Wednesday, December 13, 2006

Between a Rock and a Hard Place

I wish I could be excited about this. Seriously. I've seen the trailer for Rocky Balboa several times, one of which was in a packed theater before a screening of Casino Royale. It elicited laughter once people realized what it actually was. It starts off innocently enough with the Bill Conti fanfare that should bring chills to anyone who grew up with the original films (well, the first four). Then comes the lame ESPN commenatary, where the reporter speculates whether Rocky Balboa could go toe-to-toe with reigning champ Mason "The Line" Dixon (awful name by the way) based on a computer simulation. Really though? You're bringing this franchise out of retirement and the premise is based on a "what if" scenario from a video game? This is the kind of schlock that turns sequels into self-parody.

I love Rocky. The original film is one of the best underdog stories on celluloid. Sylvester Stallone, who wrote the film, created an iconic character that quickly became the embodiment of the American dream for a lot of people. How many people see the steps in front of the Philadelphia Museum of Art without thinking of the training montage from the first film? Tourists in Philly flock daily to those steps to re-enact the scene for themselves. You see, Rocky is more than just a movie series. It's imprinted into the American consciousness.

I respect Stallone for trying to resurrect this story and give it the proper send-off it deserves, since Rocky V didn't exactly leave a very good taste in anyone's mouth. But isn't it a little too late? Do people truly want to see their aging hero propped up on screen and placed in a wholly unrealistic situation that would never EVER happen in real life? Are we that desperate?

It's going to be difficult to separate the character of Rocky from Stallone in this installment. They both seem to be grasping at former glory while the world asks: Why? Did I mention he's also developing a fourth Rambo film?

I truly hope that I'm wrong, and this film turns out to be a fitting end to the series, and that the Italian Stallion is put out to pasture gracefully. As far as box office numbers, to paraphrase Ivan Drago: If it dies, it dies.

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