Commentary: The ‘Rocky’ Film Series Plays With Its Own Continuity

by Frank Martin

Continuity is a huge thing in stories. It’s exceptionally important in a television series, which tries to keep a streamlined storyline from episode-to-episode and season-to-season. It’s also important in film sequels, even if there is certainly some leeway. A lot of times sequels are not planned out ahead, so as a follow-up story is developed, some things have to be adjusted or reworked in order to accommodate new material and storylines. Watching all of the Rocky films back to back, this concept becomes apparent.

There’s a lot of flip-flopping and adjustments throughout the Rocky sequels. The first film has Paulie (Burt Young) down on his luck while Rocky (Sylvester Stallone) has a job. This gets flipped around in Rocky II, when Paulie has a job and Rocky makes him buy his car from him because he needs money. Then, in the third film, the roles go back and Paulie is the one begging Rocky for a job because now he’s rich. Also, at the end of the first Rocky, Apollo Creed (Carl Weathers) states there won’t be a rematch, but the next film immediately starts off with Apollo demanding one, which Rocky points out is a bit of a contradiction.

There are also minor details, such as Rocky’s imminent blindness that was introduced in the second film and then never mentioned again. Also, to accommodate Stallone’s son, Sage, playing Rocky Jr in the fifth film, the age of the character speeds up by several years even though Rocky IV and Rocky V take place relatively close together. None of these things by themselves affect their individual films. In fact, the changes were made in order to make the films as independently strong as they could possibly be. It just goes to show that sometimes continuity needs to be flexible in order for a film franchise to succeed.

The Rocky films are now streaming on Paramount+.

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