It was an off-day in the hockey playoffs so we had time to watch a movie. Matt wanted to watch Creed and I said, sure, why not? You know about Creed, the sort of sequel, or some kind of sequential installment in the Rocky saga, that features a young boxer, Adonis, the son of Apollo Creed, who is trained by Rocky Balboa for a championship fight of his life. Sound familiar?
Yeah, here is the thing. I could not remember a thing about the Rocky movies. Any of them. Not even the first one. None of it resonated with me. The original Rocky came out in 1976. It was the year of the bicentennial, Jimmy Carter was running for President and I was 16 years old, going to high school and generally hanging out with my friends, drinking beer.
I am sure I saw Rocky. Who didn’t? I remembered that it was about boxing, that was easy. And I remembered the song. But for the life of me I really could not remember the details of the story. This fascinated me. Here was a movie that was so inspirational to so many. It won the Best Picture at the Academy Awards. Yet, it had long since departed my brain probably because I had not seen it for 40 years. I also assume I saw Rocky II, but again, zero recollection of that movie either. I highly doubt I went in for the other movies but who is to say. Because if the first movie did not even make it into a long forgotten corner of my brain there is no way that I have some pieces of the other movies hanging around.
After watching Creed, Matt thought he might have to go on a Rocky binge. I was not about to do that. But I did agree to watch the first Rocky again. I had to know if it was still a good movie. Would I even remember it?
Nope. The movie was completely unfamiliar to me. Except for one scene. I remembered him drinking the eggs. Now that is a memory that sticks in the neurons. But other than sloshing egg yolks, the movie was like new. And boy, was it annoying.
In Creed, Sylvester Stallone’s words were so garbled, there were times I needed sub-titles. He talked like he had rocks in his mouth, and not in a good way. But he was not exactly comprehensible in the original Rocky either. What goes on in the six inches between his ears? Anything? It must, because he sure has been able to sell himself as a star. But one does have to wonder, given his mannerisms, whether he is cooking with gas.
The movie dialogue was okay but not all that scintillating and the characters seemed very stereo-typed and formulaic. Rocky was not really an interesting guy. He was a dope more than anything. But yet, we were persuaded to believe that this dope could experience this dream. We were persuaded to believe in him because we like the idea that he believes in himself. That is the American Dream. If we believe in ourselves enough, we can succeed. Rocky’s belief was unwavering.
Looking back, it all seems absurd. Is it because times have change so much? When I see movies or shows from the pre-9/11, pre-Great Recession world so many of them seem so simple and innocent. The world was not a scary place. There were no terrorists, or us and them. There was no fear that the economy was slipping away and that the American Dream is a myth. In those days, the American Dream still existed. We all still believed life could be good and free and that redemption is at the end of the road. I am not sure many of us believe that now. Or at least we have our doubts. Life has become ambiguous and tentative.
But not for Rocky. Rocky has nothing but he believes in himself just the same. Rocky was living in a roach-infested dump and seemed to be a high school drop out. Rocky did not have good genes. He was a mutt. Then good fortune shines. He is a lucky guy that Apollo Creed picks out of a book of fighters and Rocky is on his way. He does not win the fight, but he proves his belief in himself is not misplaced. Woohoo. It is the absolute embodiment of the American Dream and we all accepted it was possible. Today, well, I am not so sure we are willing to accept that, if we just try, success will be there for us.
Creed tried to evoke that idea but honestly, I was not buying it. This was not an American Dream movie. Creed’s son Adonis was raised by his rich step-mother and he had a proper education. As Creed’s son, Adonis had good genes. Creed was about a son living in the shadow of his father and trying to make it on his own. Unlike Rocky, he does not believe in himself. He fears that he will be compared to his father and he wants to make it on his own. But he also fears he will never live up to his father’s glory. Creed was not about getting a shot at success but at coming to believe you are entitled to it. It may be a drama that some young adults experience, but that is not an American Dream story.
Was the story line written in this way because we are so jaded that we can not even accept the American dream as a movie premise? Or are we all navel gazers now, wanting to find a way to believe in ourselves but we can’t. So we want to see an inspirational story where someone comes to believe in themselves, overcoming their own mental impediments.
In the end, I did not find Creed inspirational. Entertaining, but not inspirational. Neither was Rocky but I think that is because the willingness to believe those kinds of tales has long since left me.