Rocky is the champ. He’s defending his belt since beating Apollo Creed. He lives in a giant house, owns numerous sports cars, looks better than ever. Top of the world for Balboa in Rocky III. Yet lingering in the background is an angry fellow with long feather earrings. Mr T? No (well, kind of). B. A. Baracus? No. Clubber Lang? Ding, ding.
Rocky III is all about taking things to another level. Mr. T…errr…Clubber Lang is one rung on that ladder. Another rung is the death of Mick, the most memorable voice of all time. And, not to be out done, Apollo Creed (Carl Weathers) makes a return, but this time as friend not foe. Best of all is the introduction of a great new catch phrase and song, Eye of the Tiger.
Despite the blatant attempts to heighten the drama and stay relevant with the times, Rocky III is still an entertaining flick. Mr. T does play a great way over the top villain. Mick’s death isn’t exactly unexpected (the guy looks and sounds about 128 years old) and adds some tender moments. And Apollo Creed’s new found friendship with Rocky is a nice touch.
Rocky (Sylvester Stallone) seems to have learned his lessons from the previous round of his life. He’s successful in and out of the ring. In fact, he has little left to prove. That is until Clubber Lang belittles Rocky. Rocky accepts Clubber’s challenge to a fight. Mick is not on board with this decision. He confesses to Rocky that he’s been protecting the champ by setting up fights that he knew Rocky could win. Mick argues it was to protect Rocky. After receiving this bit of news Rocky is devastated and more than ever wants to prove that he can defend his belt against tough competition. Eventually Mick caves and Rocky enters the fight with Clubber Lang. Things go very wrong for Rocky and Mick. Rocky gets pummeled and Mick dies. Rocky is crushed by the loss of his trainer, mentor, and friend.
Apollo Creed enters the scene. He wants to help Rocky get revenge in the ring with Clubber Lang. Creed offers to be Rocky’s trainer. Rocky’s heart is not in it. The breakthrough needs to come. We have to have a triumphant training montage set to music. WE HAVE TO HAVE THE MONTAGE! Phew. It finally comes and the final bout goes down as one might expect.
In between all that plot is a sense of humor, a sense of camaraderie between Balboa and Creed, and a continued blossoming of Adrian (Talia Shire) as she breaks further out of her shell. All in all, it’s a good movie. The film doesn’t completely capitalize on the setup its predecessor left it with, but it also doesn’t lose its heart.