So, in case you guys are wondering, I was originally planning to review “A Christmas Story,” but one thing led to another, and by the time everything relevant had happened, I was burned out, and physically didn’t have the energy to write the review. Don’t worry, though: I will get to it shortly after Christmas. And to give you guys a heads-up, I am expecting you to have seen it before reading my review of it, because I am not summing up the plot scene-by-scene for you guys. If you can’t get it on home video, I’d recommend taking any of the twelve (yeah, you read that right) chances to see it on any given network founded by Ted Turner, excepting Turner Classic Movies (which will be called TCM for the purposes of this blog). Your chances start Christmas Eve at 8:00 on the East Coast and Mountain Time Zone, and 7:00 on the Central Time Zone and West Coast. It runs from then to the same time the next day, which, yes, is Christmas.
Anyway, let’s dig into “Rocky III.”
Okay, I’m going to be upfront about the movie: It has one big problem, the first batch of consequences of which I’ll get to here, the next of which I’ll get to in the character section. So, let’s talk about the big problem with the movie that brings it down considerably: Rocky not taking the fight seriously, while Lang does. On the story front, the problem with this is that it removes any tension (or at least, whatever remains from the reusing of the plot of the second movie) from that part of the plot, and as a result, the full depiction of the initial fight between Rocky and Lang comes to a conclusion that the audience predicted would happen based on what was in this movie. If the story was only predictable based on reusing the formula from the second movie, I’d probably be a bit nicer to the movie. The scenes that seem to be comparing Rocky’s bout with Lang to a war, PTSD-fueled flashbacks and all, are overplayed and feel more manipulative than anything else.
That being said, after Adrian makes her speech encouraging Rocky to keep going, the movie finds its place in the series (beyond Mickey’s death, which is quite sad, I’ll admit), and the previously rather boring training sequences become a lot more tolerable, all leading up to the second best climax in the series. So, this part is well done for the final thirty minutes, but before that, it struggles a bit too much to totally forgive. That being said, the final thirty minutes are your last impression of the movie, and I still recommend the movie based on them. Just don’t expect the same effect you got with the first two. Oh, and the scene between Rocky and Paulie at the beginning has no real impact on the rest of the movie, and should’ve been reserved for the movie that had the best use for it. That is all.
Story Grade: 79% (C+)
Okay, the consequences of Lang taking the fight seriously but Rocky not on this front are that Rocky is more or less written exclusively to be wrong within the context of the story so he can be equipped as a mouthpiece for the moral that you can’t get complacent in your place. Why is this, and why do I have a problem with it? Because Rocky wasn’t established as being careless in the other films, so the presentation of the moral is way off in the beginning of the movie. It is presented better in the last third of the film, but that ultimately isn’t saying much. That being said, the last third is much better in this regard than the first two, because Adrian and Rocky’s relationship is brought back into more focus. Also, the character of Lang is interesting to see doing what he does, even if he’s not tremendously deep. Not much more to say.
Character Grade: 75% (C)
The dialogue here actually kind of makes it a bit ambiguous whether Sly (who wrote and directed the movie) thought that Mickey managing which boxer Rocky got to challenge him for the World Champion title was right or wrong, and if that wasn’t a problem, this category would probably be up to par with the story’s grade, but because it is there, it’ll have to settle for…
Script Grade: 78% (C+)
I still stand by the notion that Sly is a better director than John G. Avildson, and if you look at any scenes from the beach parts of the training sequences, you might be able to see what I’m talking about. It does come together really handsomely, but what comes together is the problem with the movie, not how it comes together. This part gets off scot-free from my criticism.
Direction Grade: 95% (A)
I’m not that familiar with Mr. T (Lang), but I did see the original “Cloudy With a Chance of Meatballs” movie, and thought he was a hoot there. As far as this serious character goes, he’s so hammy in how he portrays Lang that it’s difficult to look away. Whenever Lang is on screen, you will always pay attention. And, of course, you can always count on Stallone and the supporting good guy actors to give great performances. Not bad at acting, I say.
Acting Grade: 88% (B+)
It’s well-executed, warts and all, but everything I said about the second movie still applies here, so I won’t go into any more detail.
Execution Grade: 89% (B+)
Now, to be fair, this might be the first time where, on an objective level, the movie is better than the degree to which actually enjoy it. If I’d had it my way, the movie would’ve gotten a high C, so the final grade is more based around how it objectively is in terms of quality.
So, just to be clear, what would I have done differently in Sly’s place, were I the director? (I would like to say that I am an aspiring writer and director.) Easy: During the prep for the initial fight against Lang, have Rocky try his absolute best in training, but have him lose anyway. If you want to say he lost because he didn’t care enough about winning (therefore lacking the “eye of the tiger”), fine; don’t make it so obvious that he doesn’t care enough about winning, and flaunt it to the viewer. Actually, now that I think about it, that would make changing his entire fighting style make much more practical sense. Anyway, here’s the final grade.
Final Grade: 84% (B)
Anyway, sorry for getting this out so late, and I’ll (hopefully) see you tomorrow, when I review “Rocky IV.”