Written & Directed by: #DerekWayneJohnson
Documentary Film Review by: #ChrisBuick
Rocky is a film whose legacy is carved indelibly into cinema legend. Winner of three Academy Awards out of ten nominations, grossing over $225 million upon its release in 1976, not to mention creating one of the most iconic movie characters of all time, it all started with just one man who had nothing to his name except a dream and the determination to make it a reality. That man being of course the only and only, Sylvester Stallone.
Now, through a collection of intimate and mostly unseen archive footage, narrated by none other than the Italian Stallion himself, Becoming Rocky (40 Years of Rocky: The Birth of a Classic in the US) is a fantastic celebration of one of cinema’s most respected films and a wonderful insight into the making of what might be the greatest underdog story ever told, both on and off the screen.
Prior to this project, director Derek Wayne Johnson had also produced and directed the 2017 documentary John G. Avildsen: King of the Underdogs, a film celebrating the life and works of the late and great director including of course Rocky (Avildsen personally took home one of those Oscars after winning Best Director), so Johnson is no stranger to the world of cinema’s most famous boxer. In fact, it was Stallone who hand-picked Johnson to also helm this project, evidently seeing the same passion for the movie that he has.
And it’s a fire that clearly still burns bright after all these years. As the old footage plays, we find ourselves captivated by Stallone’s dulcet tones as he talks us through what we’re seeing, often getting lost in his own thoughts like he’s seeing it all for the first time too. It’s at times almost mesmerising, to the point where you get the sense it’s just the two of you sitting in a couple of big comfy chairs with an old projector running, while Stallone beautifully reminisces about the character he describes as his “best friend”, and the feeling you get from the way he talks about the film makes it incredibly hard not to become at least a little bit emotional.
There are a lot of great details shared throughout, some that are maybe completely revelatory to even the most ardent of fans, others probably less so. But even if you do already know that Rocky was made on a considerably meagre budget of just over a million dollars (that, by the way, means it gained a worldwide percentage return of over eleven thousand percent), or that it was one of the first ever uses of the Steadicam shot (now a firm staple of film production), or that Stallone wrote the script in just three and a half days, there is most likely going to be something else here for you to discover. But ultimately, it doesn’t matter. Becoming Rocky isn’t really concerned about what you know about the film, it cares what you feel about it.
Whether you’ve only seen Rocky once, maybe twice or you’ve re-visited it a thousand times or more, Becoming Rocky has something for everyone and feels like one of the sweetest love letters imaginable to an undeniable classic of cinema history. And if for whatever reason you haven’t had the privilege, you know what to do.
Watch the trailer here: