Music has always been an important part of the film industry, but matching the right music with the right scene can be quite the challenge. However, if a director finds the right song and pairs it with the right scene, then that scene, alone, can make the movie immortal. While the Rocky theme song is well known, Rocky III was responsible for putting the band, Survivor, on the map and catapulting their song, “Eye of the Tiger”, to the top of the Billboard charts.
Rocky III begins with a replay of the end of Rocky II, where Rocky defeats Apollo Creed to become the Heavy Weight Champion of the World. Then the movie begins to cut away and the all too familiar beat and guitar riff begins, as the viewer witness’ scenes of Rocky defending his title against seemingly no-name competitors. His challenger for the movie, Clubber Lang (Mr. T), is also introduced. The upbeat tempo of the song, combined with the fighting montage, makes for an exciting introduction to the film. In Everything’s an Argument, Lunsford and Ruszkiewicz state, “You’ve likely had the clichéd chill down the spine or felt something in the pit of the stomach when a speaker hits precisely the right note” (40). This is the exact effect that is achieved by this opening sequence. If you take the time to watch the opening sequence without the music, you realize just how boring and monotonous the scenes are. Essentially, you just see Rocky beating up a bunch of guys and Clubber Lang give a bunch of menacing looks. The cinematography is not that engaging, but the “Eye of the Tiger” made these scenes enjoyable to watch.
While the guitar play and the fast rhythm could easily add excitement to any sort of action sequence, it is the lyrics that make the song perfect for the film. In an interview with the Guitar World, Jim Peterik, singer and songwriter for Survivor, states the he made the song specifically for the movie and only after watching the unedited version of Rocky III (Wood par. 11). This ensured that the song was tailored to the movie, and, more importantly, to the protagonist, Rocky. If you listen to the lyrics, you will hear the phrase “it’s the eye of the tiger, it’s the thrill of the fight, rising up to the challenge of our rivals.” If you follow the storyline of the movie, then these lyrics clearly depict part of the plot of the movie. In fact, Apollo Creed, Rocky’s former rival/trainer, actually references how Rocky had the eye of the tiger when they first fought and that he needed to find that look again in order to defeat Clubber Lang. The look refers to a person who is hungry and will do whatever it takes to win. In Music and Mood, Gabriel Yared states, “When I write music for a film, I try to connect with its spirit rather than working shot by shot” (par. 5). The “Eye of the Tiger” clearly connects to the spirit of Rocky Balboa, by depicting his fighting mentality.
The “Eye of the Tiger” appears three times throughout the film. The director and lead actor, Sylvester Stallone, used the song in the opening scene, during a training scene, and once again at the end of the film when Rocky is sparring with Apollo Creed after he has defeated Clubber Lang. Some might argue that using the same song three times causes the song to lose its affect or it might bore the audience. In this instance, I would have to disagree. In Understanding Movies, Giannetti states that, “characterization can be suggested by musical motifs” (216). By using the “Eye of the Tiger” in the places that Stallone chose, the viewer witness Rocky’s journey from confident champion to a broken down has-been, and back to owning the championship belt. There was, indeed, logic behind Stallone’s use of the song.
While Rocky III benefited from the song and did well at the box office, the “Eye of the Tiger” has become an icon at nearly all American sporting events. Let me put it this way, if your school mascot happens to be a tiger, you can count on your band playing this song. The Eye of the Tiger adds excitement to the movie by arousing the emotions of the audience through the fast tempo and meaningful lyrics. The combination of lyrics and beat also help signify the regression and progression of Rocky Balboa into the champion fighter that he embodies. Whether people remember Rocky III for the song, or remember the song because of Rocky III, an effect was achieved that made them both very memorable.
If I were to rate how important the “Eye of the Tiger” was to Rocky III, then I would have to give it a 3 ticket rating. The movie may not warrant a 3 ticket rating, but the song significantly improved the movie and aided in the progression of the story. Therefore, I give the “Eye of the Tiger” the maximum rating.
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=sF8lzgAxVko (training scene)
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=NC52KBgm5dY (ending scene)
Wood, James. "Interview: Guitarist Jim Peterik Talks 'Tiger' and the New Pride of Lions Album, 'Immortal'" Guitar Lessons, Music News and Guitar Reviews and Gear Reviews. N.p., 19 Oct. 2012. Web. 31 Jan. 2013.