And thanks also to Eric for providing our first official Reader Review.
So it’s my turn to review an actual made movie. I’ll see how this goes, and it might be a bit of a learning process for me, as I’m going to grade some portions as if it were a spec script. (Mr. Stallone got away with a lot of stuff here.)
We begin our story in a cemetary. Rocky sits at a headstone, and has aged some twenty years since he was the heavyweight champion.
We find out that Adrian is dead, Robert Jr., his son, keeps a distant relationship, and Paulie is…well still negative, old, racist Paulie.
Rocky owns a restaurant where he relives the glory days, and we’ve also come in on the anniversary of Adrian’s death, which Rocky does a popular tour of the neighborhood showing us spots from previous movies that were special to he and his wife.
It’s at this point that Paulie gives up, and tells Rocky he’s got to stop living in the past.
To make matters worse, Rocky reaches out to Robert Jr. only to discover the reason his son is distant is because he can never live up to Rocky’s shadow.
Then comes the midpoint. The B story is about the current heavyweight champ, Mason “The Line” Dixon, fighting nobodies, and he’s not very popular for the sport of boxing. ESPN does a computer generated bout between Mason and Rocky where Rocky ends up the hypothesized winner.
This gets people talking, convinces Rocky to get licensed to box in smaller, local fights, and ultimately convinces Mason to challenge Rocky to an exhibition fight, which will up his plummeting pay-per-view sales.
Insert a training montage followed by a 15 round fight, and you’re left exactly how you started this saga some 30 odd years ago.
Readers – Hank we want you to do one thing for us?
Hank – What?
Readers – C’mere.
Hank leans closer.
Readers – Review…..REVIEW!
Hank – What’re we waitin’ fer?! Take this!
1.) Can we visualize the description?
It was adequate. There were a few parts that ran long, but as I mentioned, Mr. Stallone can do this, cause he’s Sly freaking Stallone, we can’t.
Page 2 there’s a description that runs over five lines. Then another few big ones in the first few pages. After that though we’re left with what I said first, adequate.
You can see it in your head, most likely because you’ve either seen this movie or one of the previous ones.
As I’m grading this like I would an undiscovered writer.
7 out of 10 points.
2.) Does the author use an acceptable format?
Yes, but remember it’s a shooting script. We should be limiting our scenes as much as possible. Not doing what Mr. Stallone did and showing the exterior of all buildings for dramatic effect and two lines of description, then taking us to the scene inside.
Clocking in at 110 pages was great, but there were NUMEROUS typos. Both in dialogue AND description. (Rocky’s dialogue is written almost exactly how it’s delivered on screen which makes me wonder if that didn’t complicate things.)
I’m actually left to wonder if the author didn’t proofread, or just couldn’t be bothered with proper grammar as some sentences were left hanging with no punctuation.
5 out of 10 points.
3.) Is the dialogue free of exposition and rich in subtext? Does each character have a unique voice?
Rocky talks like Rocky, so that’s not a huge difference. Despite his uneducated manner of speaking, I was surprised by the way he chooses to convey things, especialy with Robert Jr.
Around page 53 he’s telling Robert that he’s going back to fighting. Instead of coming right out and saying it, he tip toes around the idea. We know Robert doesn’t like it, but it’s almost like Rocky’s looking for the permission Adrian used to give him in previous movies.
Don’t you think you’re too – old?
Yeah on the outside – but the insides work pretty good.
Robert Jr. takes a moment and shakes his head in disbelief.
– Think ya should ever stop “trying things” ’cause you had a few too many birthdays? I don’t.
Sorry I had to type that all out since I couldn’t copy and paste. But it’s good, one for the reason I stated above, but two because he’s arguing in a totally unique way. (Or at least a way unique to Rocky.) Using the “too many birthdays” line instead of saying, “I gotta try.”
We should ALWAYS be looking for unique ways to say things, especially in a style that works for our characters.
Another part I noticed subtext is with Paulie. The first part of the script Paulie is ragging on Rocky about his continued mourning of Adrian. Each comment gets heavier and heavier, suggesting there’s definitely something underneath until BAM, page 14, he admits he doesn’t want to mourn because it reminds him of how bad he treated her. Now there’s nothing he can do about it.
The characters also had dialogue that fit who they were, but that’s pretty easy to do when you’re on the fifth installment. (Especially working in the line from Clubber Lang on page 83, “Pain.”)
One thing I will note is a few spots Rocky gets to preaching with long bits of dialogue. We can’t do that more than once. And because we can’t do that I’m taking off a point.
Overall though, Rocky comes across as dumb, but his subtext is brilliant.
9 out of 10 points.
4.) Does the writer understand the challenges and rewards posed by the medium chosen in which to tell his/her story? Shorthand version of this is: Is it a movie and not a play?
It’s a Rocky movie. You see the trailer in your head, and hell, you’re probably humming the song in your head too. One downside though. No male cut off tank tops in this one.
10 out of 10 points.
5.) Is there anything unique in what the writer presents? Are the writer’s ideas, based on this sample, likely to continue to be original?
Can only Sylvester Stallone write Rocky movies? I’m not sure. It’s basically an underdog boxing film which we’ve seen since the many installments to the franchise. Did they all have the elements that Rocky movies require? I don’t think so, but there’s got to be diminishing returns on the same movie formula, right?
6 out of 10 points.
6.) Does the script have a hook?
Alright, big problem here. HUGE!
The script doesn’t start out with Rocky. The first two pages are of the current heavyweight champ, Mason Dixon. Rocky should come first, THEN we see Dixon being a boring champ that people dislike.
Starting out with Rocky, and more importantly, letting us know Adrian’s dead, get’s us asking, “What else has changed?”
The main reason this hook doesn’t really need to grab us, is the title, Rocky Balboa. Chances are we’re already Rocky fans so we can keep reading. But since we shouldn’t be writing sequels as spec scripts, we obviously can’t bank on this. (Notice I said “shouldn’t” instead of “can’t” due to Thursday’s Usual Suspects 2 review.)
Remember WE’VE got to get em fast, and keep em reading.
5 out of 15 points.
7.) Is that hook effective?
Again, only if we’re Rocky fans.
The next ten to fifteen pages are then spent showing how the neighborhood in Philadelphia has changed since the first Rocky movie and bringing back an old character that was just a girl in the first movie.
For me, watching the movie first, then being reminded of it in this script, I thought it was interesting. But if it had been a stand alone story, snoozefest.
Even the less than dramatic inciting incident of Paulie telling Rocky to more or less get over it was dull, as Rocky didn’t enter any new world after that, and there was no pain. He was still faithful to a now gone wife who died from the “woman cancer.”
7 out of 15 points.
8.) Is there enough to maintain the hook? Reveals, conflict, etc.?
It takes a while, but yes, around page 38 we finally get to see the fantasy match up which gets the rest of the story going. (I’d argue this is the TRUE inciting incident.)
Rocky gets out of his funk, becomes the underdog we’re all happy to cheer on.
There’s even a very clever dark moment, where Rocky tells his son, who’s rooting against him, that he needs to become his own man. Robert can’t blame anyone else for his problems, including a larger than life father.
A few problem areas:
There’s ghosts or apparitions of Adrian and Mickey which are just cheesy. (The movie actually handles them in black and white flashbacks which is better.)
Then the whole walking into the ring part was odd, and hard to make out exactly what they were doing. The main thing I took away from that scene was that Mr. Stallone doesn’t like hip hop. (Again they changed this in the movie to a typical walking down the aisle bit.)
One thing almost makes up for the rest.
The very end Mason and Rocky are up against the ropes, having just gone 15 painful and exhausting rounds. This is handled BRILLIANTLY. (So brilliantly in fact that I clenched my wife’s hand in the theater when I saw it, and she yelled at me for squeezing too tight.)
Do you remember why it’s so brilliant? Let’s just say Rocky goes out exactly how he came in at the end of Rocky. He went the distance.
It’s almost like this entire movie had been done JUST for that ending to make it a perfect saga and close the loop of the story.
7 out of 10 points.
9.) Does the story play to a target audience, and have the elements demanded by that audience?
Blunt…force…trauma… (Page 78 in the script.)
It’s a Rocky sequel. More importantly it’s a present day Rocky sequel, that’s damn near perfect.
We see everything we’ve come to expect, Rocky down on his luck, a training montage, and then a fight where he goes the distance and we can’t help chanting, “Rocky! Rocky! Rocky!” (I mean I’m listening to the music as I type this right now.)
I WILL however be taking a few points off for the script as certain positive changes were made for the movie
1.) Clubber Lang
Still haven’t read Eric’s review, as I want this to be as fresh as possible, but I believe I caught somewhere in there as I scanned past it that Eric wasn’t a fan of this portion.
I wasn’t either. Mr. T might have found God and gotten super religious, but Clubber Lang is in some Chicago gym training his ass off for Rocky Balboa II, where he finally gets his revenge on Rocky for making him look like a fool.
2.) Robert Jr.
After that dark moment I mentioned above, in the script Robert Jr. quits his job, but never really believes in Rocky. In the movie it’s handled much better, and the son fills the mother’s shoes, and becomes the strength Rocky needs to go the distance.
3.) Exiting the Ring
In the script there was a lame back and forth between Rocky and Mason. In the movie, they change that where Rocky tells Mason he’s proven he’s got guts, then exits with his friends and family around him to the chanting of “Rocky!” In fact he doesn’t even wait for the decision from the fight because he’s accomplished what he came to do, prove he still has an iron will.
7 out of 10 poinst.
It’s a Rocky story, plain and simple. If you read it, watched those “Easter Eggs” I left here in the review, and didn’t feel something, well you’re a robot, and I can’t help you.
Every guy (and even most girls) have listened to the theme while working out, speeding up their run at the very end, have people hit them in the stomach as they did sit ups, or ran up steps and held the pose. And anyone who says they haven’t is a liar.
It’s the underdog story that’s come to define underdog stories. (And also the franchise that more or less cemented the training montage in sports movies.)
63 out of 100 points. (Remember this was scored as a stand alone spec script for educational purposes.)
PS – I think we got all the Rocky training montages…Rocky, Rocky II, Rocky II, Rocky IV, and Rocky Balboa. Yep. We got them all.
PPS – I did however forget this.