Tom Jolliffe looks at the potential of another outing for Rocky Balboa…
If there’s one thing that has rung true with Sylvester Stallone throughout his career, it’s that occasionally large pinches of salt are required when he says something ‘definitive’ about a prospective film or characters arc. Last year, and not for the first time, he suggested that Balboa was ready to bow out. Creed II delivered the goods on the spinoff series and gave Balboa a great closing moment that satisfactorily shut the book on the Italian Stallion’s illustrious movie career.
The thing is, Rocky Balboa (the sixth and last, perhaps not final) also marked a great send off too. Some 16 years after the disastrous fifth film, Stallone was given the go ahead to give Balboa a proper finish. Laden with sincerity and nostalgia the film was effective and it was successful. When Ryan Coogler decided to expand on the universe by bringing the son of Apollo Creed to life, and bring Balboa back as the mentor, little was expected. The result was emphatic though and Stallone even walked away with an Oscar nomination.
So Balboa has had several decent finishes yet audiences are still revisiting. You might say much of the recent success for Balboa is owed to Adonis Creed, but weirdly, audiences, though responding well to the films haven’t taken Adonis to their hearts in any way like they have with Rocky. Even further, in the previous film, Adonis though treated to a satisfactory arc (which should comfortably close that character off) still didn’t quite come off as engaging as Balboa, or the Dragos.
Still, here we are in 2019 and it seems that whilst Stallone is also bringing back Rambo for a final (that might not be final) outing, he’s also formulating plans for another Rocky. Another film (and indeed murmurings of a prequel TV series too). As far as the films rough premise so far, it would apparently centre on Rocky coming across a young illegal immigrant, taking him under his wing, training him and probably taking him to the world title. Yes that could prove somewhat timely and I’d have no doubts Sly would treat Balboa right, but is it going to be one swing too many for the ageing pugilist? At what point does it begin to damage the legacy? If the film turned out woeful, it might seem like that one step too many, and if Stallone didn’t learn from Rocky V, he never will. As a fan I do trust he’d make something at least half-decent and with plenty of heart.
As I said though, handfuls of salt are required. Rambo: Last Blood went through several potential ideas before settling on the border cross rescue plot-line Stallone landed on. There was even a little talk of an almost Predator-esque Rambo that would have seen John J. come up against a ‘feral beast’. Time will tell if Rocky does return, and indeed whether he takes an illegal immigrant under his wing.
You could also conceivably argue that the very fact this is being seriously talked about suggests that original and ideas are sparse within Hollywood. The reliance on franchises to keep the box office train chugging is a tad worrying, because if audiences do get tired, then what’s left? If they’re not that drawn to original concepts either then there are potential problems. Franchise wins over star-power too and as much as Stallone may feel fatherly/responsible over his iconic characters, it’s those films as franchise properties which entice punters more than Sly himself. So then you have him headline anything else without the big franchise backing, and the films are going straight to video. But this is true for Keanu Reeves, Arnold Schwarzenegger, Bruce Willis etc, etc. Audiences only seem willing to watch their respective franchises on the big screen.
Just how much demand for a return to a Rocky-headlined film there is remains to be seen. It’s of course a film that benefits from being achievable on a moderate budget. If the Creed films grossed around half a billion dollars worldwide, another Balboa outing would likely pull good numbers. Fire out $20-30 million on the film itself, get $150 million back around the world and they’ve done very well. Those aren’t huge numbers in a Marvel/Disney dominated market, but they’re good enough to warrant a green-light. Even as a life time fan of Balboa, someone looking forward to the next Rambo too (and indeed another Expendables), there’s still the point where you have to say enough is enough. I’m open to a ‘final’ Rocky outing… but final it must be.
What are your thoughts on another Rocky? Is this one too many? Let us know your thoughts in the comments below or tweet us @FlickeringMyth…
Tom Jolliffe is an award winning screenwriter and passionate cinephile. He has three features due out on DVD/VOD in 2019 and a number of shorts hitting festivals. Find more info at the best personal site you’ll ever see…https://www.instagram.com/jolliffeproductions/