With the release of Creed this holiday season, one podcast I listen to on a regular basis, Fatman on Batman with Kevin Smith and Marc Bernardin, has plugged and lauded the film on a regular basis. The two hosts have discussed the merits of the film as a stand-alone picture, but also how well it fits into the Rocky canon. I’ve always enjoyed the Rocky movies, usually opting for films 3-5 over 1 & 2 for some strange reason.
In retrospect, Rocky III makes sense; it’s a natural sequel to the second film, as audiences need to see Balboa fail and lose what’s most important to him (his title and his manager) so that he can fulfill the underdog role again. Mr. T as Clubber Lang makes for an excellent antagonist and the bond that develops between Apollo Creed and Rocky adds new depth to each character–adversaries become friends with the former champ, mentoring and training the fallen champ.
Subsequent sequels lose focus a bit, veering off-course into ridiculous plots, in which Rocky ends the cold war by beating the shit of the steroid-ridden, Ivan Drago.
I’ve recently gone back and rewatched Rocky, the first film that started it all. I wanted to give it another chance, to try and redeem myself for snubbing the capstone film in the series. I really don’t know what I was thinking before, why I was so enthralled with the spectacle of the sequels, because Rocky provides something meaningful. It’s not just that he’s the underdog, but he represents what happens when we feel we’ve missed our window to do something great. He finds redemption in his shot at the title, but more importantly in the love of Adrian. Both are damaged people, existing the best they can in a world that in a way has passed them by or forgotten them. At one point in the film, Adrian’s brother, Paulie, asks Rocky why he likes his sister, because he doesn’t see it. Rocky replies, “She fills gaps […] I have gaps. She has gaps. We both fill gaps.” This line never stuck out to me before, but it’s one of the best lines I’ve ever heard. It’s such an honest way of looking at relationships, and it made me think about my own marriage.
It’s easy to tell someone you love them, but not always easy to put into words why. Rocky sums it up perfectly. We all enter into relationships with holes, or gaps, inconsistencies and incongruities, and as we grow together, the gaps are filled and we can grow and become better.
Give the ones you love a squeeze and a kiss.