About two months ago I picked up the original Rocky film on a special edition DVD. It sat on my shelf of “movies to be watched” for about….well…. two months. Surprisingly, as many times as it’s aired on TNT and other channels, I’ve never taken the time to real sit down and watch the entire film as it’s meant to be seen. Like everyone else, I had seen so many scenes of Sly hitting meat in a frozen locker or yelling for Adrian after the fight in a pool of blood and tears. And who could forget the most famous scene in a sports movie ever — the morning run up the steps of the Philadelphia Museum of Art. Actually, I probably had seen the entire film — just in pieces. Like my own Tarantino director’s edition of Rocky.
As I watched Rocky for the first time — I mean, truly watched the film — I was amazed at how much I had seen before, but didn’t actually see. The film opens on a shot of an image of Christ. OK, so no big revelation — lots of folks would get that trivia question right. But there’s something very significant about that opening image of Christ. In my eyes, there is a lot of Christ in watching Rocky in that early movie. For one thing, Rocky would bring honor and dignity to the city of Philadelphia, but much like Christ the savior who came to make all things new, those who saw Rocky before he entered into a rigorous training regiment didn’t see him as anything more than the tough guy in the neighborhood with the good heart. Never did they think that this would be the guy who’d go to Russia and for one moment get the world to stop thinking about the nuclear arms race and the U.S. vs. Russia and instead to focus on our humanity and what makes us alike as opposed to our differences.
More than this, I see a strong parallel between Rocky and the Christ spirit that lives in him in the way that he relates to other characters. When most of us see the first shot of Talia Shire in the pet shop, I’m sure we all saw the same homely woman that the director wanted us to see. But Rocky saw something more. The same applied to the way that he saw beauty in pets and animals that interacted with. There was something compassionate about the spirit of a guy who would listen to some of Pauly’s hurtful statements, yet wouldn’t take advantage of his obvious size advantage. Not to mention the compassion he showed to the debtor whose fingers he was supposed to break, but couldn’t bring himself to do so. Rocky’s not perfect. He’s a tough guy who works for the neighborhood loan shark (and, although we didn’t see him do so, probably had to hurt a few people to pay the rent.) But despite these things, when you watch the dichotomy of his character — the big tough boxer who’s tough enough to track down loans, but so soft in heart that he has to mull over what he should say the next time he sees Adrian — you can’t help but fall in love with his spirit. Continue reading ‘Rocky Balboa & Rocky: A Dual Review/Retrospective’