Rocky Balboa is back. This November’s “Creed II” marks the eighth appearance of the fictional Philadelphia boxer on the big screen — the official trailer for the film dropped today.
What’s most surprising about this franchise is that it has not lost steam. Nearly every “Rocky” movie has packed an emotional punch and unforgettable bouts in the ring.
The franchise smartly moved its focus onto a younger boxer with 2015’s “Creed,” and this new film continues the journey of boxer Adonis Johnson (Michael B. Jordan) as he navigates the new waters of his fighting career, with mentor and father figure Balboa (Sylvester Stallone) guiding him along the way.
The “Creed II” trailer teased a film that both old and new fans of the franchise can be excited about. Adonis is facing the same challenges young Balboa faced, but in a modern-day setting, and a familiar face is returning to the franchise.
Ivan Drago (Dolph Lundgren) from “Rocky IV” is back; he has his own young boxer ready to continue his ruthless streak in the ring.
Fans will recall that the character of Drago appeared in the franchise’s most patriotic entry. He was the Russian boxer responsible for the death of Apollo Creed (Carl Weathers), Balboa’s best friend and Adonis’ father.
“Creed II” appears to be as strong as the surprisingly moving and exciting “Creed,” and it continues this franchise’s record of representing the absolute best of America.
The original “Rocky,” released in 1976, is one of the best representations of accomplishing the American dream. It’s a story that could only be told in this country.
A simple but ambitious young boxer (Stallone) fights his heart out and works as hard as he can to accomplish his dream of being a champion in the ring, all while falling in love and avoiding the temptations of the street.
We watch Rocky struggle, succeed, fail, and fall in love in “Rocky,” and the man never loses his focus or his heart. He is a moral center of the film, guided by both love and his passion. The movie went on to win the Best Picture Academy Award and made Sylvester Stallone a household name.
The franchise continued its patriotic and individualist streak as Rocky moved from film to film fighting for America, earning his success and sticking to his values.
Even in the franchise’s sixth entry, 2006’s “Rocky Balboa,” when Stallone was over 60 years old, the script captured the individualist and patriotic bent.
Just check out this scene, in which Balboa does his best to teach personal responsibility to his son.
Then there was Balboa’s fantastic speech in which he referred to the Bill of Rights in order to earn the right to enter the ring again, something he feels he should already have the right to do. It’s a total takedown of the nanny state, yet it’s not written with an agenda. It is a beautiful outburst from a character who has been fighting his whole life and cannot stop fighting or being exactly who he is. He does not bow, whether he is in a courtroom or a boxing ring.
“Creed” took the best parts of the best “Rocky” films and introduced audiences to a new character in pursuit of the American dream — one who could relate to Rocky and who faced more modern and complex problems than the Italian Stallion did.
It was a breakout hit with both audiences and critics. Director Ryan Coogler made the film as a fan of the franchise — and he gave the world a movie that reaffirmed the existence of the American dream in an increasingly cynical time.
We should feel lucky to still have the “Rocky” movies going strong. The stories remain hopeful yet reality-soaked at a time that many artists seem to think it’s simply not cool to inject their stories with positive messages about character, love and country.
Here’s hoping “Creed II” is as inspirational as the films it follows. And here’s hoping the Creed/Drago fight turns out a bit differently this time around.