Stallone is penning a new outing for the Boxing Balboa. SUPERMAN is also coming back, though whether Cavill plays him is anyone’s guess..
Are the ITALIAN STALLION and the MAN OF STEEL ‘Gonna Fly Now’?
Ok so I used a click baity headline. Mea Culpa. But in context? It’s true. We are unlikely to see Stallone’s Rocky in a fight again. And, any retrospective I have done on the Superman property on film inevitably comes to the conclusion that there are problems in crafting a truly successful and beloved iteration in today’s world. And yet: BOTH brands are bouncing back..Here’s what we Know and Whether it is indeed ‘good’ news..
So, in a recent VARIETY piece, Sylvester ‘Sly’ Stallone (fascinating reading, btw) reflected on his life, career and the roles of franchise favourites such as Rambo and Rocky. It’s a candid piece and one cannot help feel a note of sadness about how cruel Hollywood can be. Ok, Stallone has done just fine, but one can only imagine how awful it was for him to be dropped from CAA (agents) in the mid 90s because he seemed to no longer be delivering hits. Had they forgotten 1993’s CLIFFHANGER (an all time classic: I prefer it to the same summer’s JURASSIC PARK, yes, really)? They also seemed to have neglected THEIR duty to INTRODUCE actors to the right properties? If an artist keeps flopping, then an agent is just as culpable in the choice and consequence, one could argue. Well I do, anyway. D-TOX and DAYLIGHT shoulda been CLIFFHANGER 2 and RAMBO 4 or something. Their bad. But I digress..
..In discussing ROCKY, Sly notes that he never truly won an equity stake in the franchise that he helped create, maintain and sustain, right into its spin offs with the new CREED movies. People forget that he wrote the original, first boxing hero classic and directed several sequels. But he has done solid business from the royalties; surely he /his lawyers can buy a stake? And in any event, it is still to Sly that studios and producers / writers defer when trying to renew the Rocky property in any guise. Hence, without the Stallone seal of approval, there would have been neither CREED nor CREED II.
The CREED brand achieved the impossible: existing as its own thing whilst giving new life to Rocky; casting him as trainer/mentor without relegating him, either. It felt ‘right’. It worked. So the rational, natural expectation would be for a CREED III to continue that trend. We need not kill off the Rocky character onscreen, despite that being arguably foreshadowed and making some thematic sense. I would have liked to see Adonis (Michael B Jordan) and Drago Jr (Florian Munteanu) team up to take on a raw, visceral challenger, perhaps with a political tinge (a white supremacist?) and Rocky help where he could but also form a new arc, perhaps joining the Priesthood? Maybe throw in a UFC set piece as a filler.
Now, we may still get a CREED III. Jordan is a big star and the brand has its own drive, especially given Tessa Thompson would surely also be attached. And yet? Nothing concrete in the news yet. Nothing in production. By contrast, a full on Rocky sequel IS being written. By Stallone, for Stallone. Rocky will apparently be training an immigrant boxer, thereby saving them from an underground fight scene and bringing them to mainstream glories.
Whilst that COULD work? It makes far more commercial sense to consolidate that into the CREED franchise, surely? I’m not saying that Stallone cannot work as an actor anymore or that the Rocky character has nowhere to go. But their new lease of life is to a large extent a product of the integration to a new brand.
Rocky on his own as a trainer does not quite cut it, as ROCKY V showed. RAMBO can go on forever, because he is a killer and as such, has no end to his viability: the man can go to war from a rocking chair. But Rocky works only in so far as he is either in the ring or helping someone we care about get there in a proactive fashion. Contrary to popular belief, the Rocky of the CREED movies is not simply a Burgess Meredith as Mickey situation. Stallone is a visceral, physical, active trainer and the Creed journey is thereby as much his as it is Adonis’.
THAT is the key to the survival of the property: still vital,. no baton passing, no ‘one last..’ self indulgent depression; no actual final scene but a continuous fight, albeit adjusted, subtly. See also: the ongoing appeal of Harrison Ford and the possibility of more Indiana Jones, even as he pushed 80!
Sly: by all means play Rocky again and even write /direct! AND address your admirable, topical concern with immigration (as the latest RAMBO flick will also do). But do not neglect the equal power of CREED in the ongoing evolution of Balboa’s adventures onscreen.
ANOTHER role that Stallone could have played? SUPERMAN! It almost happened, before the late Christopher Reeve got the part. Connection? Michael B Jordan (CREED) is mooted by many as the next name to wear that last son of Krypton’s cape and boots. Jordan as SUPERMAN? Maybe. I get it. Except he is in hot demand and on the wish list for casting every major role in Hollywood right now. His Thomas Crown remake is imminent at MGM (I do hope Pierce Brosnan has a stake /cameo in that?).
Does Jordan NEED Superman? No. Could he be GREAT? Sure! Except..SUPERMAN does not ‘need’ Jordan, either!
..Officially, the role is STILL taken. Henry Cavill has NOT been fired and his contract remains intact, officially.
Henry is the Superman of record! And he’s BRILLIANT! And he WANTS to return as the Man of Steel, on proviso that the story is right. Now, Warners/DC might well be of a mind to re-brand, reboot and therefore, recast. Especially logical, linear move if the rumours that JJ ABRAMS is taking over as the new Godfather/DC on film show-runner are to be believed.
Fine. Makes sense. I understand. But Cavill was NEVER a problem with the Superman iterations they pursued. He is to my mind the BEST onscreen personification of the character.
And MAN OF STEEL (2013) is my favourite Superman film. Seriously: it’s a kick arse action film whilst honouring the mythological morality motifs that make the character tick. Did they go too far? Maybe. Was it marred by post 9/11 parallels in the destruction of Metropolis? Sure, I understand that.
But if you found a way to fuse THAT level of action, with Cavill still your Superman, to a kind of light-hearted optimism (glimpsed at the end of JUSTICE LEAGUE, for all its faults..THAT parting scene ‘up up in the sky’..), via self contained day in the life of Kent/Superman plot but with momentary character substance?
Well THEN you have a SUPERMAN movie! Countless video essays have shown us: Superman CAN fly, on film, again.
But you NEED a coherent tonal vision that neither apologises for nor subverts the iconography, whilst moving things forward in visual style and idiom. Visual risk, too. Tim Burton’s idea for his aborted Superman film was the lighter than light aesthetic as contrast to the dark Gothic qualities of his Batman /Gotham City but thereby hiding even greater dangers for the Man of Steel to fight. Matthew Vaughn and Chris McQuarrie have all pitched a version, too, apparently. Shame nothing has happened on those counts as yet.
In short? Superman CAN fly again and will, onscreen, soon. And Rocky CAN still punch. And will, onscreen, soon!
But it has to be the RIGHT vehicle, for both properties and the key players concerned. Don’t throw babies out with franchise bath waters and do not be scared to confront the passage of time, whilst honouring the spirit of the stories that made these movies magical in the first place. These are scared symbols of Americana; cultural icons in the true sense and as powerful as any ancient myth or legend. They must be nurtured, cherished, reinvented yes but always honoured at the core as stories of hope and triumph over adversity, a relentless optimism no matter what!
Compromise: maybe Sly could direct a Superman film!
Needless to say: more news on these developments when we get them. And best of luck to all involved in whichever iteration (s) find a way to the screen..