How Sylvester Stallone Shaped the History of Action Movies with Rocky (1976)
The Original Rocky changed action movies forever, and launched one of the most ultimate careers of all time!
We all know Rocky (1976). A film that on a micro budget, even for the time, that became a massive smash. A movie which in its decades long history has created a critical legacy which very few films enjoy, especially in today’s culture where film critics make the mistake of thinking the job means spreading undisciplined criticism around the internet. It is a movie which is referenced in pop culture time and again.
Let’s take a look back at some of the less discussed areas of Rocky and challenge some of the pre-conceptions that the popular imagination has created about the movie.
Rocky’s Ultimate Action Movie Legacy
This multiple Oscar winner is deemed so important that the American government have included it in the National Film Registry by the Library of Congress as being “culturally, historically or aesthetically significant”. Rocky launched Sylvester Stallone into movie stardom and indeed the Rocky franchise which is still rolling on with the highly anticipated spin off Creed 2 (2018.)
This rags to riches story is considered by the American Film Institute to be the greatest sports film of all time, its legacy is massive. We here at the Ultimate Action Movie Club often talk, sometimes in not the most serious way about action movies which are considered ultimate but Rocky really is, objectively, an Ultimate Action Movie.
Sylvester Stallone: Rocky Writing Genius
It’s such an oversite by most critics that Stallone is not remembered with more respect as a screenwriter. It is after all the case that for Rocky his talents as both actor and writer were recognised by the academy. In the history of the Oscars that had happened only twice before with Orson Welles and Charlie Chaplin. When you consider the pedigree of that statement it really is the case that Stallone as a writer is absolutely overlooked.
Rocky’s script is one which is full of humour, wit, dramatic pathos, knowledgeable understanding of the sweet science of boxing, faith, companionship and other elements of the human condition.
Rocky, a Movie for 2018
Two of the most interesting elements of Rocky are that the movie deals quite prominently with the themes of isolation and loneliness and the frustration and internal suffering that it brings. The most revolutionary thing about this is that Rocky is a film effectively about men, marketed for a male demographic made in the 1970s. All of the male characters in the movie are grasping for some sort of connection or betterment out of the motivation to stop their isolation in some way, shape or form. This is brilliantly mirrored by the movies setting of a run down Philadelphia that perfectly echoes the themes at play.
Rocky deals with these themes with understanding and compassion, both in the script and in the casts performances. Watching the movie back it reflects what’s going on in the world of men’s mental health today and is a stark warning of the dangers of the very real threat of isolation within contemporary society.
Rocky deals with these themes in a much more mature and plausible way than Taxi Driver (1976). In fact there are few action films that have ever achieved such important observations that reflect on its audience.
Feel The Rocky Fight
Rocky should also absolutely be credited for the climax of its 3rd act. The documentary style of the fight between Balboa and Creed is still fresh and original. The audience genuinely feels like it’s watching a live boxing match that’s being televised. As has been written about recently on the Ultimate Action Movie Club the physical commitment of both Stallone and Carl Weathers is still incredibly impressive and smooth. Cinematography created by steadicam technology, which was brand new at the time, gives the viewer, ring side seats as every blow of the action takes place.
One of the interesting paradoxes of Rocky as a movie is that it’s a classic action movie which doesn’t really contain that much action. It’s a bold move on the films behalf that it keeps the audience waiting till the last act for the action to occur. It would still be a huge gamble in Hollywood now to forsake the formula of a script containing an action beat roughly every 20 pages.
Rocky is a movie which takes creative risks that are seldom seen in action movies and its legacy is absolutely massive as we will explore over the next few articles. it rejuvenated a kind of storytelling which had really not been witnessed since the golden age of men’s pulp adventure magazines. It’s a movie which has shaped moviemaking and demonstrates the importance of a good script and a strong cast of actors in a action movie. There is a credible case that Rocky could be seen as the father of the contemporary action movie.
What are your thoughts (or favorite scenes) from the original Rocky? Let us know in the comments or on our Facebook page!