Who’s in your corner?
Being a film enthusiast always comes with that one, inevitable question that I, personally, always hate answering. It comes from someone of every avenue in the business of enjoyment: the genuinely curious, the one-upper, the just-looking-for-a-good-recommendation, or the know-it-all.
It’s just a simple question, really. “What’s your favorite film?”
My answer is always the same: “Anything Sylvester Stallone is at the top of my list.”
A fan of Sly’s since childhood, I have both studied and followed Stallone’s career closely most of my life. I have poured over his film scripts during workouts or slow days in the writing department; I scoured over them in college while taking a scriptwriting class. They proudly have a high and prominent place on my bookshelf – his quotes are dashed across my Facebook page, and I have a still of Rocky Balboa on one knee in prayer as the wallpaper on my iPhone.
You can ask anyone in my immediate circle of life, and they would tell you without hesitation that Stallone is it for me. He is the beginning and end of great filmmaking in my eyes, even having started from writing on dinner napkins with no education while starving to death.
So, needless to say when the Rocky series took a turn into “Creed” in 2015, I was a bit surprised. A longtime fan, I was anticipating the continuation of Rocky’s legacy in the new film, excited to see what Sly could cook up in the modern world. However, I was shocked when the film put Balboa in the shadows and highlighted the up-and-coming spawn of Apollo Creed. Still, I gave it five solid gold stars.
Cut to Creed II, which released on Thanksgiving of this year, and holy buckets! I heard that Creed II was coming late last year, and was excited – and then when it popped up in my notifications feed on Facebook in September, I was that girl squealing and jumping up and down. A mandatory family function, we went to see Creed II on the Sunday of Thanksgiving week. Captivated, cheering, and excitedly scarfing down popcorn, I was not surprised that Creed II turned out as good as the first – I was more surprised that at the end of November, Stallone announced his retirement of Balboa, passing along the torch of Rocky’s boxing legacy to Michael B. Jordan’s character of Adonis Creed.
The film is rated PG-13, and I’d tell parents to give it a second thought before taking kids to see it. Of course, there’s a few questionable scenes between Creed and his girlfriend, and some language, but on the whole, it’s a typical Rocky film – bloody, gutsy, and violent. The message is gripping, the filmmaking is pure, and the script is solid.
The shocking take-away I noticed in this film came early, when Creed entered into his fight without Balboa in his corner. Rocky declined to train Creed’s son in the first fight of the film, and as a result, the first-round fight was rough.
Between mouthfuls of popcorn and pink lemonade, it hit me square between the eyes, as if the Italian Stallion himself had popped me good.
Who’s in your corner, Miriam?
It’s a strong question, isn’t it? Creed learned toot-sweet that is was detrimentally important to have strong people whom we trust in our corner, teaching us and training us for a fight. Coaches and trainers press us when we are at the brink of exhaustion – they see us through the pain and hard workouts. They bandage up our bloodied knuckles and sore spots. They see us at our lowest and most painful – and that’s what makes them so important. They see a vulnerable us, and they stick around.
More importantly, they go before us. They have wrapped their own sore spots and endured their own painful workouts. They’ve fought in the rings of life and gone down for the count in their own personal battles. They’ve done it, and instead of embracing bitterness and pity, they opt to teach their own struggles to others.
Life is not all that different than boxing – as you step into the ring, and as the blows come, pain arrives. It gets more and more intense as you go on. You get knocked down, and have to get up before the count. Your knuckles bleed; you trip and fall back into the ropes. You even get stuck in the corner. You forget to put your gloves up to block the blows. Sometimes, you lose.
When those tough moments come, and those bitter losses sting in the open wounds, who you have in your corner encouraging you and mentoring you counts. While it’s important to have people who uplift you and relationships that are strong, it is even more important who you put your trust in to see you through the distance. In Rocky and Rocky II, Balboa prays to go the distance with Apollo Creed, and does both times – he makes sure he has the right Coach on board with him to see him through those fights, because he knows it’s going to hurt. He knows he needs someone watching out and advising him in the moments where he’s spitting blood and can hardly breathe through bruised ribs and a busted nose.
Christ is that person for us. He is with us no matter what – he never leaves us nor forsakes us. He sees every blow. He knows every soft spot. He sees us fall back into the ropes or stagger up to our feet before the count – He sees. And, what’s more, He’s even endured the same battle. He died on the cross for us, rose from the grave, and overcame the biggest fight, just for us. He wore the gloves; his hands bled the blood, and he still bares the scars.
Who better to have in your corner than someone who’s already won the heavyweight of eternity? Rocky knew who he wanted in his corner.
And, yo, in case you missed it – He did it.