Warning: SPOILERS for Creed II are in the ring. If you haven’t seen the film yet, throw in the towel and come back once you’ve seen the movie.
Sylvester Stallone shocked the Rocky fandom yesterday, as he seems to have said goodbye to Rocky Balboa for the last time. While some are probably still skeptical about this announcement, as we’ve said goodbye to this character two previous times with him, this time feels like it’s going to stick.
Or at least, it totally should stick, as Creed II has given the legendary fighter his perfect exit strategy. Going over this latest film’s finale, as well as a very crucial third act moment, it all pretty much spells out a perfect ending for Rocky Balboa’s legacy.
We’re looking at Creed II’s finale with some depth, as well as what it means for Rocky’s legacy. So if you don’t want to find out what happens at the end of the latest film in the Rocky/Creed franchise, this is your last chance to bail. If you’re still with us, touch gloves and get ready to rumble with how Rocky Balboa has finally gotten his perfect ending.
Despite the protestations of his family, and Rocky himself, Adonis Creed agreed to a rematch to Viktor Drago. With their first fight ending in a disqualification against the son of Drago, and Adonis on a lengthy road to recovery, the prospect of a rematch was too much to pass up. Eventually though, Rocky came back at the insistence of Adonis’ adoptive mother/the wife of his late friend Apollo Creed, Mary Anne. A reunion is had and a partnership is re-forged — a partnership that delivers Adonis the win in his rematch against Viktor Drago in Russia.
As Adonis Creed basks in the appreciation of the Russian crowd that saw his victory firsthand, Rocky says something particularly poignant to him. “It’s your time.” It’s a line that’s so simple, and yet so mighty to be coming out of Rocky Balboa’s lips. Of course, it also sets up Rocky for one perfect, final scene that gives this moment more meaning.
The final moment of Rocky’s storyline in Creed II sees him going to Vancouver, showing up on a random doorstep to ring the bell. Only, it’s not a random door step. As it turns out, Rocky’s taken a trip to see his son, Rocky Jr., who he hasn’t seen since 2006’s Rocky Balboa. Answering the door is his grandson, Logan, who Rocky Sr. is seeing for the very first time. Rocky Jr. invites his father to come in, after grandfather and grandson have a cute little chat, and the two start to make amends.
It’s hard to say goodbye to a character like Rocky Balboa, especially when you take into account how big of an influence the Rocky franchise has had on the worlds of film and sports, as well as pop culture in general. Sylvester Stallone’s mythic boxer has been a fixture ever since he first took the ring in 1976, and he’s cast a long shadow ever since.
That’s great if you’re looking to keep Rocky in the title of your franchise. Alas, Creed is the name on the door these days, and the story has shifted Rocky’s character into more of a mentoring role. So while he’s still very important to the franchise, eventually he was going to have to leave anyway. Adonis needs to be the hero of his films, and having defeated Ivan Drago, he’s made Rocky’s exit a sensible achievement in two very big ways.
First, Adonis is now a fighter at such a level that he can hold his own. Two bouts in the ring with Viktor Drago punished his body tremendously, but ultimately, he prevailed. Should he continue his boxing career, he’s pretty much learned everything he can from Rocky Balboa at this point. So it feels like a good time for Rocky to put on his hat and head out to deal with his own issues.
Second, and most importantly, through Viktor’s defeat, not only has Adonis avenged his father’s death at the hand of Ivan Drago in Rocky IV, he’s helped Rocky finally get over the one fight that’s plagued his mind with decades of regret. Again, Balboa Sr. clearly has some issues he needs to get over in his life, and a pretty big one was the death of his former rival, turned friend and trainer, Apollo Creed.
Now that this big stumbling block is out of his way, there’s room for Rocky to deal with everything else in his life that needs to be squared away. He’s passed on his sage knowledge to the next generation and truly helped Adonis Creed become the fighter that he was always meant to become. Now we enter the next phase of Adonis’ life.
But for Rocky, he needs to start looking inward now by fixing his relationship with his son and starting one with his grandson. Looking through the franchise’s history, boxing’s never been a problem for Rocky Balboa. With enough training and some montage action, he could defeat pretty much any opponent. Ultimately, his bigger problems have always been in the personal realm, and that’s what this ending allows him to finally fix.
As far as character finales are concerned, Rocky Balboa has gotten probably the best result he could have ever hoped for. He’s been a heavyweight champion. He inspired peace between the US and Russia. He even beat cancer and helped a young fighter seeking a direction in life find his way. Now it’s time for Rocky Balboa to hang up his gloves, and his trainer’s hat, and start picking up the pieces at home. The fact that he’s even able to do so, in a lifetime that could have ended or disabled him physically several times over, is something that’s truly spectacular.
Creed II is in theaters now, and if you want to relive Rocky’s previous fights, Rocky through Rocky V are all available on YouTube for free streaming, with ads.