Supporting Actor was a competitive race, and ultimately the prize went to theater vet Mark Rylance for “Bridge of Spies.” He is a mighty fine choice, but there was one other nominee who would have been just a little bit stronger.
This aspect is basically the premise of “Creed” in terms of both story and casting. Rocky Balboa believes that he should be out of the game, but Adonis Creed insists on his guidance, and he comes through, in terms of boxing, life, and love. Similarly, Sylvester Stallone may not have a reputation as one of the greatest living actors, but he does have the experience that a new generation of entertainers can learn from.
2. A Sense of History
Once upon a time, “Rocky” was a movie that won Best Picture. But as sequel after sequel arrived, the series became decreasingly acclaimed and increasingly ridiculous (remember when Paulie had a robot servant?). Conventional wisdom might suggest that wiping the slate clean would be the only way to revive this franchise. “Creed” does that a little, by focusing on a new lead character. But it does not forget its history, no matter how over-the-top. There have been a lot of odd moments in Rocky’s relationships with his family, friends, and rivals-turned-friends, and Stallone makes sure to show just how affected he has been by all of them.
3. A Satisfying Character Arc
The bare bones of Rocky’s arc in “Creed” are quite formulaic: reclusive former champ is called upon to groom the new kid. He gets a subplot to add to that mix, but even that story (a fight with cancer) is quite standard. But formulas become formulas for a reason: they are so satisfying when done right. By subsuming himself into his signature character like never before, Stallone ensures that that formula resonates.
4. He Says a Lot with a Little
A major part of Rocky Balboa’s charm is his earnest conversational style, which frequently works as everyday poetry and profundity. He does not burst into any rapturous monologues, but what he does say is enough to motivate the people around him. When asked about what his relationship to Adonis means to him, he says, “I’m a lucky guy, what can I say.” Stallone delivers the line with a subtle sense of amazement that conveys the power of human connection in just a few words.
5. The Lifetime Achievement of It All
Oscar wins are sometimes declared de facto Lifetime Achievement Awards when actors win for the first time late in their careers, and the perception is that they are effectively being honored for all the times they lost as well. Ideally, voting would be determined only by the specific movies nominated in any given year. But if legacy must factor into deliberations, then there was hardly a better option to do that with than Stallone, packaging decades of Rocky Balboa into a hugely satisfying reboot.