Do you think there is anyone more surprised than Sylvester Stallone that Rocky Balboa — the underdog boxer he created just over 40 years ago — is still alive? And not just as a pop culture icon of the past, but a living, breathing creation that has defied the odds to star in six films, co-star in a seventh and preparing for an eighth. The latter is the sequel to Creed, for which he will co-star, direct, produce and, in all likelihood, write.
Creed (2015) was a pretty revolutionary idea as these things go. Stallone had delivered the Italian Stallion’s apparent swan song with 2006’s Rocky Balboa (itself an apology of sorts for the low point of the series, 1990’s Rocky V). Rocky may not have won the fight in that particular film — although it did make our list for the best Rocky fights — but he certainly reclaimed his cinematic dignity. Flash forward, and director Ryan Cogler, a lifelong fan of the franchise, had the crazy idea of doing a spin-off, focusing on Adonis Creed, son of Rocky’s opponent turned close friend Apollo. With Michael B. Jordan cast as Apollo, he convinced Stallone to bring his hallmark character out of retirement to serve as Adonis’ trainer, allowing Stallone to play a more textured Rocky who had to battle cancer at the same time.
A commercial and critical success (Stallone was even nominated for an Academy Award in the category of Best Supporting Actor), it seemed inevitable that there would be a sequel, although, admittedly, Stallone seemed to be dropping more hints about it than Cogler did. Flash forward, and there were recently some suggestions from the actor that the sequel’s story could have Adonis stepping into the ring with the son of Ivan Drago, Rocky’s Russian opponent in Rocky IV who, on the road to that fight, took on Apollo, killing him during what was supposed to be an exhibition bout.
If true, on the positive side this suggests that we could very well see Rocky and Drago on opposite sides of the ring, standing in the corners of their respective boxers. The negative is a very real risk that the film could slip into more cartoony territory than the first film had. Given current tensions between the U.S. and Russia, one could see it becoming a pro-America propaganda tool which is not an element that’s allowed Rocky IV to age gracefully.
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Lead image via YouTube.