Spoiler alert: For someone who's not seen the movie and cares to not know the ending to a non-thriller with a non-Shyamalanesque twist, don’t read this post!
Rocky is one of cinema's big cliché movies. The story of the underdog who overcame the odds to become something bigger than himself. The backstory of the movie itself is similar, with Stallone pushing the script door-to-door, refusing to make the movie unless he got to be Rocky as well. The story to trump all stories, the movie won multiple Oscars, including Oscars for Best Film and Director, and nominations for Stallone for the screenplay and (gulp) for his acting. Rocky got so crazy that there were eventually five Rocky movies. Stallone went on to become a billionaire, giving us other classics like the Rambo series, The Expendables and some really bad acting.
When I first saw the movie, I was underwhelmed. There was a bit to the tale, but I didn't see much. One of the explanations that me and my friend (whom I saw the movie with) could muster for the success and resonance of the movie was that it was arguably a function of the times. The late 70s with a bad economy and general doom and gloom in the Carter years meant that the movie symbolized hope for the underdog in some ways. Maybe in the more prosperous '0s, that wasn't so true anymore, and we couldn't (and could never) 'get' the movie.
I was wrong. I’ve caught parts of it on TV later, and as I think back to the movie now, it (the movie) makes more and more sense. Part of it is arguably that I've grown older and seen more of life since then. The character-building itself is one thing, but what holds the key to the film is the last, actual boxing match. The night before the match, Rocky says to Adrian, "Cause all I wanna do is go the distance."
And go the distance he does. Even as Apollo pummels Rocky, he just keeps coming back, doesn't he? He really shows no sign of giving up. He does go the full 15 rounds to lose on points. What matters there is the fact that he goes the distance. Every blow that he gets, he manages to get up again, ready to fight.
Like Simon and Garfunkel sing poignantly,(not about Rocky, though this could apply)
In the clearing stands a boxer, and a fighter by his trade
And he carries the reminders of every glove that laid him down or cut him
’til he cried out in his anger and his shame
I am leaving, I am leaving, but the fighter still remains
Yes he still remains.
Hell, yeah. Rocky's my hero. Now, if only they hadn't made those sequels...