Day Thirteen: Rocky III (MotM 2021)

Oh no. Ohhhhh nooooo. Ohhhhhhhh… nooooooooooooooo…

Okay. Okay. The first two Rocky‘s were fine. They were solid in slightly different ways, but ultimately provided some pretty good drama and build-up to a rewarding and emotional fight. The underdog story was effective and, despite the repeat storyline, worked well in the second about as much as the first.

This… dear lord… I cannot even fathom it. The sheer level of inadequacy that permeates its entirety is so shockingly abrupt that I didn’t see it coming. Like Rocky taking a sharp pummeling from some bad-mouthed Mr., the quality from Rocky II to Rocky III is a spectacle of malice, burned into the fists of a knockout punch. That analogy does not make much sense, and neither does this film.

In case you’re wondering: yes, he does say “I pity the fool” in this film.

First of all, its pacing is bizarrely fast. Starts with a recap of the second film, then immediately BOOM, we get a montage. We start with a montage… what? The chronicling of events after Rocky becomes champion, with a threat looming. “Eye of the Tiger” blasts to images of Rocky pummeling fighters seeking to obtain his title of world champion. A threat makes himself known early on, glaring at the prize of becoming the best. What do we know of this man? Where did he come from? Nobody cares! Eye of the Tiger, baby!

Probably the most egregious thing about this film is that it does everything I hated about the second film and does it one-hundred times harder. Worst of all, it continues to shoehorn in the same story beats and plotlines from prior films, resolving them in an instant. Only one event proves significant enough to rock Rocky (haha) and serve as some basis on conflict for this film… and it’s handled with the subtlety and grace of a hellhound in heat.

Which one of these two look ready to kill?

And what became of Rocky, this Italian, wise-cracking, goofball dude that was relatable? Now he’s just [standard male protagonist]. It’s sickening! The writing is so bland, so over-the-top and borderline hilarious that nothing about this envelops the same spirit or heart of the prior two films. They felt like they had something to say; this is just salad dressing.

There is a ten-minute scene near the beginning where Rocky wrestles with Hulk Hogan (codenamed “Thunderlips”) in a charity event. The importance of this scene is… uh… huh. There’s also a scene near the beginning where Rocky’s friend Paulie is pissed that Rocky doesn’t offer him anything, like a job. He and Rocky fight about it, and then Rocky offers him a job. The importance of this scene is… uh… huh.

More like Bulk Hogan, am I right?

Filler everywhere. A main antagonist that has no connection to Rocky whatsoever, has no development, has little personality other than being really, really mean, and can’t act for shit. A bunch of really obvious plot developments that are resolved through big, dramatic monologues or mild scuffles. It is the literal definition of a mess, and it caused quite the stir in me. It’s so, so bad. I can’t even imagine how much worse it can get.

I wish to say nothing more. Except that, despite everything, I don’t think it’s irredeemable. It had some occasionally solid scenes and Apollo Creed is still pretty rad. That’s it. Otherwise, it will make a nice home in the farthest recesses of my subconscious, never to be brought up for anything other than cynical mocking.

Final Score: 2/10

The rating for all other films can be found at Letterboxd.

For more, check out the March of the Movies Archive!

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