To cleanse the palate, Schwarzenegger’s back in theaters as the Terminator as of this morning, Harrison Ford’s back as Han Solo this Christmas, and Stallone’s back as Rocky this Thanksgiving. Every iconic character of my youth will eventually be reprised onscreen by the now-geriatric actor who originally played him. Can’t wait for Peter Weller in “RoboCop’s Getting Too Old for This Sh*t.”
An interesting twist on sequelpalooza here: To all appearances, Rocky will be a peripheral character in this movie. The trailer goes out of its way to present Apollo’s son as the focus, and not just as a prop that the real hero will nurture as a substitute father for his old friend’s kid. I can understand why. Stallone’s character has become more cartoonish with each new film in the series; the last one, which came out the year he turned 60, implausibly put him back in the ring against a vastly younger champion. The best way to restore some dignity to Rocky at this point is to push him into the background, where a little Balboa will go a long way. On the other hand, even by the standards of “Rocky” movies, this one seems predictable. A young Adonis Creed, haunted by his lost father and burning to make his mark, sets out to prove himself — turning to his dad’s old rival and friend, the faded hero Rocky, to help make him into a champion. Will they form a father/son bond? Yes. Will there be eight thousand parallels with the earlier “Rocky” films as Rocky slips into Mickey’s role and Adonis slips into Rocky’s? Indubitably. Will Adonis win the big fight at the end? Well, that’s the thing — the only suspense in a “Rocky” movie is whether the payoff will be a stirring victory against long odds over a seemingly invulnerable foe (Rocky II, III, IV, and V) or a valiant effort that proves our hero’s mettle and grants him a glorious moral victory even though he loses the fight narrowly (Rocky I and VI). Movies are like boxing: It’s hard to succeed when every punch is telegraphed. Seems like that could be a big problem for this one. Hope I’m wrong.
Exit question: Do they go full Mickey and kill off Rocky in this one, with Adonis left to avenge his fallen trainer by beating the tar out of some arrogant A-hole, or will they keep Sly around in case they want to do Rocky VIII, where Rocky wins the big throwdown at the bingo hall over an 80-year-old Clubber Lang?