The first movie I ever saw was Rocky – it’s one of those memories that are very fuzzy, but there are specific elements that stand out regardless – the smell of the popcorn, the blue carpet in the lobby, the colored lights running down the side of the aisle.
I remember very little about the movie itself, other than thinking it was black and white (it is rather monochrome…) But I have watched it and it’s sequels many times over the years – it ranks up there as one of my favorite movies ever.
Except for the last entry in the series – Rocky V. At the time it was obviously meant to be the last one, taking Rocky back to his roots, etc. But it just felt far too contrived; it tried too hard to be contemporary with the hippin’ and the hoppin’ and the bippin’ and the boppin’. Not to mention Sage Stallone’s horrible acting. It was a disappointing end to an otherwise great franchise.
After 15 years and a truckload of rumors and speculation, and we have Rocky Balboa – finally, a fitting finale for Rocky. It is everything Rocky V needed to be, but wasn’t. It definitely has a greatest hits feel to it, and there’s one too many trademark inspirational speeches, but overall it’s a much more authentic return to the first couple of movies. It doesn’t try too hard to be relevant or cutting edge, there’s no Survivor cheese rock or hip-hop remixes of the Rocky theme (Bill Conti for the win), and most of all the movie ends the series as it started. It’s not a matter of winning a championship or obtaining glory – it’s about the internal struggle with oneself and “going the distance” despite everyone else saying you can’t – the thing that made Rocky such a compelling character 30 years ago.
But do we really need another sequel to Rambo?