Not because of the then upcoming movie Creed but, rather, because of the Rocky Broadway musical that ran last year, my son and I have been sporadically watching the Rocky movies since the summer. Pretty much up until October, wherever we went, we listened to the Rocky Broadway album in the car. It was much like when Frozen came out and all we listened to was the Frozen soundtrack getting to know each song’s lyrics, each musical interlude and each chant. This time it was with Rocky and, as a result of the songs, my son got curious about entire Rocky saga. As we watch them, it’s really interesting to watch Rocky Balboa’s transformation from a seemingly has been amateur boxer to the coveted Heavyweight Champion of The World.
Thinking about these movies, my favourites in terms of story and emotional impact are Rocky II, Rocky V and Rocky Balboa. I know my selections go against the grain of many critics and the general public (most people I know trashed Rocky V) but I liked them and everyone likes different things for different reasons. Interestingly, though, and not one of my favourites but one that still holds special meaning to me is Rocky IV. As a movie, it fully represents the 1980s. Cold War tensions, abundant movies with jingoistic under – and over – tones. It has plenty of flash and focused on the materialism of beauty – Stallone never looked leaner, Dolph Lundgren was (and still is) a fantastic physical specimen and Brigitte Nielsen was a babe. However, it was also, in my opinion, one very long music video (another media form that reached its peak in the 1980s). I will admit, however, that I do like a lot some of the songs on the soundtrack.
I wouldn’t go so far as to say I didn’t like the movie or call it is bad movie but it’s not one of my favourites in the series. It’s a revenge movie and I think, as a whole, the Rocky story is deeper than that. Nonetheless, Rocky IV manages to hold a special place in my heart and for non-movie reasons. The day Rocky IV came out, in 1985, was the day before my first ever Taekwondo test. I was a white belt and because of my previous martial arts experience in Shotokan and Koeikan Karate and, I like to think, because of my hard work and aptitude for martial arts, my instructor was letting me skip the usual yellow stripe and test directly for my yellow belt. Before Taekwondo class that day, my sister and I watched the movie at our local cinema. I, then, went to class, hyped up and ready to train. The following day, I took my test and passed.
I’d never taken a Taekwondo or any other martial arts test before and, while I had watched the test two months before mine (tests are held every two months for qualified candidates), I was nervous about mine. I’d seen how it was run. I knew what I had to do but would I be able to do it. Of course, I felt confident in my training. The fact that I was skipping a rank gave me a boost too. Before every class and test, to this day, I say a little prayer that is an additional calming influence. But, of all things, it was a popular movie, with an iconic hero-figure, that overcame his odds to triumph in the end that really kept me focused and certain.
It’s because of that that I write this post. Some of the trivial things in our lives may, at the moment or at the end, turn out to be some of the most meaningful. Maybe Rocky IV ended up doing so much and meaning so much because the character of Rocky was a familiar one and I’d just moved to America a few months earlier so he/the movie became my Mickey in my corner. Maybe the connection is simpler. I was a sixteen year old pursuing a (different kind of) fighter’s life and I’m a guy so, perhaps, there was just some young man machismo connecting with the testosterone revving scenes of Rocky and Drago training and punching the shit out of each other. Regardless, Rocky IV helped me.
So, don’t be quick to put aside the little or passing moments of your lives. I’m not saying you have to start looking for or creating meaning in everything. No. Sometimes, a thing is a just a thing. There are coincidences, after all. But, then again, sometimes they’re not.