Wednesday, June 12, 2013

Talk about "Unbelievable"!

I'm glad Michael brought this subject up because there's been something bothering me for about 30 years: the universe of Rocky Balboa.

The original "Rocky", released in 1976, is a great movie. Okay, maybe "Taxi Driver" should have won the Oscar but it didn't. "Rocky" still stands up as an exceptionally good film. The fact that Sylvester Stallone and Hollywood decided to turn it into a franchise that resulted in a series of formulaic cartoons, as evidenced by the character of Paulie, a pathos-infused shadowy vision of Rocky's potential future (for which Burt Young won the best supporting actor Oscar in 1976) devolving into an adorably racist curmudgeon with an icky robot fetish, doesn't diminish the original film's depth and emotional impact.

Besides, Rocky isn't the only beloved fictional character that was taken off into weird and ultimately terrible directions by creative people who didn't seem to know (or care) when to stop.
"I survive a nuclear blast how?!?"

So they could have stopped with one "Rocky" but they didn't. Okay. We're supposed to believe that barely-five-foot-tall Sylvester Stallone could be a heavyweight boxer. Okay. We're supposed to be believe that every punch that lands sounds like a bomb going off. Okay. But would it kill them to maintain a slightly believable universe of continuity in terms of how boxing works? Specifically, that boxers don't cease to exist when they lose. They're not video game bosses. Yet, in every instance besides Apollo Creed, because, I don't know, Rocky had to have one age-appropriate, non-alcoholic friend, everybody he fights simply disappears into thin air.
"We beat each other to a pulp. Twice. Now we're besties."
In "Rocky 4" (I refuse to use Roman numerals; these aren't the Olympics), Apollo comes out of retirement (again) to fight Drago, who is basically a terminator. Where the hell is Clubber Lang, Rocky's nemesis in "Rocky 3"? He should have easily regained the undisputed heavyweight title with only one loss on his record, the fight where now-retired Rocky beat him. Why does Apollo feel obligated to get himself killed? After "Rocky 4" Drago is never mentioned again. Was he sent to Siberia for embarrassing the Soviet Union by losing to Rocky? Unlikely after Rocky's passionate speech ends the Cold War by convincing the Russians that they're a bunch of dicks (riiiiight). Same with Tommy Gunn, the young up-and-coming fighter Rocky trains before he betrays Rocky in "Rocky 5". Rocky beats him up - in a street fight, not even in the ring -and poof! Career, and existence on earth, apparently over. None of these characters are factors in "Rocky Balboa" aka "Rocky 6", the back-to-the-roots, seeming (hopefully) conclusion to the whole saga.
Wait! I almost forgot that Spider Rico, who head-butts Rocky in the opening scene of "Rocky", is in "Rocky Balboa", as an addled kitchen helper in the little neighborhood Italian restaurant that slightly-less-addled Rocky owns, the last vestige of the empire he reigned over in "Rocky 3".
Never mind.

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