All the Rocky Training Montages, Ranked by Intensity of Workout
September 16, 2019 4:44 AM   Subscribe

Rocky IV

Which one? There's a montage, then some empty dialogue, then they play pretty much the same montage again, teletubbies style. It's done as filler for what could be a 40 minute movie. (an awesome 40 minute movie, but still...)
posted by justsomebodythatyouusedtoknow at 9:46 AM on September 16, 2019

It's done as filler for what could be a 40 minute movie.

As a movie, Rocky IV fails. As a series of strung together music videos, it's not bad.
posted by nubs at 10:52 AM on September 16, 2019

I've never watched a single movie in the Rocky Cinematic Universe. Should I?
posted by Mr.Encyclopedia at 11:21 AM on September 16, 2019

I've never watched a single movie in the Rocky Cinematic Universe. Should I?

Hard to say. The first one is important enough to watch for an idea of how seventies Hollywood left the sixties behind and embraced the eighties. I think Rocky is maybe the key movie in that regard, building as it does from the early seventies "gritty realism" showcasing guys often beaten by the system and transforms that into the more digestible eighties style fantasy of triumph against the odds suitable for all audiences. It was a huge, huge hit and an unexpected one that seemed to signal a sea change in attitude in movies.

At the same time, part of that new "triumphant" spirit is certainly also tied to race as Rocky fighting Apollo Creed also sort of sums up a desire by white America to get over the sixties conflicts and return to telling us how great we are. The first Rocky starts that progression and the rest fulfill it in increasingly excessive and bizarre ways 'til you get to the height of the progression with Rocky IV, where Rocky becomes a virtual prophet of US dominance and moral values.

I mean that almost literally as Rocky IV posits Rocky as something of a boxing Moses, leading us all into the promised land of global harmony by fighting Ivan Drago the Soviet machine man that threatens as our possible future. I don't want to spoil the movie, but it opens with an Apollo Creed boxing match against Drago where Creed enters the ring under a giant golden calf which ties to the linked training montage where Rocky ascends the mountain and brings down the true message to deliver to Drago and the Soviets. Stallone really did mean the movie as a parable and it's both enjoyable and frightening for that.

Rocky II and III had their own mixes of painful and interesting, but I don't remember them as well and haven't seen V or VI. The first Creed movie too has some serious ideological weirdness going on, which seems to be part of how Coogler found favor with Disney. His particular manner of crowd pleasing seems to set some elements out for different audiences to read in different ways that doesn't necessarily cohere when taken together.
posted by gusottertrout at 11:44 AM on September 16, 2019 [4 favorites]

I've never watched a single movie in the Rocky Cinematic Universe. Should I?

The first one is an important piece of American film history, I think, and is worth watching - though the pacing is much slower than you might expect. I view it as more of a character study, really, about a down & out amateur boxer who gets the chance of a lifetime, though there are larger themes & symbolism at play. It's redeeming quality, to me, is in how it defines victory.

From there, they get progressively weirder, until Rocky IV, which is the height of cheese for the franchise but perhaps the nadir of storytelling, though Rocky V is a contender in that regard. (Rocky III is one I will always have a soft spot for, because of Mr. T, and "Eye of the Tiger", and Rocky and Apollo running! on! the! beach!).

Rocky Balboa, which was intended as the swan song for the character, is a solid film - it hearkens back to the first film in many ways, and in all honesty you could watch the first film and the last film and it would probably feel complete; the plots of the ones in between can largely be given in one sentence, but the first and the last are the ones that feel the most about the character.

I've only seen the first Creed, and only once, and it doesn't stand out to me in any way, so I'm not sure what that says.
posted by nubs at 11:57 AM on September 16, 2019 [1 favorite]

Rocky IV

This is my favorite Rocky IV image.
posted by srboisvert at 1:10 PM on September 16, 2019

Rocky IV, where Rocky becomes a virtual prophet of US dominance and moral values

That kind of seems wrong to me, considering his relatively famous quote [spoilers, of course]:

"During this fight, I've seen a lot of changing, the way you felt about me, and in the way I felt about you. In here, there were two guys killing each other, but I guess that's better than 20 million. I guess what I'm trying to say, is that if I can change, and you can change, everybody can change!" The last sentence is the famous quote, and that's what he's saying about a Russian guy that killed his friend.

It seems to me that Ivan Drago is the product of his training, much in the same way John Rambo in Rambo First Blood is the product of his, and that Stallone (or whoever wrote the two movies - Rocky4 and First Blood) was making the point that training people to do these things for political reasons and 'rah rah rahing' the good and conveniently forgetting the bad is wrong. It's a package deal. But those being trained have to make their own choices.

Also middle America literally felt this way about Russian Olympic athletes in the '80s [chosen at birth/doped up vs hard working American athletes], and Rocky the movie was pushing back on thinking of them as pure enemies and not regular people forced into doing what they had to do.
posted by The_Vegetables at 1:58 PM on September 16, 2019 [1 favorite]

PS: I also think they went with a pure white Russian Drago for Rocky IV because they were aware that tiny white Rocky kept having to fight bigger and bigger American black guys (racial component) and didn't really want the movies to be like that. But I'm kind of a Stallone fan in that he makes simple movies about deep subjects so take that as you will.
posted by The_Vegetables at 2:03 PM on September 16, 2019

I think Rocky III is severly underrated on the training-montage list, because the author doesn't consider Clubber Lang's (by far my favorite character in the RCU) training (it's probably a good time to post this Ghostface Killah/Rocky III mashup video.).

Should I?

The first one's not terrible, if you like inspiring sports fairy tale movies (and as others have noted, it has a big place in movie history), but the next three are very of-their-time, and, in at least those first four, there are racial elements that haven't aged well (and weren't great at the time). I haven't watched any of the later ones.
posted by box at 2:05 PM on September 16, 2019

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