My prediction for the movie: pain.
Sometimes you get a movie that comes out that you love so much and when you watch it you wish the film would never end. Some time later you are elated to find out that they’re making a sequel. It comes out and totally rules. You are all over this franchise. What’s more, the entire country is all up on the franchise. And sequels just start pouring out. And one after another, they all rule. You feel vindicated, sated and full on the series.
But the producers, or the director, or maybe even the star, disagree. And they decide to make one more. And suddenly after all this time you’re actually worried. You thought you were done. You thought you could just revel in the DVD’s or the repeat viewings on TNT, happy that the franchise was that close to perfection; even more happy that the series faded into the sunset before it was too late. But what to think now?
Isn’t it too late? Hasn’t time passed it over? Are you too old for it now? And what will this sequel do to the overall series, especially if it’s terrible?
This is what haunts me after learning that Rocky VI is officially in pre-production. Stallone has been threatening that bomb for years now, but no one ever believed him. He’s well into his sixties now, ain’t no way we wanna see him shirtless and taking a beating. We all know it’s a desperate attempt to get back into the spotlight, and besides the last one was so terrible that we all collectively decided to believe it didn’t exist. Even more, he hasn’t had a hit movie in more than a decade. Why would we ever let him make this movie?
Like I said, he’s been saying it’s happening for years. He even wrote a spec script and pitched it across town. He released the first 60 pages in his worthless, now-defunct magazine “Sly”. I read it, it’s terrible. Rocky’s broke, Adrian’s dead, and the worthless son is now a successful stock broker that ignores Rocky. Meanwhile, Rocky runs his own restaurant, continues to be broke, and occasionally shadowboxes in his basement. Yeah, it’s that good. Worse yet, the villain is a stereotypical black heavyweight named Mason “The Line” Dixon. I wish I were kidding. Rocky decides to get back in the ring one last time, completely forgetting the fact that he has considerable brain damage, and even an errant backhand to the head may render him a vegetable. Of course, odds are he goes fifteen rounds, takes dozens and dozens of high impact shots to the face and body, gets knocked down two or three times, and somehow manages to win on a last second punch in the final round. The Rocky formula is nothing if not predictable.
I want to love this movie. If by some miracle he actually pulls it off, then we can erase the bad taste of Rocky 5, and finally feel like the series ended on the high note it deserved. Much like I hope that Lucas does one more Star Wars film that blows everyone’s minds and erases the necchy taste of the new trilogy. And in converse, much how I hope that Spielberg doesn’t make the fourth Indiana Jones movie, because the last one was so great and it seemed like such a perfect ending to such a sterling film franchise. But do I really think Stallone has one more in him? No, I don’t.
It’s not that I don’t think he’s talented, because I do. It’s not that I don’t think he has the body for it anymore, because good lord, he still does. Heck, he’s bigger now than he was for Rocky IV, and he was beyond yoked out back then. I just think the “idea” of Sylvester Stallone has eclipsed Sylvester Stallone the “person”, to the point where he has become a near-reality show parody of himself. And it all stems from that moment in his boxing reality show “The Contender” where the boxers come back to the gym to find Stallone shadowboxing and sweating like a hot pig. It was unreal. I truly think that HE believes he’s a real boxer. When you are known for one role, when that one role is so embedded in our cultural lexicon, it’s not hard to believe that the actor and the role are one in the same. But usually it’s the fans that are unable to disconnect, not the disillusioned actor.
The Rocky series was a touchstone for an America that no longer exists. Rocky was the everyman, fighting hard for God, Country, Mickey, etc. Hell, he single-handedly ended communism in Rocky IV. But what America would he be representing now? The country is split into colored-states, we’re at war with an enemy no one fears, the digital age has turned everyone into cynics, and worst of all, athletes are no longer seen as gods among men. You can blame the Terrell Owens’s of this world for pulling the curtain back on that myth. And boxing is in such disrepair now that Tyson is officially off the reservation, that Rocky Balboa is probably the most known boxer in the country, and he’s a fictional character.
There’s nothing for Rocky to unite. Nothing for him to fight for. Today’s audiences are no longer able to suspend disbelief. He’s gonna walk into that ring with a black guy twice his size and not a person under 21 will believe he can win. And when he does, they will laugh at the screen. And all the adults in the audience, the ones who bought the ticket hoping to recapture some of the magic they felt so many years ago, will duck down in their seats and cringe at what’s become of this once holy film franchise. They will reconsider why they ever bought the myth to begin with. It will destroy all the good this series has done for the movies, and for America.
I hope it’s good, I really do. I want the lights to come down and see Rocky Balboa take on the world. But I have this deep-seeded fear that instead of seeing inspiration, I’m just gonna feel sorry for him. I’m going to shake my head at the crooked decisions of an actor that once held my attention in palm of his hand. I’m just gonna feel bad that he refuses to hang them up. Because this isn’t like real life. When Michael Jordan came back to play for the Wizards we smiled and applauded but mostly we just ignored it. And now that he is retired for good we don’t think about it; it did nothing to tarnish his legacy. But movies are forever. Imagine if Return of the Jedi had been a complete disaster. We never would have looked at Star Wars the same way again. This is why we never saw a Godfather 4, because part three went so astray.
I just don’t understand why Stallone doesn’t get it. The last Rocky movie was an abomination. And now all these years later he’s gonna roll the dice on an egg like this? If this movie tanks than I’m no longer looking at four good movies and one mistake. No, now I’m looking at four good films that may have only been so good because the last two were so bad. I am obligated to question the integrity of the sequels that are good movies. I don’t want to do that. I have too many good memories of the Rocky franchise. Can’t we just let it be? Can’t we just let it rest in peace?
Up until those lights come down on opening night I will hope the movie is good. I will watch the trailer and analyze the poster. I will tell myself it’s gonna be good. I will watch a sit through a Rocky marathon with my friend A-Train the night before “Rocky Balboa” comes out. I will be there opening night. I will hold my breath for two hours. And hopefully, I will walk out pumping my fists in celebration, a mixture of relief and excitement. That would be… good.
The ball’s in your court, Sylvester. You’ve been great to me in the past, so I will give you the benefit of the doubt. Please, please please don’t let me (or the world) down.