Pixel8 look at Creed 2 – A round too far for the Rocky franchise?
November 2018 sees a return to the Rocky Franchise with Creed 2. Widely anticipated by boxing and movie fans alike, the film picks up on the career of Rocky’s protégé, Adonis Creed, as he defends his newly aquired light heavy weight title. The latest instalment of the Balboa series goes full circle with the return a Russian powerhouse in the form of Viktor Drago, the son of Rocky’s former adversary, Ivan Drago. All sounds a bit familiar, right?
In every Rocky film there have been defining themes – a fighter battling personal demons, determination over adversity and of the of course the triumphant underdog. There is also commonality in the cinematography with all-action fight scenes, uplifting soundtracks and the famous training montages. It was these defining things which made the original Rocky films so popular and iconic, but after seven films in the Rocky series some of the things which made the original films so great have undoubtedly been reworked and have become predictable. With returning characters and a familiar background narrative of U.S.A. vs Russia, the question is, do we really need another Rocky movie?
From a story telling POV I think it is safe to assume that we won’t see anything new here. The Russian contender will be physically stronger and better technically than Adonis, and he will have to overcome personal demons to beat Drago in the ring. Rocky will play the part of the trainer, who will have his own demons to fight throughout the movie. This simply has to be the story arc of the movie because if Adonis just goes into the ring as the champion and wins it will be a non-story. The film makers therefore, must go down the route of the triumphant underdog to give it any weight as a drama. After seeing the same repackaged story seven times though, why would we watch another Rocky movie?
Because they are great! Yes, it is an easy and well-tested narrative that we are presented with; but honestly who doesn’t like a feel-good sports film? From an originality perspective this movie is going to score a zero, not least because of the return of the Drago family. But, on the other-hand, the predictable sports narrative will be the best thing about the movie.
All of the subsequent Rocky films have borrowed from the first movie. In any of the films, did anyone ever not know that Balboa would eventually win the day? Probably not, but it doesn’t detract from the enjoyment of the watching the films. The fact remains that the boxing drama is always captivating and watching an underdog struggle against seemingly insurmountable adversity draws in the viewer and makes you root for them.
The first Creed movie is a great example of this. The problems Adonis faced were different to those Rocky had to overcome, but the narrative arc is the same as in all of the Rocky films with Adonis ultimately becoming a champion. Stylistically, it had a more edgy, more realistic story line which was refreshing to see and it could have worked as a stand alone film without Stallone. But, there is a nostalgia and a huge amount of character development to Rocky Balboa which added to the film rather than detracted from it.
So should the producers of the film keep making films in the Rocky series? Absolutely. Fans know what they are getting and want to see a great movie filled with trials and tribulations, emotional drama and a feel-good ending. As long as the producers know what they are essentially retelling the Rocky story over and over, they can concentrate on great characters and new story lines within the well-established Balboa traditions. It is a case of managing the expectations and stipulations associated with the Rocky sub-genre, whilst creating enough new content to have keep the viewer engaged against the context of a predictable narrative. If they can do this, and do it well as they did with Creed, then there is no reason why there can’t be more great movies in the Rocky franchise.