Readers, I’ll let you in on a secret. Hell, there’s only like three of you reading, so it will still remain a secret after I’ve told you.
The Bookshelf Battler is a fan of the Rocky movies.
In particular – Rocky 1-IV, and VI. I like to pretend V doesn’t exist. If you’re not an Ancient Roman, I’m trying to tell you I like Rocky 1-4, not 5, and 6.
Six had the potential to be very bad. It was released in 2006 as Rocky Balboa and even then, Stallone was past his prime.
But to his credit, Stallone didn’t do what many aging stars have done – demand that the audience turn a blind eye and see him like he’s some kind of young superstar, like he was in his glory days. He wrote his age into the plot. In the film, Rocky is old, down on his luck. Adrian’s deceased, he’s lost all his money, his grown-up son hates him, and he runs a lame restaurant that people go to just to listen to him stop by their tables to tell a few boxing stories.
After a computer simulation pits him against a popular fighter, a match is arranged for them to go head to head and the measure of Rocky’s victory is laid out – to be considered a success, he doesn’t have to win. He isn’t expected to win at all. He just has to survive for awhile in the ring. Essentially, by fighting the fight and not dropping dead, Rocky wins.
The movie brings the franchise around full circle, to the initial movie where Rocky did not win the fight against Apollo Creed, but actually found success just by going toe to toe with him in the ring when everyone thought the nobody would pretty much be murdered instantly by the famous fighter.
In my opinion, when Rocky gave his infamous speech to his son, he defined the entire series:
Rocky Balboa’s Inspirational Speech to His Son
“You ain’t gonna believe this, but you used to fit right here. (Shows palm of his hand). I’d hold you up to say to your mother, ‘This kid’s gonna be the best kid in the world. This kid’s gonna be somebody better than anybody I ever knew.’ And you grew up good and wonderful. It was great just watchin’ you, every day was like a privilege. Then the time come for you to be your own man and take on the world, and you did. But somewhere along the line, you changed. You stopped being you. You let people stick a finger in your face and tell you you’re no good. And when things got hard, you started lookin’ for something to blame, like a big shadow.
Let me tell you something you already know.The world ain’t all sunshine and rainbows. It’s a very mean and nasty place, and I don’t care how tough you are, it will beat you to your knees and keep you there permanently if you let it. You, me, or nobody is gonna hit as hard as life. But it ain’t about how hard you hit, it’s about how hard you can get hit and keep moving forward. How much you can take and keep moving forward. That’s how winning is done!
Now if you know what you’re worth, then go out and get what you’re worth! But you gotta be willing to take the hits. And not pointing fingers saying you ain’t where you wanna be because of him, or her, or anybody! Cowards do that and that ain’t you! You’re better than that!
I’m always gonna love you no matter what. No matter what happens. You’re my son and you’re my blood. You’re the best thing in my life. But until you start believing in yourself, you ain’t gonna have a life.”
– Sylvester Stallone in Rocky Balboa (2006)
Let me just repeat one part:
“You, me, or nobody is gonna hit as hard as life. But it ain’t about how hard you hit, it’s about how hard you can get hit and keep moving forward. How much you can take and keep moving forward. That’s how winning is done!”
In other words, getting knocked down is inevitable. It is going to happen. You can’t feel bad that it happened. You can’t say, “Woe is me, if only I was like one of those lucky people who didn’t get knocked down.” This is just what life does. You didn’t fail when you got knocked down. You failed when you stayed down.
I remember sitting in the movie theater, listening to an old Sylvester Stallone say those words, and they made me feel inspired to take on the world. And, sadly, there have been many times when I’ve ignored Rocky’s advice. Life would toss a right-hook to my face, send me straight to floor, and I’d say, “Hmmm, what a nice, comfy floor! I think I’ll stay here for awhile!”
But aside from that, at my lowest moments, I would not turn to a classic poet, or a Rhodes Scholar, or a Nobel Laureate. I’d click on YouTube and find the clip of Rocky giving his son that speech. And it would leave me feeling inspired.
The success of Rocky Balboa allowed Stallone to bring back Rambo. More or less, he followed the same formula. Don’t portray Rambo as an old man pretending to be a youthful tough guy. Present him as an old man, hiding out in the jungle, trying to get away from his past. I can’t say it inspired me to the extent Rocky Balboa did, but it was an acceptable film.
Then came The Expendables. Again, the same formula – old timers playing old timers. People who criticized it didn’t get the point. It wasn’t made for them. It was made for 1980’s era action flick fanboys like yours truly. High action. Low plot. That’s how we liked our action when Reagan was in the White House.
But I have to say, the recent Expendables 3 didn’t do much for me, and I fear another Rambo installment might be pushing it when it comes to cashing in on the audience’s good will. Stallone can only go to the, “OK I’ll admit I’m old” well so many times. Every time he trots out one of our favorite characters, he runs the risk of overextending beloved franchises. The idea that Rocky is going to star in Creed, a film about Apollo Creed’s son as a boxer, worries me as well.
Oh well. At least I’ll have Rocky 6 and Rambo 2.