Adrian: Why do you wanna fight?
Rocky: Because I can’t sing or dance
R: Just once.
F: Once all the way through plus bits here and there.
R: This is basically a retelling of Aesop’s The Hare and the Tortoise, isn’t it? And possibly the best adaptation of that story that’s ever been filmed.
F: According to the Tortoise and Hare Wikipedia article, the fable is more about the Tortoise using ingenuity rather than pure determination. And Rocky uses pure tenacity in this! But it’s certainly a David and Goliath story.
R: Perhaps you’re right, the story is more about Rocky’s spirit than Apollo Creed’s hubris. And in truth, more than the confrontation between the two boxers, it’s probably the relationship between Rocky and Adrian that has given the film such staying power. The first time I watched it I was certainly surprised by how little boxing there is in it. It’s a stealth love story!
F: Boxing is certainly just the backdrop against which this story is told. I agree the love story is certainly the heart of the film, and it actually feels quite a natural relationship. That said there is a healthy amount of schmaltz in this!
R: It is a very a simple tale, which I think is what made me think of Aesop. What the film does well is make the relationship between the odd couple so believable. I like Rocky’s line that “we fill each other’s gaps”. Helps us immediately make sense of what these two see each in other.
F: Yes I like that moment too. I do think that Apollo Creed’s attitude towards his challenger is one of the films strengths. My favourite line is when his coach says ‘this guy doesn’t know it’s a show, he’s here to fight’. I like Creed’s arrogance and it constrasts well with how humble Rocky is.
R: Creed’s cockiness certainly makes it easy to root for Rocky, but I like that he’s no pantomime villain. Surely another big factor in the film’s success is that while the plot structure is simple, the characters are sophisticated enough to stop it feeling simplistic. No-one is perfectly heroic nor is anyone entirely flawed.
F: You mentioned that there isn’t much boxing in this film but what did you think of the final fight scene? I really got the impression that it hurts!
R: It’s worth waiting for, certainly, and the way it’s shot feels very convincing. Do you think the film ends a little abruptly though? There are quite a few plot elements left unresolved, such as Rocky’s employment as enforcer for a loan shark, and Paulie’s alcoholism. And of course we’re also never told just how many cigarettes Mighty Mick (the trainer) had to smoke to get that amazing croaky voice.
F: Well I guess the six sequels may go some way to resolving some of the other plot points (I haven’t seen them so can’t comment for sure)! I also like in this how Rocky has his quirks – the turtles, giving life lessons to the neighbourhood kids – plus his persona in the tv interviews is perfectly pitched as someone thrown into something out of their comfort zone.
R: Sure. But while we’ve both said a lot about how much we like it – are we really about to say it’s top 100 material? For me the pacing might be a bit slow, and even in 1976 – before all of those sequels – I can’t believe it would have won many awards for originality. I feel like to be saying “yes” the film’s got to be top of its class in some respect, and I can’t think of any area where that’s the case here. Fight choreography perhaps?
Is it worthy of the top 100?
R: [SPOILER] Rocky might have the heart to go 15 rounds, but doesn’t quite manage to win the title. No from me.
F: I like lots of elements of this film but it’s not a knock out! Close but no from me too!