Rocky III is fantastic film on facing and overcoming the number one obstacle that holds back millions of people from achieving their goals…Fear. In the previous films, Rocky (Sylvester Stallone…also the writer & director of the film) was the “everyman”, the relatable “lug” with the issues that some and/or most of us have faced at some time or another at one point in our lives…In other words, in “Rocky’s 1 and 2”, Rocky was you, Rocky was me, Rocky was us. What made Rocky III stand out was that from the very beginning of the film starting with Rocky winning the ‘chip from Apollo Creed (Carl Weathers) at the end of Rocky II, the film goes immediately into a montage of Rocky’s rise of fame, celebrity and wealth (…with Survivor’s “Eye of the Tiger” playing throughout the montage).
All while that is happening, there are glimpses of a large brotha’ rockin’ a ‘hawk attending Rocky’s fights…Then the film shows him training with a determination and a fire like he is ready to do battle. Rocky has had 10 successful title defenses after defeating Apollo and someone else has been winning and steadily rising in the ranks…the mysterious ‘hawk rockin’ brotha’ known as Clubber Lang (Mr.T…In his acting debut) but Rocky’s trainer, Mickey (Burgess Meredith) has noticed and has been watching Clubber’s fights and Clubber in turn notices Mickey and then proceeds to tell the crowd and Mickey after he just knock a guy out through the ropes of the boxing ring, “I WANT BALBOA!!!...I WANT BALBOA!!!”…YOU HEAR DAT OLD MAN!!!...YOU TELL BALBOA I’M COMIN’ FOR HIM!!!...NOBODY CAN BEAT ME!!!...YOU TELL HIM WHAT I SAID!!!...HE’S NEXT!!!...I’M GONNA KILL HIM!!!” Damn…It’s a lot going on in that montage but still great and quite unusually bold to start a film like that. This is definitely a different Rocky from the previous films. Rocky III would probably be considered the “comic book” film of the Rocky series but that doesn’t make it any less of a film with a deep message behind it. Rocky’s rise, fall and rise again are a character study on complacency, narcissism, fear, doubt, drive and determination…Brilliantly written. Clubber Lang is easily top ten best villains in cinematic history but is he really a villain??? Clubber wasn’t evil…Clubber is a warrior…He was frustrated…He was hungry…A Beast that wants to be recognized as such…and he was simply put tired of being pushed to the side and being “ducked”. Hear was a very talented boxer with superior skills and consistently being over looked…Sound familiar???...Clubber is Rocky (before the wealth and fame)…A very angry and disrespectful Rocky but he is Rocky…He wants his shot…He deserves his shot. Clubber said it himself perfectly in another scene from the beginning of the film speaking to reporters after his fight, “I want a shot at the title and if Balboa got the guts he’ll meet me in the ring or anywhere else…My whole life has been directed towards this here title and nothing else…I live alone and I train alone and I win the title alone...I want him…He can’t duck me forever…He can run but he can’t hide.” That sounds like a man driven by pure fearlessness, conviction and tenacity not some villainous nature. Mr. T’s performance was fantastic…He stole the film from everybody and had the best lines. The scene where Clubber confronts/provokes Rocky while Rocky is receiving a statue from the city of Philadelphia is one of the best scenes in the entire Rocky series. The scene shows the audience exactly who Clubber Lang is and what Rocky will be dealing with later on in the film. Clubber not only calls Rocky out and hits him with some hard factual truths but he also hits on Rocky’s wife, Adrian (Talia Shire) right in front of him while questioning Rocky’s manhood…Like I said earlier…Disrespectful but great. Apollo gets some of that disrespect as well…Mickey got that disrespect in a couple of scenes then died later and not because of the disrespect but because he had a heart attack. As morbid as this may sound, Mickey had to be sacrificed in order for Rocky to reach a level of confidence he never had before.
Every great heroic “comic book” character has traveled this road…Batman, Spider-Man, Superman, Daredevil…etc.…etc.…Losing Mickey and being pummeled by Clubber during the first fight destroyed Rocky on so many levels…His confidence, courage and persistence perished right along with Mickey and his Championship title reign. Apollo saw what Rocky was lacking and why he lost the way he did…Rocky didn’t have that hunger…As Apollo put it, “You lost that fight Rock for all the wrong reasons…You lost your edge.” Apollo then becomes the trainer that Rocky needs to defeat Clubber Lang but there is still several obstacles in his way…Rocky’s fear and self- doubt are the hurdles in the way of him truly receiving the knowledge and confidence to overcome his own uncertainty. This fight is more than just about regaining a title…This fight is about regaining what Rocky had…The eye of the tiger…The edge. They went back to square one with the training…back to the beginning…To Los Angeles…The hesitancy still lingers within Rocky even while training. Apollo notices and calls Rocky out on it…Apollo’s, “THERE IS NO TOMORROW!!!...THERE IS NO TOMORROW!!!” phrase toward Rocky is still a very chilling wake up call to anyone feeling down and out about themselves…”Never put off tomorrow, what you can do today.” Another fantastic scene right after that was the Rocky confronted by Adrian scene…Very powerful…Adrian gets “The Greatest Wife in Film” award from me for this scene. We all know how the film concludes and in my version of the film Clubber Lang is STILL the Champ!!!... (I’m just sayin’)…but I could go on and on about this film and how fantastic it is. Rocky III is one the best part 3’s in cinema and definitely one of the most motivating films as well. Watch this film and get that edge. I guarantee Survivor’s “Eye of the Tiger” will be on the playlist afterward.