I appreciate that I have placed this film much further down the list than most people would. I do not hate ‘Rocky’, we have entered the section of the countdown where I am covering films that I think are fine, but that certainly did not warrant a Best Picture win. For many, ‘Rocky’ is the ultimate sports drama: the tale of the underdog who has a chance to fight the world champion, and the film ends with a boxing showdown between the two.
I have an issue with sports drama as a genre. The excitement of sport is the unpredictability and not knowing what will happen. This cannot easily be transferred to the big screen because a director will usually be pushing the viewer to want one outcome or another and then either granting that wish or not. The outcome of the film is in the hands of the film makers and not the sportsmen.
A good sports film needs to focus on the characters and their issues and this is where ‘Rocky’ fails where other sports films succeed. Take ‘Million Dollar Baby’ for example, the film is not about boxing but about the relationships between believable and credible characters, in a boxing setting. Sylvester Stallone is just not a good enough actor to be able to create a believable and relatable character: we are supposed to want him to win and defeat the champion purely because he is the underdog, but when I watch this film I just don’t care. I don’t care if he wins or not and I don’t care if he ends up with Adrian, because he does not create a character that is worth caring about. His character Rocky also does not seem to care about the outcome of the match. At the end he seems more interested in Adrian, and their love is more important to him than the match.
Adrian is an uninspiring love interest. She is shy and quiet and everyone thinks she is ugly until she removes her glasses (a picture worthy of a Best Picture win really needs to come up with something slightly more original and sophisticated than this), and in honestly far too drippy to really take seriously. Rocky’s trainer, played by Burgess Meredith, is good and is by far the best thing about the film.
The film is certainly watchable, the soundtrack is fun and the fight scenes are good, but in all honesty the film is just a standard, unsophisticated low budget flick which leaves no lasting impression from a cinematic perspective. Rocky has become a cult figure and a symbol of the underdog evidenced in the countless sequels that have been made, but the film cannot be viewed for its style or substance.