Yesterday I sat down for all six of the Rocky movies in a row, because what else am I doing on a Saturday, right? Watching the arc in one sitting like that, it became clear that the series is as much about the titular character’s relationship with Adrian as it is about what he does in the ring. She carries an emotional weight that resonates throughout the ten and a half hour running time, despite the fact that (*spoiler alert*) she dies in the timeline before the opening credits of the final entry.
Sure, the narrative shifts from the gritty reality of episodes one and two; to the almost comic book stylings of three and four; to the ‘black sheep’ of the family in episode five; before finally returning to its roots with the melancholy and sentimentality of six. I know it is not perfect, even by the most elastic of standards. It is not the most consistent movie series ever produced either, and it’s perhaps a little too formulaic (in its entirety) to be considered classic.
But the love between Rocky and Adrian transcends its pugilistic background to become one of the great romances of modern cinema. We see Rocky falling in love; we see him being in love; and despite the ups and downs along the way, that never changes.
It is telling that after all the bloodshed and beatings that have come before it, the final shot of the final movie isn’t aggressive in any way, or filled with blunt-headed male bravado – hell, it isn’t even about boxing – but it is instead a quiet moment between a man and his memories of the one thing he loves above all else.