|Sylvester Stallone in the original Rocky.|
Creed is the first film in the series since Rocky Balboa in 2006. That year, I watched all six of the Rocky pics and was struck by the enduring popularity of the character. The credit belongs to Sylvester Stallone, whose talents as a filmmaker and actor have certainly been questioned. For every good movie he’s made (e.g., Cliffhanger), there are two or three humdrum ones (e.g., The Specialist, Judge Dredd, and Oscar). Heck, maybe the good-to-bad ratio is even higher. But Stallone’s poor career choices don’t negate the fact that the original Rocky is a remarkably entertaining and—yes—even inspirational tale of an underdog that beats all odds.
The deceptively simple plot has Apollo Creed (Carl Weathers), a flamboyant heavyweight boxing champion whose popularity is waning, generating publicity by giving an unknown fighter a shot at the title. Stallone, who wrote a draft of the Rocky script in three days, derived his premise from the real-life boxing bout between heavyweight champion Muhammad Ali and unknown challenger Chuck Wepner. Expected to suffer a quick defeat, Wepner went 15 rounds with Ali before losing in a technical knockout.
|Adrian looked more glamorous in|
later Rocky films.
Rocky’s transition from “nobody” (how he defined himself) to “somebody” becomes complete at the climax of the now-famous training montage. It starts with an out-of-breath Rocky struggling to run up the steps to the Philadelphia Museum of Art. But by the time it’s complete, a jubilant Rocky races up the steps to the strains of Bill Conti’s “Gonna Fly Now” and, upon reaching the top, raises his arms in triumph. It’s certainly one of the most indelible images in 1970s cinema.
Still, despite the film’s strong performances (Stallone, Shire, Meredith, and Burt Young all received Oscar nominations), Rocky was considered a long shot for the Academy Award in 1976. Amazingly, despite stiff competition from the likes of Taxi Driver and Network, Rocky beat the odds and stunned everyone with its Oscar win—thus cementing its place in film history.
|Meredith has one of the best scenes.|
Despite many flaws, the fifth installment at least tried for something different—it ends with a brawl in the street, not the ring. That brings us to Rocky Balboa, which was intended at the time to be the last film in the series. Perhaps, it tries too hard to tie up all the loose ends and provide a fitting bookend to the first Rocky. And yet, this quiet film manages to capture the grittiness and heart of the original. It’s a fitting tribute to a character that endured for over three decades and brought joy to millions of movie-goers.
It will be interesting to see whether Creed can reignite interest in Rocky Balboa and Apollo Creed. I just hope that Stallone doesn't regret not ending his film series on a high note--as he did with Rocky Balboa.