Saturday, May 15, 2010

Great Movies That Made Going to the Movies Suck #15- Rocky

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Note, Caroline from Let's Go to the Movies was supposed to write about Rocky, but for whatever reason missed the deadline so I had to cobble this together this morning. I know it isn't much, and if Caroline pulls through I will replace this with her piece, but for the sake of having something written, here it is.

Ah that score: the music of the underdog. Is there a more iconic or uplifting score in all of film history than that of Rocky? But although Rocky is maybe most well known for its music, it also influenced just about every other underdog/sports story since.

Although this kind of story has been beaten to death over and over again since (especially with the sequels), in 1976 Rocky felt about as fresh and hungry as any other movie out there. There wasn’t really many popular sports movies around so it’s greatest point of reference was On the Waterfront, another underdog story about a bum just trying to get by, and for one moment in his career (maybe the only time) a young Sylvester Stallone attacked the screen with a hunger and yearning that was comparable to that of one Marlon Brando.

What was so special about Rocky though is that it was genuinely about its title character. Boxing felt secondary to the plot and although the film climaxed with the coveted “Big Fight,” it wasn’t so much concerned with who won or lost, as much as it basked in the victory that Rocky had even made it that far in the first place.

If anything, Rocky is the ultimate statement about America and all of its possibilities. Rocky chases the American dream and comes out on top. It’s the kind of “land of opportunity” narrative that American film has never looked back from since be it in the sports genre of not (look at Pursuit of Happyness).

And that’s the problem; the genre has become such a stand-by that it has never quite reached the power or emotional intrigue of Rocky since. The underdog sports story has been a reliable go-to genre and many of the films, if nothing more, are serviceable, but none dig quite as deep as Rocky. They aren’t quite as simple or desperate or down-n-out and so don’t create that yearning that we felt in our desire to see Rocky succeed.

Worst of all, they all seem to want to build towards that big game, which is usually the least interesting part of any sports film in which a team is usually pummeled until the last moment when they turn it around and win that championship. Yawn.

1 comment:

  1. Great point about the American dream. Excellent piece, then.