The Rocky movies are some of the most inspiring sports movies — nay, most inspiring movies, period — ever put on film. That’s hard to deny.
Since debuting in 1976, Sylvester Stallone, an unlikely star from an unlikely background for a Hollywood legend, set about creating one of the unlikeliest franchises that is still going strong 40 years later.
Audiences have always responded to the Rocky movies, no matter what the budget or what story direction Stallone took with his characters.
The first film grossed more than $117 million at the time of its release ($459 million adjusted). Part II delivered another $85 million ($283 million adjusted), Part III $124 million ($352 million adjusted), and Part IV $127 million ($295 million adjusted).
Even the object of fan-hate Part V grossed $120 million worldwide at the time of its release in 1990.
When Sly brought his beloved character back for what was expected to be his 2006 swan song Rocky Balboa, fans proved that the last thing to go on a fighter is his box office appeal, helping the film to a $155 million worldwide take on a budget of just $24 million.
(All numbers provided by Box Office Mojo.)
Now as Creed gets ready to land in theaters, it’s likely the winning streak will continue. Critical buzz is already overwhelmingly supportive with the critic aggregator Rotten Tomatoes scoring it 94 percent “fresh” out of 34 total reviews.
That’s no small feat, especially as Rocky movies go. The sixth film only did 76 percent while the first scored 93 percent (out of 54 reviews).
Rocky II and Rocky III retain respectable 73 percent and 63 percent ratings, while Rocky IV and Rocky V are often seen as the “turkeys” of the bunch with 40 percent and 28 percent, respectively.
All that said, the chances of Creed being a box office disappointment are slim. But if you are a fan of the Rocky movies, perhaps that’s what you should be hoping for.
Let’s look at a few reasons.
Firstly, it’s always good to go out on a high note.
Creed is winning universal praise in a way that trumps Rocky Balboa. But it’s also receiving such high marks that it would be difficult to come up with a continuing story that tops it.
Since the series can’t possibly live forever — at least not with Rocky as a part of it — why not wrap things up on a huge plus instead of continuing to go until another Rocky IV or V happens?
Secondly, seeing more of Rocky Balboa’s life is too depressing.
If you could sit through Rocky Balboa and watch the “stuff in the basement” scene and not cry crocodile tears, you have no heart.
While killing off Adrian ultimately worked for the betterment of the story, it continued to unravel a world that fans had grown to love and it made this inspiring hero figure a little more tragic.
Part of the allure of the Rocky movies is their undying optimism. But with Adrian gone, Mickey gone, Apollo gone, Rocky Jr. God-knows-where, Duke gone, and Balboa completely alone, how can you keep being optimistic?
The Rocky movies are now in a dangerous place where that “undying optimism” is being replaced with the eventuality of loss and death.
It’s starting to shape the way one sees the bright and colorful depictions of life the first three films pull off so well.
Finally, Rocky Balboa, the character, is living on borrowed time.
Rocky is a hero to every underdog, who found the will to believe in himself and accomplish great things. As such, you get attached to the big lug.
Growing up, you could have never imagined seeing Rocky die on screen, and it’s still not something you could probably see without going into a state of shock and hyperventilation.
But if Stallone insists on continuing the Rocky movies, it’s eventually going to happen. The Italian Stallion will breathe his last.
He’s already getting a life-threatening illness in this one. Who knows whether he makes it out alive? Eventually, he won’t, and most fans of the Rocky movies couldn’t handle that deathbed scene.
What do you think, readers? Should this franchise call it a day after Creed, or would you prefer the series to continue until Rocky either dies or the movies get horrible? Sound off in the comments section.
[Image via Creed trailer screen grab]