Okay, I admit that I'm a sucker for these silly films. I acknowledge that you guys don't care about this film, but in the spirit of following the progress of a film from idea to the first review I'm going to follow this one to the bitter end.
From Darkhorizons, "'Elijah' has sent in this very thorough review and breakdown of the "Rocky Balboa" film script, giving us a glimpse at what we can expect late 2006/early 2007:
"The cover reads "Rocky VI". The title has changed since then, and lets hope this is not the shooting script. I am one of those who didn't necesarily HATE Rocky V. For better or worse, that is pretty much the only direction the story could have gone at that time (supposing one must make a Rocky V). Sure watching Tommy Morrison try to act is enough to give one AIDS (it happened once to a guy I knew), but otherwise its OK. In theory, Rocky V: not a bad idea. So we have Rocky VI. And its really Rocky I and V rolled into one. "Rocky Balboa" in ways is a stand alone film. One could almost watch this with total disregard for the other five movies.
This is really the story of what one does with the rest of their life after their soulmate has died. What does one do when your boy's all grown up, your love is long gone, few friends surround you, and all that's left are stories of who you once were? And for the first half of the script, it is a heavy-handed stroll down memory lane. It mostly consists of Rocky saying "Remember this from Rocky 1? Remember that from Rocky 1?". A reluctant Paulie placates Rocko' as he follows him around visiting all the landmarks of Rocky lore. The good thing is Paulie is still Paulie. If anything, he's got his shit way more together than Rocky does. Paulie is resigned to a life in the meat factory (yep, THAT meat factory). But the point is, he's trying to move on and face the same shit one just faces in life. Rocky simply lives in the past. Tellin' stories about fights with Creed and things Mickey said, all while grilling up some steaks in his own little "Rocky's" restraunt. And so, round and round the first half of the script goes.
It should be noted though, that the absence of Adrian is sort of liberating in a way. With the death of Mickey and Apollo, the death of Adrian is the next logical step. But also as a narrative device, Adrian has always tended to stop the plot to a grinding halt. In all the movies, her "dont do it/you can do it" mumbo jumbo is what MADE the others so predictable and formulaic. Without her, Rocky and indeed the plot come off a little...lost. But I think Stallone knows what he is doing by doing this. Not since Rocky 1, has a Rocky movie been so much about character study. I get down on the first half of the story only because it is a bit heavy handed and repetitious with the whole "Remember Rocky 1?" motif. Yeah we remember it. How about Rocky VI? But again in theory, Stallone is on the right track. I personally hope the rewrites reflect this.
And then there's the second half. Rocky reapplies for his boxing license, reinvigorated to see that an ESPN computer simulated matchup estimates that Rocky would beat current champ Mason "The Line" Dixon. Holy shit. Mason "the Line" Dixon. Holy shit. What parent would name their kid that? Apparently the same type that would name theirs Apollo Creed, Clubber Lang, Ivan Drago, Tommy Gunn or Union Cane. But given the tone of THIS STORY it just seems a little...gratuitous. Speaking of which, there is indeed a training montage but I somehow doubt we'll get any tacky (though highly motivational) power-rock thrown over this one. Again the tone of this film (aside from the strolls down memory lane) does not scream SEQUEL. I think this will be a different movie. Less self-absorbed, less faithful to the Rocky conventions (in all their tackiness). but shit what do I know. The guys name is Mason the Line Dixon and Rocky is gonna need a training montage to protect himself from getting fucked up.
From here we see how Rocky's renewed course in life affects those around him. Paulie realizes that resigning himself to waste away is not the same thing as "living". He's in, all-or-nothing with Rocky on this final trip. Rocky befriends MARIE and her wayward son. This is the same Marie that Rocky walked home in Rocky 1. This, my friends, is where Stallone brings it home. Thematically, the Rocky/Marie relationship is the point of the entire Rocky story (all six movies). Not Adrian, but little Marie. What did Rocky try to tell her? "They wont remember you, they'll just remember the rep. I'm gonna use a bad word: Whore.../ Screw you Rocky!" Marie has since, blown it. She didn't take his advice. Stallone wonderfully introduces Marie (before we know she's "Marie"): She's a woman who looks like she's made one too many mistakes in her life." She doesn't really act as the replacement Adrian, and appropriately no romantic relationship develops between her and Rocky, but she is the female lead. And her unexpected re-involvement in the story really, to me, spells out the simple point of the whole Rocky saga: It's never too late to start doing something with your life. Or to at least TRY to do start doing something with your life. Paulie and Marie and her son help Rocky on his unlikely way back to the ring.
Some shortcomings: Robert. Rocky's son. What a punk-ass bitch. I wanted to reach into the script and beat the shit out of this guy. Or at least shake him. Hitting is wrong. What a prick. How many times does this guy give his dad the cold shoulder? Inexplicably he's somewhat embarassed by his father. Robert has gone corporate. Totally un-involved with 'the streets' or boxing. He is embarassed by his father's latest stunt to return to the ring, despite the fact that his co-workers think his father is the shiz-nit. Eventually he comes around and joins Rocky's team. Yay. Sort of a forgetable development. AND...
Mason Dixon. He has a little more heart than Apollo but essentially his situation is the same as Apollo's and Union Cane. In fact he seems to be Union Cane from Rocky V redux. Another black champ whose all glam and "got no respect" according to critics. Here I feel, Stallone missed an opportunity. He once again took the road most travelled. Mason isn't a bad guy per se, he's just the same whiny bitch that Union, Tommy, and Apollo were. Like Rocky, he has something to prove, and Stallone nicely hammers that point. But still, one wishes (and by one, I mean me) that Stallone could have whipped up a far different type of contender. Mason need not be a supervillain like Drago or Clubber, and indeed he's not portrayed as such. Stallone writes it as if its two good guys fighting to make the same point. Mason is a little more down-to-Earth than Apollo. He's not an angry young buck. But if Stallone wanted to pair Rocky up against another decent guy, why not throw out all the rest of the cliches that hobble Mason? Aren't there ever any motivating factors for a black athlete in the Rocky movies other than "respect". It's been done to death.
Rocky doesn't die. In this draft, the fight comes to a standstill just like in Rocky 1 (nice touch). Mason breaks his hand during the fight but fights on. This is wonderful because it gives Mason some heart. Oh and Clubber makes a cameo as one of the commentators on the fight. Seems that Clubber went on a downward spiral after his loss in Rocky III and has since found Christ. Anyway back to my eventual qualm: Mason wins by decision. That's fine, Rocky made his point. BUT. This whole script sort of lends itself to Rocky dying. I know Stallone initially drafted Rocky to die in Rocky V, and so that idea must still be floating in his head. But Rocky V wasn't building to his death. Was a good move on the producer's part to nix that idea. "Balboa" however deserves that ending. It deals far more with mortality, usefullness, uselessness and at-long-last reunions than any of the other movies. It just feels as if Rocky deserves to go. He wants to be with Adrian. I'm not dead-set on Rocky dying. It just feels that thematically and tonally Stallone could get away with it in this story. And to start cracking jokes about a Rocky VII would unduly undermine the point of "Balboa". But apparently Stallone has shot four endings for the movie. Maybe he'll sneak Rocky's death into one of those and try it out in post.
THE FINAL ANALYSIS
Tighten up Mason's character, tone down on Robert's dickishness, and ease up on the first half with all the Rocky 1/Adrian stuff and Stallone could have a fine Rocky film on his hands. In terms of characterization its second only to Rocky 1. The fight ranks high but more so in an emotional sense rather than a situational one (i.e. Drago). Bottom line I'd say it's better than Rocky V. With the best possible rewrites it could be a more important/interesting/inspiring story than Rocky 2 or 3. Nothing beats the original. And Rocky IV is just fucking out of this world, as we all know. Funny to think the Rocky that I read in Rocky VI is the same guy who went to Russia and wiped Ivan Drago's super-blood from his brow with the American flag. That movie has so much Survivor pumping through it's balls-to-the-wall "I'm gonna get you" veins that I don't think anything compares. Holyshit. I'm gonna go watch Rocky IV right now. Till then, don't fear for "Rocky Balboa". It's going to be okay"."