Rocky III (1982): Review

Rocky III signals a noticeable shift in the Rocky franchise. After two well received and immensely successful sequels Rocky III feels like a much more expensive film and its a little less of a dramatic film and feels more like an action movie. Rocky is in the ring 3 times and there are training sequences galore.

Rocky Balboa is no longer an underdog when the film starts. He's the most popular boxer in the world and has successfully defended his title multiple times. His success puts him in the crosshairs of Clubber Lang (played by Mr. T in his film debut). Clubber challenges Rocky to a fight just before he plans to retire. Lang then destroys Rocky in the ring stealing his belt and all of his confidence. Apollo Creed decides to help Rocky get his mojo back after his defeat by training him for a rematch.

Rocky III is not the best film in the franchise but I respect Sylvester Stallone's reasoning for turning the film into a blockbuster movie for everyone rather than a subdued drama like the first two entries. Stallone was becoming an action star (First Blood came out just a few months later) and due to the ending of Rocky II Balboa really isn't an underdog anymore. Rocky has all the money and attention that anyone would ever want  and with that he starts to lose his motivation. He starts to feel like his victory over Apollo was really the best he ever got and all he did was fight bums after winning the belt.

I love the idea of Apollo Creed coming in to train with Rocky. Apollo is still the character that he was in the first two films but his transition is still believable. Watching the pair become friends works and while Apollo's motivations for helping his old rival may not be clear at first they certainly are by the end.

Mr. T's performance as Clubber Lang is exactly what this film needed. Lang is a loud mouthed asshole that you can't empathize with but his wild performance is perfect for the character. He's not nearly as good as a villain as Apollo was in the first two films but he works. His performance in this film served as his breakout which resulted in him becoming one of the pop culture icons of the 1980s.

There are some moments that don't really need to happen. The first fight of the film detailing Rocky in a charity match with a wrestler named Thunderlips (played by Hulk Hogan). It really only exists for fun and doesn't really have any impact on the story.

While Rocky III is not the franchise's best it is still beloved by fans and I would argue that it is just as influential as any entry in the franchise. There are several films that steal a similar template from Rocky III. Southpaw from 2015 is a good example of a film that hits a lot of the same notes. The film is still stuffed with all the famous Rocky trademarks as well as starting its own. Survivor famous wrote Eye of the Tiger for Stallone to include in the film and the song was a huge hit despite the demo version being the only version included in the film.

The Rocky franchise was on the top of the world in 1982 and it continued to truck along.

Rocky III gets 80 out of 100


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