Over 40 years we have witnessed the evolution of the character of Rocky Balboa parallel to the changes that have taken place in American society. The boxer became the symbol of the American dream thanks to his humility and determination. We have seen him fall and rise, and also grow old through the complicated face of Sylvester Stallone. Now, almost 70 years old, he comes back to life and gives the actor the chance to get his first Oscar.
‘Rocky’ (1976) STAGE OF YOUTH
Directed by John G. Avildsen and with a script by Stallone himself, ‘Rocky’ introduces us to the sad streets of the suburbs of Philadelphia, almost like an urban chronicle, with industrial and port settings, to tell us a story of effort and overcoming, that of a young man of class down who fights to achieve his dreams. It’s the beginning of everything. A film that without knowing it, would mark the hallmarks and the structural bases of an entire saga. It was one of the first films to use the ‘steadycam’ and would establish iconic characters and settings to the rhythm of the epic music of Bill Conti. An undeniable classic endorsed with three Oscars.
‘Rocky II’ (1979) INTROSPECTIVE STAGE
Stallone takes over the direction and signs a more intimate film, more behind closed doors, which tries to deepen the bonds between the characters: romantic relationship with adrianthe tense bond of friendship that binds him to Pauliehis inseparable coach mickey and his archenemy in the ring, apollo creed. Rocky has managed to achieve local fame, he is the village champion, the children’s idol, but Apollo wants to prove his supremacy and will challenge him to a new fight, the definitive one between the two, which will mark their respective destinies.
‘Rocky III’ (1982) RABIOUS STAGE
The 80s burst into force to the sound of the rock anthem ‘Eye of the tiger’. Society is changing we have entered the Reagan era. The images are more compelling, full of fury, more badass, like the new opponent, Clubber Lang (Mr. T). Rocky is a boxing figure, but his time is long gone. He is defeated and the first ghosts appear. He has fear. But his old rival Apollo offers to help him and a beautiful friendship will emerge between them. Unexpectedly, the saga recovers the verve.
‘Rocky IV’ (1985) PATRIOTIC STAGE
The Cold War breaks out. And with her a human beast by the name of Ivan Drago (Dolph Lundgren) who seems indestructible and whose mission is to ridicule and defeat the Americans. It is, as Rocky says, a matter of dignity. And for revenge, because Drago’s brute force will finish off Apollo. He is the most pyrotechnic and effective of the saga. The eighties songs flood everything, the bodybuilding craze catches up with Balboa and the final fight in a ring in communist Russia, with Rocky’s final conciliation speech, turns out to be as anthological as delirious.
‘Rocky V’ (1990) BACK TO THE ORIGINS
Stallone wanted to return to his beginnings and the film acquires a melancholy tone that will no longer disappear. Rocky is broke and can’t fight anymore. Everything is changing around him and he feels defeated. He tries to focus on his family life, but his obsession with boxing leads him to train a future promise who ends up disowning him. The film had the courage to move away from the narrative schemes of its predecessors. It was misunderstood at the time, but it is perhaps the most complex and self-reflective of the entire series.
‘Rocky Balboa’ (2006) MATURITY STAGE
16 years have passed. Rocky, retired, runs a small restaurant and feels very lonely after the death of his wife. The twilight tone floods the tape, and traces of the past begin to emerge. The stylistic sobriety and Stallone’s maturity behind the camera are overwhelming, and the father-son relationship is at the center of the action. It contains a memorable ‘speech’ that synthesizes the entire message of the saga: “Neither you nor anyone else hits harder than life, but it doesn’t matter how hard they can hit you, but how you get up and keep moving forward.”
‘Creed’ (2015) SENIOR STAGE
For the first time, Stallone is not involved in the script. Ryan Coogler pays homage to the saga from his perspective as an independent author and gives it a new meaning. Rocky is now in the background. He is old and sick, and totally alone. Therefore, the relationship he establishes with the son of apollo, almost father and son, transferring all the inheritance of their knowledge, acquires such a special and emotional meaning. The old school gives way to the new. And the fighting spirit remains the same.
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The seven ages of Rocky
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