Of all the "Rocky" films, it seems that "Rocky III" and "IV" are the most reviled amongst the critics - not the fans, but the critics. The fans actually seem to love "III" and "IV" the most of the series. However, it is obvious upon viewing that "III" is the beginning of the downslide of the series. For the first time, Stallone substitutes raw action-film violence for character development, and proves to be one of the more cartoonish entries in the bunch. That being said, there are many good things here: The basic thematic thrust of the film - that in complacency lies death, and that you must be challenged to remain alive - is both valid and current. Suddenly, in this second fight with Clubber, we are dealt an entirely different Rocky, a Rocky who is very insecure and has to believe in Apollo in order to recapture his past glory.
Time Out saysLearning, especially from Scorsese, in his approach to action and performance, writer/director/star Stallone has somehow contrived to make each of his movies into a more magnificent spectacle than the last, eliminating much of the coy sentimentality that tainted the first film, and pacing the boxing scenes with an increasing fury that makes them less like a sport than the epic symbolic struggle of Ray Harryhausen monsters. 'The worst thing happened to you that could happen to any fighter' someone tells Rocky here, 'You got civilised'. And Rocky III depicts the fighter's struggle to come to terms with success, in a progression from danger and defeat to triumph which - as in all the best genre movies - is incredibly simple. As audience movie-making in its purest form, the film is a delight, but it's also so obviously based on Stallone's own personal struggle with success that the mind boggles as to what Rocky can possibly do next. Make movies, perhaps?