Sylvester Stallone recently threw in the towel on his time with Rocky – but will he actually stay retired this time? Rocky was just as much of an underdog story off-screen as it was on. Stallone was a struggling actor for much of his early career, but inspiration would strike when he watched a championship match between Muhammad Ali and Chuck Wepner in 1975. No one expected Wepner to last long, but he survived 15 rounds, which inspired Stallone to write the first draft of Rocky in a frantic 3-day binge. United Artists loved his script but wanted a major star like Burt Reynolds or James Caan to star.
Stallone offered increasingly large sums to sell the screenplay, but he insisted on playing the lead. Rocky would eventually be greenlit for a low budget and shot in 28 days, but Stallone’s belief in the project paid off in big ways. It eventually became a smash hit, going on to win Best Picture at the 1977 Academy Awards, with Stallone receiving nominations for Best Actor and Best Original Screenplay. After that, Stallone chose to continue to tell Rocky’s story over the course of 5 Rocky sequels, ending with 2006’s Rocky Balboa.
Throughout that time, Stallone incorporated elements from his own life and career in each entry. Rocky II was inspired by the feeling of being quickly forgotten following his greatest success, since his post-Rocky movies under-performed, while Rocky Balboa reflected his own late-career comeback and reflecting on getting older. Even retirement couldn’t stop Rocky, who once again dusted off the boxing gloves for Creed, which saw Balboa step into a mentorship role to guide the son of his former rival Apollo Creed. Audiences have been captivated by Rocky Balboa, and now Stallone has declared Creed 2 to be Rocky’s final movie. In many ways, the movie serves as a fitting end for Rocky, but as history has shown – again and again – he may have another round left in him.
Rocky’s Role In The Creed Series
Creed is a movie that has no right working as well as it does. A spinoff focused on the rise of Apollo Creed’s son, Adonis (Michael B. Jordan), with Rocky Balboa as his trainer could have been a crass exercise in extending a franchise beyond its shelf life. Even Stallone cast his doubts on the project before signing on, feeling the character had earned his retirement. Thankfully, he was convinced of the movie’s merits, and armed with a great script, cast, and director in Ryan Coogler, Creed became – arguably – the second-best entry in the franchise.
There’s a beautiful symmetry to Rocky’s role in Creed, with audiences having followed his journey from a young underdog in the original to retired legend-turned-teacher. The weight of the character’s history is vital to the story, and, of course, there’s the charged relationship between Rocky and Adonis itself. On one hand, it’s paternal, but on the other, Rocky failed to throw in the towel during Apollo Creed’s fateful bout with Ivan Drago in Rocky IV, which led to Apollo’s death and Adonis growing up without his dad. That subtext is there throughout both Creed movies, but the bond between the two characters is what powers a lot of the drama.
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Legacy plays an important role in both movie, too. Adonis has to struggle to live up to the legend of the father he never knew, while all of Rocky’s past glories – and mistakes – weigh on him equally. Creed 2 confronts this head-on by bringing back Ivan Drago and introducing his son Viktor. Both Adonis and Viktor are trapped in the shadows cast by their fathers, but by the end of the film, they break free and decide to forge their own paths – which also feels like a mission statement for the future of the series.
Why Creed 2 Works As An Ending For Rocky
Throughout Creed 2, Rocky tries to work up the courage to contact his estranged son, Robert Jr. He picks up the phone more than once, but every time he can’t bring himself to call. There’s a sense that first he has to work through the lingering guilt of his Rocky IV decision not to throw in the towel, and free both himself and Adonis of that moment. When Adonis beats Viktor in their climatic rematch, there’s a very deliberate passing of the torch, with Rocky touching Adonis glove and declaring it’s “his time.”
This is both Rocky and Stallone declaring the reins of the series now belong to Michael B. Jordan. Rocky’s final scene sees him finally reunite with Robert – in a returning cameo by Rocky Balboa’s Milo Ventimiglia – and finally meet his grandson. It’s an emotionally charged scene and totally works as an ending for the character, who has found peace now that he’s laid the past to rest.
Page 2 of 2: Rocky’s Retired Before & Why Stallone Will Return For Creed 3
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