Sylvester Stallone once again returns as Rocky, though for the first time Rocky is in the position of the supporting role of the film. Now Rocky has been through a lot as a character, he started out so meekly, became champ through two difficult fights, had to beat Mr. T, bought a robot, fought a giant Russian, climbed a mountain to defeat said Russian, was in a horrible sequel, then was in a much better sequel that seemed made just to erase that terrible film out of memory. Rocky's never gone completely stale as a character, now I'll admit part of that is that he is a bit fluid or he has been over the films in terms of his IQ, as well as his physical conditions. Of course one more time could be one too many, it was for five though six fixed that. How about seventh? Well on the point this is very much the continuation of the down to earth guy found in the original and Rocky Balboa. Stallone is as comfortable as he's ever been in the role as Adonis first comes to see him at his restaurant with Rocky being unaware of who he is. Stallone though does not merely just come in and play Rocky from scratch again. Stallone instead represents a Rocky who's gone through all the films (perhaps a more down to earth rocky IV), and more.
Now what made Rocky one of the one iconic of all movie characters can once again be found in Stallone here. That very certain charm that Rocky has is once again evident. Now I have to be honest I've in the past not really given proper credit to this in some of Stallone's other turns as Rocky. Rocky's charm is not that of Stallone's per se, Rocky is not like any other characters Stallone has played or actually like Stallone himself. There is something that Stallone does so well in portraying Rocky's certain simple sensibilities and the fact that Rocky is not exactly the smartest guy who ever lived. Stallone does something special with this, which is evident in Creed, particularly in one exchange about the location of a "cloud", as it was in the original Rocky, which is he allows you to laugh about these certain shortcomings Rocky has without it seeming as though your laughing at him. A reason for that is Stallone who always plays Rocky as a man who's aware of these shortcomings, and is able to embrace them himself. Stallone makes Rocky a man truly without any pretensions over himself, and honestly is barely able to believe the position he has been able to attain for himself. Stallone is naturally endearing here, and once again makes Rocky just a hero you want to see succeed.
Rocky this time of course has no boxing match to fight himself, and instead it is about Rocky taking Adonis under his wing as a trainer. Rocky technically is now fitting into the role once fulfilled by Mickey (Burgess Meredith) in the original film, but this is in no way Stallone's attempt to copy that type of mentor role. Instead there is something very different in the methods of Rocky as he tries to help Adonis best he can. Rocky is and has always been a fairly easy going guy and Stallone correctly keeps this as the central idea as he earnestly though slowly shows Adonis the ropes on how to prepare for a big fight. What's so special that comes from these scenes is the development of the relationship between Adonis and Rocky. Technically speaking the two of them just being tossed together shouldn't necessarily work, but oh does it thanks to Jordan and Stallone's performances. The two develop fantastic chemistry together and they make it instantly convincing that they two so naturally become friends, when in reality the film makes it really a given. Stallone and Jordan allow it to be this way though as they work so well in tandem with one another, with Stallone's more unassuming approach with Rocky making such a great foil against Jordan's more eager and aggressive approach with Adonis.
Now again coming back to this being a reprise of Rocky, Stallone does not waste the fact that he had six other films with the character. Stallone in Rocky's early conversations with Adonis about the past in regards to Apollo, as well as the scenes where he mentions in passing his wife or his best friend Paulie, is incredibly affecting. Stallone carries this quiet melancholy in Rocky suggesting the memories of his past losses are just a part of him that he has to live with now, but within that unconditional optimism that just seems to be just a part of his soul. Stallone does not depict Rocky as really dwelling upon them as he goes about his day, but rather it as just a part of life now. Eventually yet another tragedy befalls Rocky in the story when he is diagnosed with Non-Hodgkin lymphoma. Stallone makes the moment absolutely heartbreaking through his reaction. What's so devastating about it is Stallone does not portray Rocky as someone breaking down from the news, but instead Stallone plays it as though he knew something like this was coming sooner rather than later, as though it is just the one last thing for him to lose. It is in this scene and the succeeding ones where Stallone depicts Rocky without that glint of hope in his eyes as it finally seems that Rocky would rather just give up on this fight.
Eventually this leads to Adonis confronting Rocky on Rocky just giving up. Stallone is outstanding in the scene as Rocky finally allows the extent of his sadness out, having kept inside for so long. It's such a powerful moment due Stallone's work as Rocky reveals how much he misses the past, not due to his stature as a boxer, but in his inability to ever see his wife again. What's so special is Stallone echos the romance that was so pivotal in the past films, as Rocky speaks, as Stallone realizes those glimmers of joy within this moment of despair. It's such a moving moment as Stallone finds just how much what was left behind meant to Rocky, but actually even how much Rocky means to us. Rocky's turn around though, motivated in large part by Adonis, isn't given a precise moment. Instead again Stallone is amazing in the way he just gradually brings back that spark in Rocky, that has always been a pivotal part of his character, as he guides and encourages Adonis to live his own dream. The warmth in this Stallone finds in a genuinely inspiring fashion, as he finds what helping Adonis really does mean to Rocky by the end. The film ends with what is often one of the most emotional moments in any Rocky film, that being when he runs up the steps of the Philadelphia Art Museum. This time though Rocky does not run but walks, with some help by Adonis, to get to the top at least one last time. Even the physical trouble that Stallone moves as a man of old age, shows all that's Rocky been through, and even though its not a triumphant rush to the top, it still feels like a victory. The contentment in Rocky's eyes is something that Stallone has justified through all of Rocky's terrible hardships. I have heard the blanket statement that reprising a role is easier. Although it's true the actor has been there before, its even harder to bring something new, and this is the seventh time. Stallone's great performance does this as he not only takes Rocky to a new place in his life with his work as Creed, which works all within the context of Creed alone but also acts as a statement on the whole life of Rocky Balboa throughout the entire series.