Not long now until the much anticipated release of Creed, the latest instalment of The Rocky franchise 40 long years since the original punched its way into the hearts of a nation.
10 years since the release of Balboa, in what was the 6th film in the legendary series, Creed looks like a spectacular return to form. The 7th film is based around the life of Adonis Johnson Creed who is of course the son of Rocky's great former opponent and friend Apollo Creed.
The trailers for the film look amazing and the minute Stallone appears as Balboa, the hairs on the back of your neck stand up. For me no other film series in history has been as consistently good and kept updating the characters for over 40 years but still managing to keep them loyal to the original film. There has been a lot of changes since 1976-a lot of changes in the world, a lot of changes in America, a lot of changes in boxing and a lot of changes in Rocky's home-town of Philadelphia. Some of the much loved characters from over the years such as Adrian, Apollo, Mickey, Paulie and even Rocky's son Rocky Jnr are now gone. Balboa's big punching-machine like enemies of Clubber Lang and Ivan Drago have been long since retired. But the one constant of the Italian Stallion still remains and every Rocky fan will be dying to see how life is treating the former world champion, even if we accept he's too old even for Hollywood standards to be pulling on the gloves and star spangled shorts again.
Seeing Rocky take up a management role no doubt full of passionate speeches and memorable training scenes is the next best thing. Just seeing one of the best loved characters in film history back on screen is enough for most of us and the fact it looks like a pretty good film is a welcome bonus.
How many actors in history have managed to play the same character for 40 years on the big screen and still keep him relevant for a whole new audience of cinema goers? Doubters will scoff at the suggestion of Sly being considered a truly great actor of a generation and laugh if you tell them that Rocky Balboa and John Rambo are two of the most complicated, troubled, rough, tough and genuinely amazing and loveable characters in the modern history of Hollywood. The fact Stallone can still be convincing in these action packed roles not that far off his 70's says a lot about him as a professional. Especially considering he wrote both the original films while struggling to make it as an actor. His story is actually one of the most amazing you will ever read and in a way is on parallel to the life and career of Rocky Balboa in the way he managed to prove the doubters wrong by rising to the top. Ok you can forget about nearly every other film he has starred in but the Rocky and Rambo series' and of course a stint as Goalkeeper alongside Pele and Ossie Airdelies in Escape to Victory proves his credentials.
Apollo's son will be managed by Rocky in the film and will be up against scouse boxer Tony Bellew. Ok, anybody who has seen Tony box will tell you he certainly isn't as formidable as an opponent as any of Rocky's advisarys such as Apollo himself in the first two, Mr. T as Clubber Lang in Rocky 3 or the unforgettable Russian Ivan Drago in Rocky 4. But some will say he has always been better at talking a good fight and acting like he can box so maybe this is the role he has been waiting for.
Even if it Creed turns out to be rubbish it will still be worth the admission fee for any Rocky fan. If it turns out to be the worst and last of the seven film series we will probably watch it again. The worst one so far has been universally decided as being the Tommy Gunn farce of Rocky 5, even if it hits those highs it will be the best film of the year. If it is as good and 2006's Balboa we will be in for in a treat but if it is even half as good as any of the first 4 then you are talking Oscar material. You can talk all day long about Robert De Niro, Al Pacino or Denzel Washington and Stallone may not have their talent but the job he does particularly as Rocky Balboa is unique, certainly in modern cinema. How much the character has grown with the actor is a joy to behold.
After the original Rocky Stallone's name was cemented at the top of any Hollywood A-list the recent instalment of a timeless classic just reinforces that for a new generation.