The Rocky films have hit Amazon Prime for what we hope will be a really long time, even though they didn’t last very long on Netflix Instant. Still, at least once per year, we feel the need to watch all six in order, whether it’s on streaming, Blu-ray, or regular DVD. As a personal bonus, I even got to see the first one on the big screen this year as part of a nearby theater’s Cinema Rewind program.
(Just thought I’d brag.)
As much as I love every film in the series — yes, even Rocky V — I’ve been slightly bothered by how the series ended ever since watching Rocky Balboa in 2006. For the longest time, I didn’t know why the movie bothered me, even though as a whole, I absolutely loved it.
After some careful thought, I’ve pinpointed the five things that irritated me. Again, these did not ruin the film, but if handled differently, the movie could have been even better. [SPOILERS AHEAD!]
5. Rocky’s Situation.
One of the major gripes people had with Rocky V was how Balboa lost everything and had to start back at square one. While I didn’t get a sense that he’s stayed at square one in the time between V and RB, Rocky could have been doing a little better by the time we catch up to him in part six. He could have cashed in as a boxing commentator. His life story would have fetched a seven-figure book/movie deal. There’s no reason he should realistically be where he is. He just had too many options to stay out of the lower class neighborhoods, and as we saw with III and IV, he’d learned too much outside the ring to stay near the bottom.
Milo Ventimiglia plays the part of Robert Balboa — what happened to Rocky, Jr. — pretty well, but the character is a bit whinier than he should be. Now grant it, his whininess does set up that beautiful speech near the end of the film — see below — but it was very bothersome that he flaked out on his heartbroken dad during the Adrian anniversary tour. Bad Robert!
3. No Cameos.
Tommy Gunn, Clubber Lang, Ivan Drago. You couldn’t have found a bit part for at least one of them, even sitting on the front row to watch the climactic fight?
2. Adrian Dies.
Yes, it serves the story well, and Lil Marie (Geraldine Hughes) is cute as a button, but not having Adrian around broke my heart because of how badly it broke Rocky’s. I can hardly get through the first 30 minutes or so with dry eyes.
1. The Ending.
Stallone always brings his A-game when it comes to the climactic fight in a Rocky film, and this was no exception. And while I appreciate the nod this fight gives to the first Apollo fight, I believe Stallone could have made one tweak that would have made this utter perfection. My beef: the decision. At this point, we know that Rocky doesn’t need to win, and we figure that he probably doesn’t. But it would have been a much more effective ending had Stallone chosen to slow down the reading of the judges’ scorecards and end it on Rocky’s hand shaking an audience member’s BEFORE the reading of the final result.
Then he could have gone to Adrian’s grave for the conclusion.
In this case, I would have rather been left to wonder. That would have placed 100 percent of the focus on Rocky’s internal triumph. The film wouldn’t have lost credibility by having Rocky win (see alternate ending). It wouldn’t have stifled the character’s triumph by having him lose. And it would have kept all of us Rocky fans talking for years to come.
So what about you, Rock-heads? Did you have any quibbles with Rocky Balboa, or was it too perfect for criticism? Share your thoughts below.
And if Rocky is too light for you, then make sure you check out our 7 Most Unhinged Movie Heroes Of All Time.