Do you know that Rocky is almost 40 years old? The original film was released in 1976.
With the seventh Rocky film in the series, Creed, released today (In America, I have to wait until January). I’m going to take a look at the previous six films in the franchise from the original Rocky through to Rocky Balboa, as well as take a quick look at Creed.
Plus I’ll offer my own views on the films and the series as a whole at the end.
Okay so technically Creed is not a Rocky sequel and more of a spin off. But you know people will just end up calling it Rocky VII anyway.
If You have never seen the Rocky films before. Then stop reading this crap and go watch them as I’ll be spoiling every film in the franchise here.
Let’s jump into the ring with the film that started it all…
Rocky: Written by the unknown (at the time) Sylvester Stallone and directed by John G. Avildsen. Rocky is a simple story of an underdog boxer given a life changing chance.
Stallone plays the titular Rocky Balboa, a young amateur boxer that plys his talent in boxing matches with locals. Struggling to earn a living he also works as the muscle as a debt collector for some local gangsters.
Rocky is a simple man with simple pleasures and seems to be more than happy with his relatively poor lifestyle. He works out at Mickey’s Gym, a local dive for local amateur boxers. Over the road from the gym is a pet store, it is in this pet store Rocky meets the shy Adrian (Talia Shire).
They begin a friendship largely triggered by Rocky’s terrible jokes. The upfront and more direct Rocky slowly starts to get Adrian to come out of her shell. Their relationship slowly blossoms and they eventually become lovers. Adrian’s life is not all that simple with her overbearing brother, Paulie (Burt Young) constantly putting her down.
Out of the blue, the current heavyweight boxing champion, Apollo Creed (Carl Weathers) has an idea to offer an unknown boxer a chance of a title fight after his opponent has to drop out due to injury.
Creed decides to fight an everyday amateur as he thinks it would be good for his public image and a good gimmick to offer an amateur a chance as America is the land of opportunity. He chooses to fight Rocky based on his nickname of The Italian Stallion.
Rocky is both excited and anxious over the fight and actually first turns the opportunity down fearing he would get mangled going up against the current heavyweight champ.
But Rocky quickly changes his mind, takes the offer up and does decide to get in the ring with Apollo. He even (after some argument) takes old Mickey (Burgess Meredith) on board to be his trainer.
The fight goes the distance but Rocky ends up losing. However, it was never his intention to win to begin with. He was just happy to have been given to chance.
Rocky is a simple tale of a simple man but told with such passion and respect. The film is an all time classic, even if you can’t stand boxing its a must watch.
It didn’t even need a sequel, but…
Rocky II: Picks up directly where Rocky left off after the fight with both Rocky and Apollo taken to hospital for medical attention. This time Stallone not only is the writer but director too.
At the hospital, Creed is unhappy about the fight. He won the fight, but he didn’t beat Rocky he feels.
Creed feels he should have destroyed Rocky in the fight as he was only an amateur while Creed was heavyweight champ. Creed demands a rematch, but Rocky is adamant there will be no rematch and even says he is retiring (get used to that). Rocky has nothing to prove, he did what he set out to do just by taking part in the fight.
He gets on with his life now “retired” and asks Adrian to marry him, she says yes and they are soon expecting a baby.
Meanwhile Rocky made some money from the fight but blew it all on an expensive car, jewellery, buying a house, etc.
He tries to cash in on his five minutes of fame by appearing in some TV ads, but things do not go well when its revealed that Rocky can not read. Feeling the director is being rude, Rocky quits. Rocky is embarrassed and broke and ends up working in a meat packaging factory to try to make ends meet, until he is let go. Rocky needs money and starts selling his belongings including his car to Paulie. He starts thinking about fighting again but Adrian does not want him to as the Doctor found a problem with Rocky’s eye and suggests he doesn’t fight any more. She decides to go back to work at the pet shop to bring in some money to stop Rocky from fighting.
For weeks after the fight, Apollo keeps receiving mail from fans putting him down, asking how could the amateur Rocky make a fight go the distance against the heavyweight world champion?
This all starts to get to Apollo and he seriously starts to pursue a rematch and starts a campaign against Rocky to coerce him into a fight.
Finding it hard to pay the bills, worrying about his soon to be born son and caving to Apollo’s taunting. Rocky decides to take Apollo up on his offer of a rematch, much to Adrian’s disgust.
The fight is on and Rocky once again relying on his old mentor and friend Mickey to train him. But Rocky’s head is not in it as he is too concerned about Adrian and the baby. While Rocky is deep in his training with his head preoccupied, Adrian is rushed too hospital due to complications with the pregnancy. The baby is born premature and as a result, Adrian ends up in a coma. Rocky refuses too leave her side and gives up on the training and fight.
Adrian eventually comes around from her coma and is given the all clear and asks Rocky to do one thing for her…win.
With Adrian in the clear and with her support. Rocky begins his training once more and this time he takes it seriously.
Its fight night and everyone is excited. The rematch that nobody ever thought would happen is here.
Rocky wins this one this time via a KO and becomes heavyweight world champion, this is where the film ends.
Rocky II, despite its problems is a worthy sequel and continues the story really well. But what next for Rocky now he has beaten Apollo? Enter Mr.T.
Rocky III: Once again written and directed by Sylvester Stallone. We see Rocky as a very different man since the last film.
Rocky has now become a major celebrity and serious boxing champion winning fight after fight. He has money and fame.
The true underdog story has fans loving Rocky and all he had achieved. Rocky has become a mega-star in the boxing world and a celebrity in his own right.
But not everyone is a fan of Rocky. This is where we are introduced to Clubber Lang (Mr.T). A young, tough and hungry fighter. He is everything Rocky used to be before becoming famous.
Clubber picks a fight just as Rocky is announcing his retirement (again). Clubber starts to insult Rocky and Adrian and this spurs Rocky to agree to a boxing match.
Mickey refuses to have any part of it as he feels Rocky is not good enough any more and tells Rocky his title defences have all been set ups to help make Rocky look good.
Rocky convinces Mickey to train him for one last fight and promises to work hard.
This is where we get to see the extent to Rocky’s celebrity status as he doesn’t take the fight nor the training seriously and believes it will be a walk in the park.
Rocky’s training consists of him posing for pictures and kissing female fans and some light boxing training in between if he has time.
Clubber on the other hand goes old school and trains like like the hungry fighter he is.
The fight eventually comes around and on the way to the ring, Clubber starts the insults once more and this time Mickey is caught in the crossfire and ends up suffering a heart attack just before the fight. Rocky wants to postpone the fight but Mickey urges Rocky to carry on.
The fight goes ahead and due a combination of not taking the fight seriously (like Apollo in the first film), not training properly and worrying about Mickey. Rocky loses and loses big. This is not a fight that goes the distance and Clubber squeaks past on points. Rocky is destroyed and KOed in the second round. Clubber becomes the new heavyweight champion.
Rocky retreats back to his dressing room where Mickey is lying down after his heart attack. Mickey asks how the fight went and Rocky lies and tells him that he won, shorty after Mickey dies.
Apollo suggests a rematch with Clubber. With his friend, trainer and mentor gone. Rocky is just not interested in fighting any more.
Creed offers to help train Rocky with his trainer Duke (Tony Burton) for his rematch with Clubber Lang but only if he takes it seriously and Rocky trains Apollo’s way, eventually Rocky agrees to a rematch. Clubber is more than willing to take on Rocky again, he beat him once so why not again?
Apollo breaks Rocky down to rid him of his celebrity world he now lives in and rebuilds him as a tough fighter akin to how he used to be. Creed takes Rocky to an old, run-down gym where Apollo first started to train and uses outdated methods to get Rocky back on form.
Rocky’s heart is just not in it and admits to Adrian he is afraid. Adrian convinces Rocky to keep at it and he returns to the training.
Eventually fight night comes around and Creed’s training methods work. Its a brutal, tough fight, but Rocky wins by a knock-out to become heavyweight champ again and is back on top.
Here ends round I, but round II is up next where I look at the last three films in the series and Rocky gets more than a little “silly”.