“You’re waltzing. Give the sucker some action, you’re fighting like a bum”. The 1976 film Rocky, directed by John G. Avildsen and written by Sylvestor Stallone, opens up with a boxing match that no contestant seems to be obviously winning. Although, the leading protagonist appears to be passionate but after coming out of the corner in the ring, he only manages to score a few solid jabs. Subtly settling the viewers into the perspective that these men are not professional fighters.
Rocky is a realistic drama that dives into the hardships of losing self-respect and the struggles to gain self-worth, which is defined as the pride and confidence in oneself; a feeling that one is behaving with honor and dignity. The film combines the stories of an underdog becoming a champion, the boxing ranked system, the struggle of possessing self-worth, and that every champion was once a contender that refused to give up. With underlying themes of ambition, dissatisfaction, and romance.
Rocky is a boxing-drama film that takes place on November 25th, 1975 during the golden years of boxing. The leading protagonist, Rocky Balboa, welcomes the chance of fighting the antagonist, Apollo Creed, whom is a popular heavyweight champion. Set in the slums of Philadelphia, the run-down apartments, dark alleys, and ragged gyms located in the protagonist’s neighborhood is symbolized as a low-life going-nowhere place. The lower ranked boxers reside in compact housing units and earn little amounts of money for fighting matches in sweaty gyms while the higher ranked boxers within the city are expressed mentally and physically: the superior boxer will have a more praised and luxurious life.
In particular to the film, the higher ranked boxers wear fancy clothes, obtain a respected reputation, and keep the assurance that no other boxer can annihilate them. The film’s story follows Rocky Balboa (portrayed by actor Sylvestor Stallone), friend Paulie Penninoo (portrayed by actor Burt Young), girlfriend Adrian (portrayed by actress Talia Shire) who is a sister of Paulie, mentor Mickey (actor Burgess Meredith), and antagonist Apollo Creed (actor Carl Weathers) whom Rocky is set to fight. Paulie and Rocky maintain a friendship as they live in the slums but love welcomes Rocky when he meets Paulie’s sister Adrian, who works at the pet store where she sold the legendary turtles and goldfish, Cuff, Link, and Moby Dick to Rocky. Mickey, Rocky’s mentor, gave up hope on him and kicks him to skid-row in the gym, claiming Rocky was a wasted talent who took up a leg-breaker job for a loan shark collector. Rocky only made money off the results of fighting matches so he thought it was just a living to work for his mob boss Gazzo (actor Joe Spinell). Paulie, a drunk who will not live up to any potential besides working a meat packing company, does not do much to benefit Rocky except for connecting him with his crush Adrian and allowing Rocky to train in his workplace.
Although, he is still Rocky’s best friend and showing up at matches to support him. Adrian and Rocky’s relationship progresses after having a timid first date during Thanksgiving night at an ice skating rink. The antagonist Apollo Creed and Rocky plan to box on television for all to spectate during New Years for their country’s supposed biggest birthday. Creed created the fight to be all just a show so he does not believe a local boxer like Rocky Balboa will make any successful powermoves on him.
Although, Rocky does not see the fight as anything comedical or patriotic to America, for him it is a chance at the big leagues in boxing and a ticket to a lavish life away from the slums of Philadelphia. Rocky understands that he is not fit enough to empower Creed in the big fight but knows that all he has to do is go the distance where no man has ever gone before, to last fifteen rounds. That would result in Rocky proving his self-worth and gaining an everlasting reputation from everyone and everything that has ever doubted his existence. The competition between Creed and Balboa drives the film in an action packed way to make an exciting boxing film. Rocky and Adrian eventually move in together when her brother, Paulie, becomes very apparent about how he is jealous of Rocky’s newfound success in boxing.
Also, that his sister, Adrian, is not a ‘loser’ anymore, as she has Rocky. Every character in Rocky exemplifies a realistic human being. Rocky, the leading protagonist, embodies an underdog that came from the slums. Mickey acts as an arrogant mentor but when Rocky needs a coach he runs to Rocky to aid him for the destined fight with Creed. Adrian, Rocky’s girlfriend, makes him a happier man and provides him the love and support that he needs. Apollo, the antagonist, is the ego filled celebrity who has let their title slip through their fingers. Paulie is the ill-tempered drunk friend who sips on Rocky’s stardom. The characters change as the film progresses. Adrian becomes less shy and opens up her shell, while her brother Paulie turns less likable. Mickey, was once disappointed in Rocky for being a wasted talent and changes his mind when Apollo decides he wants to box Balboa. Rocky himself ultimately begins to acquire self-respect.
Special effects, music, cinematography, and pacing of scenes are used to create significant technical cinematic elements. To make the special effects more realistic in the fighting scenes, they applied dramatic make-up to the faces of the battered fighters. Music was a huge component to the making of the film, now iconic songs were played to enhance the rising action and climatic turn of events. The pacing of scenes start off slow then progress to a quick paced speed for the preparation of the fight. With the movie being set in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania the production team actually filmed the movie in the city to save money.
Although, managed to film in various locations in Philadelphia and even California for a few places used in the story. The film only had a low budget of $1 million so there was a limit of resources to make the movie. The reasoning behind having few roles and little extras that partake in the story is because they actually struggled with affording a large amount of people. However, the production team attempted to shield the fact by illuminating certain parts of a room and creating the illusion that there were many. The actor, Sylvestor Stallone, who plays Rocky actually wrote the script and demanded John G. Avildsen, the director interested, to permit Stallone in playing the lead role in the movie. The plot that Sylvestor wrote of an underdog athlete playing in the big leagues is a cliche story that many sports or inspirational films like to utilize but Rocky is dissimilar when they used it because of how realistic it actually is. Balboa being an underrated boxer who does not win in the end is rational contrasted to most films who turn the underdog into the greatest man ever. When in reality, those supposed inexperienced athletes have only trained for a small amount of time and because of that there is no true feasible way the antagonist could defeat the antagonist who has been training forever.
Lasty, the story concludes the film’s major theme of self-respect. The rising tension is depicted by the antagonist, Rocky, granting a training for success montage of him powering through one-handed push ups and accomplishing a fast paced run up the seventy-two stone steps before the entrance of the Philadelphia Museum of Art. The climactic scene is the bout with Apollo Creed, they both enter the area with the thoughts that they got this. When the first bell dings, Rocky is evidently not the wasted talent boxer anymore, he means business. Creed on the other hand, while taken aback, does not let it faze him and even begins to prance around the ring for entertainment, symbolizing that he has not let go of his egoistic attitude. “Rocky doesn’t care to win the war, though he only cares about the battle. And he is determined to not surrender. Rocky’s fighting with himself even more than he’s fighting with Apollo. He needs to prove to himself that he can go the distance ‘a full fifteen rounds’ without giving up…Rocky doesn’t win, but the verdict doesn’t matter. When the ref announces Apollo’s victory, his voice is almost lost in the hullabaloo. Adrian rushes the ring, and she and Rocky say “I love you” for the first time. The love is the prize that means more to Rocky than any gaudy title belt.