually character dramas that happen to be set in the boxing world. Each ends with a climactic fight, but the sport often takes a back seat to the characters and their relationships. The moment Rocky III kicks off with the powerful strains of Survivor's "Eye of the Tiger," which is played over a montage of Rocky's rise to fame, it's obvious the film has a different agenda. Rocky III is more interested in being an entertaining popcorn flick than an inspirational drama, but that's not necessarily a bad thing.
The film, which is both written and directed by Sylvester Stallone, finds Rocky at the top of his game. After winning the heavyweight title from Apollo Creed, he's made tons of money and appeared everywhere from magazine covers to The Muppet Show. However, the movie would be nothing if a ferocious young fighter didn't step up to challenge the Italian Stallion, which is where Clubber Lang comes in. Clubber is played by the one and only Mr. T, and unlike Apollo Creed he's rude, cruel, and determined to make things personal.
While the first two Rocky films clocked in around two hours, this sequel moves along at a breakneck pace and wraps things up in 95 minutes. The character arcs are pushed to the background, instead replaced with more boxing and a good amount of humor. Any movie that finds Rocky squaring off in a wrestling match with a character named Thunderlips, played by Hulk Hogan, obviously isn't taking itself too seriously.
This shift in tone could have been a disaster, but Rocky III is actually fantastic fun. It may not be deep, but it's hard to resist the joy of watching Stallone square off with Mr. T. The friendship between Rocky and Apollo Creed is fully formed by the end of the film, and Stallone's script even tugs at the heartstrings with an unexpected development for Rocky's trainer, Mickey.
The movie, with its heavy use of montages and focus on entertainment over character development, threatens to fall into the ridiculous bombast that would later cripple Rocky IV. However, Stallone manages to keep things down to earth and believable in this installment, resulting in an extremely enjoyable, irresistible piece of entertainment. Good luck getting "Eye of the Tiger" out of your head after seeing this one.
- Don Williams, BuddyTV Staff Writer
(Image courtesy of MGM/UA)