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14 September, 2011

Rocky Training Montages Breakdown

  by Gus Ramsey
(I wrote this in December and somehow the font got all jacked up, so I fixed it. Kind of.)

   My Twitter Question of the Day was, Which is the best Rocky
training montage? Let's begin with the fact that there are
no wrong answers. They are all great.
I think the vote totals (Rocky 4 was a runaway winner) reflect two things:
1) Most of my followers are younger and have seen and remember Rocky 4 more than have seen the first to Rocky films.

2) Many people probably confused the two montages and in
their mind morphed them into one.
   Four people specifically noted the first montage, which is prior to Adrian's arrival in Russia. This is the one that has the synthesizer music supporting the video. Hearts on Fire is the other one, which involves Rocky running up the mountain.
  That said, the two still combined for 72 votes and most people likely would have voted for one or the other, so Rocky 4 is still the basic choice.
Here is my list, from "worst" to best. 

Rocky Balboa:

Duke's speech about building some "hurtin' bombs" and "kissing the express train"  was good, but not great. Give Stallone credit for knowing the importance of having  a Duke speech in there.  I could have done without the double neck crack and "Yeah!" from Duke.  Pros: 1-armed pushups on the training ball, going back to the meat locker, working out in the backyard, slamming the big kegs or whatever they were and the  point at Duke to say "I'm ready."  Cons: jogging with the dog and lifting it up at the top of the stairs.  Antonio Tarver being the least intimidating presence in a Rocky montage ever.

Clubber Lang in Rocky 3: 

I saw this movie in the theater. Packed house.
People were terrified during this montage (despite
Rocky's appearance on The Muppet Show).
Clubber was hitting dudes so hard they were flying out of
ring. He was clubbing boxers who were down on a knee.
To top it off, he was making grunt noises that would scare
the best women tennis players while he was doing hanging
pull-ups. When they showed the shot of him doing those
pull-ups from behind, the audience gasped. The stage was
set that perhaps, perhaps, Rocky was in big trouble.

Rocky 2 (a):

This is where Sly started using two "training" scenes in the Rocky 
films, understanding the value of less dialogue and more pump up

the crowd stuff. Let's tackle the running through the streets

scene first. 

Pros: The Gonna Fly Now score was improved for this movie

and really pops off the screen. 
Rocky hurdling over the benches is both impressive and funny.

The kid yelling "goooooooooo" gets me every time. 
Cons: those poor kids must have run about 10 miles with Rocky.
He ran through all the streets of Philadelphia. 
Granted, this was the late '70's when kids played outside all day, 
but still, some of those 10-year olds ran a half-marathon.

Rocky 4 - Synthesizer:

The song for this one is, believe it or not, "Training Montage"
by Vince DiCola. 
Some people mentioned this one specifically. 
It comes right off the one of the two best speeches 
in Rocky history when Duke gives Rocky the "When Apollo
died, a part of me died," speech. When he was done I wanted 
to jump on Air Moscow, fly to Russia and kick Drago's ass. 

Pros: the juxtaposition of Rocky training and Drago training 
was an eye-grabber. 
Drago is pounding machines and running sprints on a track.
Rocky is lifting tipped-over,  horse-pulled wagons out of the snow
and jogging in boots straight from the LL Bean catalogue. 
Rocky's entire workout is impressive. He's working the speedbag,
sawing the wood, chopping down trees, carrying logs through 
three feet of snow, loading rocks and wearing a harness pulling
Paulie in a sleigh like they are in the Iditarod. 

Cons: Didn't like the symbolism of Drafo knocking down sparring
partners and Rocky chopping down trees, with the back and forth
of each falling to the ground. Very similar to the treatment he did
in the No Easy Way Out montage. Too much. 
The other big negative is that when the montage ends and Rocky
is jogging home, the Human Wet Blanket, Adrian, is waiting for him.
It's freezing cold Russia. Who wants a wet blanket? 
Total momentum killer. 

Rocky 2 (b):

Many who voted for this mentioned "Win!" and "what are we 
waiting fer?!", which tells you how those lines set the emotional 
and got the viewer fired up for the montage.
Pros: The workout was really good. Sledgehammer, 
sit-ups with the dude smacking his stomach, speed jump rope, 
fly lifts with the trainer counting "forty niiiiiinnnne...fiffffttyyy!"
Cons: Rocky finally catching the chicken and celebrating like he 
just beat Apollo.

 I'm stunned at how few votes this got. 

Pros: technically not part of the montage, but the chugging of the eggs
is something everyone seeing it for the first time remembers. The montage
starts a little slow with Rock just jogging, but picks up nicely with the 1-handed
pushups and the hand-clap pushups. Everyone immediately tried to do those

 In a related story, there were more broken noses in 1976 than in any other time in our country's history. 
Rocky also punched the meat in the locker, gave the trainer guy who didn't appear in any of the sequels
the "ok" sign,  sprinted along the dock with the big boat behind him and provided one of the most iconic images in movie history as he ran up the stairs and threw his hands in the air. As one responder said, "even people who never saw Rocky know he ran the steps at the Art Museum."

Cons: We hadn't reached the "oh my God, look how ripped Sly is," portion of the Rocky experience. 

Rocky 3:

Apparently Rocky is afraid. How do we know this? Because the Wet Blanket dragged it out of him on the beach. "how did everything that was so good get so bad?" Rocky wants to know. The answer is the Wet Blanket sucked the MAN out of him and now he was terrified of the big meanie who killed his trainer and hit on his woman AT A PUBLIC CELEBRATION OF HIM! 
  Pros: First look at the new ripped Rocky. Just like McGwire and Sosa, none of us thought 'roids. It was just Rocky's hard work. Rocky and Apollo teaming up. Two enemies coming together gets you all warm and fuzzy. Rocky learning to move with rhythm in the ring as he and Apollo move side-by-side was very cool. The pulling of Paulie into the pool was funny. And there is the run and hug on the beach. The hug that launched the phrase "awkward man hug." Who knew that two muscle bound men running in tight shorts, jumping into the ocean and celebrating would cause such a stir. Here are some of the positive comments about this montage;
"Rocky 3-sweaty Apollo & Rock on the beach! Wonders 4 race relations & gay rights"
"Rocky III. The hug is the greatest moment in the history of American cinema."
"definitely Rocky III, because of "The Hug""
"definitely Rocky III, the beach with Apollo and in the gym with all the brothers. He gets the eye of the tiger back"
"the best rocky training montage is 3...thats when he learned how to box and not jus get hit in the face!!!"
"also incredible when Apollo Creed trained Rocky in Rocky III and Rocky finally beats him in the 100 yard dash. Cried"
  Cons: the biggest con has to be the tights shots of the forbidden speedbags as the guys are running on the beach. Just unnecessary. I didn't mind the hug, I just didn't need for it to take place in the ocean. Lastly, Rocky isn't ever beating Apollo in a running race and Apollo just looked like he wasn't trying as hard in the slow-mo shots. Rocky's face is all contorted and his hair is flopping and he's straining and Apollo looks like he's reading a paper. Wasn't buying it. 

Rocky 4-Hearts on Fire:

This entire movie is a 80's montage, which is why it's great. At this point in the movie we know Rocky can't win. How do we know? The Wet Blanket told him. But now she's flown to Russia, lightened up and given her approval so we can get on with the training. 
  Pros: the song. classic 80's tune that gets you going. The beard. Rocky is rocking a great beard. Something we've never seen before. This tells us two things. 1-he is serious. 2-When Adrian showed up they removed all the razors from the house so Rocky wouldn't kill himself after another depressing lecture from the Wet Blanket. The workout was awesome. Sit-ups hanging from the rafters. Leg-lifts that looked impossible to do while Duke says "No pain." the twisting-lifting of the bag of rocks. Swinging that stockade looking thing on his shoulders. Lifting the wagon with Duke, Paulie and the Wet Blanket in it. Do you know how heavy wet blankets are?
Meanwhile Drago is getting steroid injections, breaking machines and going through sparring partners like Lindsey Lohan goes through nurses. And finally, the run up the mountain. What's better than a man running up a mountain?! In December? In Russia? With snow boots on?! Nothing. Plus I am convinced this is where Sly got the inspiration to make Cliffhanger. By the time Rocky yelled "Draaaaaggggooooooooo!" the movie audience was in a lather. Little did we know this was the beginning of the end of the cold war. 
  Cons: That wool lined leather jacket he wore while running up the mountain had to smell like 10-day dead goat by the time he got back down the mountain. 
Here's what some of you had to say. 
"How can it not be Rocky IV? Rocky training in Siberia, Drago with his fancy equipment, and the dated synth music"
"Rocky IV was pretty incredible. Rocky in the woods training lifting boulders vs Ivan Drago on steroids and machines."
"Hearts on Fire. Rocky IV. Dragooooooooooo!!!"
"RockyIV all the way. Technology and steroids versus old fashioned heart/determination."
"Rocky IV. How many workouts end Communism?"
'Nuff said. 


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