Monday, January 08, 2007

Rocky Balboa

I was a bit of an action movie fan while I was growing up. As a kid I eagerly awaited and watched every new movie of my favorite action heroes - Steven Seagal, Stallone, Schwarzenegger, among others. I also watched a lot of martial arts films, everything I could get hold of. I especially liked the training montage and fight scenes, and would pattern my workouts with some of the training scenes I've seen in the movies, although I couldn't even get close to the type of physique that my favorite protagonists would have.

Because of all those fond memories from the 80's and early 90's fight movies, I was eagerly looking forward to watching Rocky Balboa yesterday. This is the latest and probably the last of the Rocky sequels. After it was over, I was a bit disappointed. The training montage didn't compare to the training scenes of the previous Rocky movies. Of which in my opinion 'Rocky IV' had the best training montage. Imagine a bearded Rocky doing grueling exercises in Siberia, climbing a mountain and lifting heavy farm equipment, in sharp contrast to the Russian Drago's state of the art gym facilities. 'Rocky Balboa' had a short, uninspiring training scene without much of the emotion or dramatics of the earlier sequels.

The fight scene against Mason Dixon was also very different from the previous Rocky movies. It was shot in a realistic manner, made to resemble a modern day HBO Pay Per View fight. In a sense, it was like Rocky had left the 'Rocky' universe and entered the present-day world. Which is not entirely bad, I thought the effect was interesting. But I still would have preferred if we it resembled the older movies. In fact this one, didn't even show scenes from the ending boxing/fight scene of the previous sequel, and naming it 'Rocky Balboa' instead of 'Rocky VI' was I guess Stallone's way of telling the viewers that this would be different.

I was not too fond of the Marie character because she felt too much like a quick throw-in replacement for Rocky's dead wife, Adrian. Actually while watching, I was concerned that they might form some sort of romantic relationship which would have been a disaster as no one can replace Adrian. I would have also liked to see more scenes with Duke, Rocky's (and Apollo's) old trainer. Rocky's son as well as Paulie were ok, I think they filled their roles well.

I enjoyed the first half of the movie a lot. It showed how affected Rocky was by the death of his wife, and how he constantly lived in the past, where he remembered that things were much better. It also showed how much of a caricature he became, entertaining patrons in his restaurant with old stories from his past. Rocky clearly only lived for the past and didn't like how his old neighborhood had changed so much since then. I can kind of relate to that a bit, and wish that they had explored that storyline in greater depth.

You would have guessed by now that I like Rocky III and IV more than Rocky I and II, although I like them all. Even Rocky V was ok but suffered from not having a training montage and actual boxing match in the end. I enjoyed the colorful characters and simple storylines of III and IV, and thought that Rocky IV was absolutely fantastic as an action movie.

All in all, I thought this was an OK way to end the series. I can understand why Stallone would want to end the series in the style of the first two Rocky movies but I still would have liked a more satisfying training and fight scene to wrap it up.

Rating: 3/5 * * *
A 'realistic' and current timeline Rocky with a different feel from the older sequels.

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