The reviews for the new movie Creed are amazing. Michael B. Jordan’s career is about to explode, and there’s even talk Sylvester Stallone could be up for an Oscar nomination for his supporting role (trivia: Stallone was only the third person to be nominated in a single year for best actor and screenwriter; the other two were Charlie Chaplin and Orson Welles!).
Over at National Review, Armond White notes that Creed extends this all-American ethic. It’s not an original observation to note that the Rocky franchise has sounded some conservative themes. For one thing, Rocky remains married and committed to his family until the death of his wife. According to the formula, Rocky doesn’t succeed in the ring until Adrian is completely on board (a house divided against itself cannot stand).
Personally, I don’t think it’s a coincidence that these films have remained popular by following a formula where the underdog ultimately prevails, and good overcomes evil—even though there are always setbacks along the way.
Not all Rocky films are created equal, but the good ones usually provide some sort of morality tale. Here are a few things I picked up from them…
-Rocky – This is a classic story about The American Dream and an underdog defying the odds. Despite the fact that Rocky eschews the anti-hero ethos of its day, the fact that Rocky actually loses the first fight preserves its edginess and prevents it from becoming laughably formulaic. He goes the distance, and sometimes, that’s all we can hope for.
-Rocky II – Rocky’s attempts to retire don’t go well (“You might not be interested in war, but war is interested in you”).
-Rocky III – Be careful when you achieve success and become civilized, domesticated, and complacent. If you take your eye off of the ball, someone else who’s more “hungry” might take you down. (Good advice for our nation?)
-Rocky IV – Apollo Creed’s death (spoiler alert) is due to hubris and a fear of getting old and no longer being the center of attention. But Rocky shows that an everyman using old fashioned training techniques can still defeat the Soviet Union’s “juiced” and genetically-selected ubermench.
-Rocky V – This is the weakest of the Rocky films, in my estimation, but there is one lesson that I think we can apply: Be careful whom you mentor. Sometimes, in our zeal to pass on what we know, we are a bit promiscuous in choosing the young people we want for proteges. In this regard, character is more important than talent—a lesson Rocky learned with Tommy Gunn.
I won’t go into Rocky Balboa, which I view as a solid, but mostly nostalgic, effort to leave the franchise on a better note than Rocky V would have. The good news is that Creed appears to give us hope that this proud franchise will continue on—and that it will hew close to its proud tradition.