A lot of the younger kids this year are excited for the finale for “The Hunger Games”…but “The Hunger Games” has the unfortunate disadvantage of being only of this generation. Following less than one week after it’s premiere will come, what I call, “The Season of Seven”. During this time, not one, but TWO seventh installments in two separate long-running franchises will stop by to, hopefully, charm the pants off every generation since the mid-1970’s when both franchises first began.
The first is “Creed”, the spin-off/continuation of the “Rocky” saga, that began with “Rocky” in 1976 and was followed by five sequels before “Creed”. This film has the unique fashion of continuing the story of Rocky Balboa (Played by Sylvester Stallone), the underdog boxer who fought time and time again for both the championship and his pride, while beginning the story of Adonis Creed (Played by Michael B. Jordan), son to the late Apollo Creed (Played by Carl Weathers) who was Rocky’s former rival in the ring and then friend before dying in “Rocky IV” at the hands of Rocky’s soon-to-be opponent of the film Ivan Drago (Played by Dolph Lundgren). Stallone only returns to produce and co-star as Rocky. This is the first film in the series he has not written or directed, both duties being taken over by Ryan Coogler, who directed Jordan in his directorial debut “Fruitvale Station” in 2013. Stallone was talked into returning after hearing Coogler’s pitch and early reception has even said that Stallone gives a standout performance, possibly worthy of an Oscar nomination it seems.
“Star Wars: Episode VII – The Force Awakens”, the sequel film to the “Star Wars” saga that began in 1977 with “Episode IV – A New Hope”, followed by two sequels through the early 1980’s to complete the original trilogy and then a prequel trilogy that took place in the first half of the 2000’s. This time around, “The Force Awakens” returns to continue the original story that ended with “Episode VI – Return of the Jedi”. Similar to “Creed”, we see the original heroes of the story coming back in more supporting roles to guide the new, younger cast. While Harrison Ford has been promoted in the trailers in his return as Han Solo, Carrie Fisher and Mark Hamill also return as twin siblings Leia and Luke Skywalker. In the new leads we find Rey (Played by Daisy Ridley), a young desert scavenger who reflects Luke’s origin in “A New Hope” along with John Boyega as Finn, a former stormtrooper who works to help the good guys instead. Along with Oscar Isaac as X-Wing fighter pilot Poe Dameron and Adam Driver as new villain Kylo Ren, the film seems to be working to use the original cast as mentors and overseers to the new group of characters. While the jury is still out on the film as early reception are at least a couple weeks away (The film doesn’t premiere in theaters till December 18th), the film is being praised for returning to the practical sets and effects that gave the original trilogy the look that made it famous as opposed to the over-amount of CGI that many felt crippled the prequel trilogy. Also, this new film seems to be trying to emulate the more action adventure nature of the original trilogy as opposed to the political context of the prequel trilogy. All signs point to, if anything, a more traditional action adventure that will bring classic fans out to the theaters.
Both series have one thing in common…they both epitomize their respective genres. “Star Wars” is considered one of the greatest films ever made, both revolutionary and storywise adored. “Rocky” has been, on more than one occasion, considered an excellent representation of the boxing industry as well as, by many, considered the greatest underdog story of all time. They have survived history, remakes, and franchise weariness. Whereas most series begin to slow down at this rate (Or maybe even a couple installments earlier), “Star Wars” and “Rocky” have continued to produce entertaining installments that surpass the ages. Go anywhere and everyone knows who Luke Skywalker is or Rocky Balboa. These two films remain hyped and popular because, unlike “The Hunger Games”, they own the hearts of generations of fans that spans decades. It’s been 10 years since “Episode III – Revenge of the Sith” and yet pre-ticket sales for “The Force Awakens” were so in demand that two ticket websites crashed. It’s expected to make $500 million…in it’s opening weekend.
While “Creed” isn’t expected to do those kind of numbers, it’s still considered a must-see for November (It’s release date is November 25th). Why do these two franchises keep on going? Why do they keep selling? Is it the action, the themes, or maybe just the characters are so easy to root for. In any case, there is something to be said about the movies that stick with us. The heroes, the one-liners, the stories, the visuals. The moment Rocky yelled in “Rocky II” after winning the championship “You Adrian, I did it!” or when Obi-Wan Kenobi first said the words “Use the force Luke.” Perhaps it’s the simplest answer, an answer in the question? Why do these two legacies continue? Because both series are about legacies. Whether it’s the Skywalker Legacy that filled the first two trilogies of “Star Wars” or Rocky’s personal legacy made through the obstacles he overcomes or the people he inspires with his determination.
I suppose, for me, the reason these two succeed is they inspire. Films are meant to inspire as much as tell a story. And perhaps, if anything, these two franchises still existing shows people still believe in the hero. Not the anti-hero or the person who does all the deeds in the film but you still kind of dislike by the end of it. The classic hero who fights for the little guys and protects the innocent. Certainly explain why superhero movies are dominating box offices lately. Without a doubt, these two franchises epitomize the fan culture. The franchises that stick with people long after they go. “Star Wars” represents imagination and wonder, “Rocky” represents inspiration and giving it all you got. Perhaps the cynics of the world are truly no match for the hero’s legacy. Sounds good to me.