Though we’re done with the Best Picture nominated films, we’re going to take a look at the Rocky-sequel Creed, starring Michael B. Jordan and Sylvester Stallone, the latter of which is nominated for Best Supporting Actor. It is rated PG-13 for violence, language and some sensuality.
From IMDB: Adonis Johnson is the son of the famous boxing champion Apollo Creed, who died in a boxing match in Rocky IV. Adonis wasn’t born until after his father’s death and wants to follow his fathers footsteps in boxing. He seeks a mentor who is the former heavyweight boxing champion and former friend of Apollo Creed, the retired Rocky Balboa. Rocky eventually agrees to mentor Adonis. With Rocky’s help they hope to get a title job to face even deadlier opponents than his father.
9.5 out of 10
The first time my dad showed me the original Rocky from 1976, I didn’t quite understand why it was so iconic in film history. I had seen all of the same plot points in other sports movies I had watched, though they had came after Rocky, and didn’t think there was enough boxing in the actual movie. It took me a few years after I had seen it to realize that the movie took the subject of boxing to tell a grounded, realistic love story. But then the sequels went to ridiculous points from Rocky fighting Mr. T to singlehandedly ending the Cold War and although that can be fun, I can say with much confidence that Creed brings back what makes the original movie great.
When I first heard that they were making a Rocky spinoff movie, I completely dismissed it as an unnecessary cash grab of a property that had once been great. But my interest initiated then I heard that the director of Fruitvale Station (great film to check out if you haven’t) Ryan Coogler as well as the main actor in that film, Michael B. Jordan, signed on to the project. In Creed, Jordan plays Adonis Creed, the son of Apollo Creed, who fought Rocky in the original film but the two went on to be friends until he died fighting in the ring. Adonis, without a father, bounces around Juvenile prison and gets into other mayhem around Philadelphia until he finds his father’s passion for boxing, so much so that he gets an older Rocky, played again by Sylvester Stallone, to train him.
The directing is a standout in its brilliance. Coogler was able to take bits and pieces from the franchise to make it feel like a Rocky film but not hit you over the head with it to make it original in its own right. The most incredible moment I find from the film involves a boxing match in the middle of the film that is all shown through one shot. This reimagining of a sequence that we have seen executed so many times is incredibly impressive considering he choreography that must have been done to be able to weave the camera around the boxers.
As well as the excellent direction, the acting is what makes you feel connected to the story. Jordan is great in portraying Adonis’ inner that he slowly translates onto the boxing. Also, the actress who plays Adonis’ love interest, Tessa Thompson, is very good and the two create a genuine relationship where each relies on the other for support. But Stallone really steals the show not by playing the grizzled veteran, but coming off as sensible and kind hearted. Every time he appears on the screen, the audience either wants to laugh, smile, or cry.
These three along with Coogler are able to transcend the story beyond boxing to be more about the relationship between the protagonist and their arcs. It brings all the same emotional pull that the original does, but in a new way.
Flaws are hard to come by in this movie, but if I were to nitpick I would say that sometimes the movie relies a bit on boxing movie cliques with the training montages and how the final fight is set up.
But a film that can cause an entire crowd to scream out in joy when the Rocky theme is teased for a couple of seconds, is a success.
9.5 out of 10
Filmgoing sportos, which do you like better: a comeback story or an underdog one? Lucky for you, Creed boasts such a dynamic duo that you don’t even have to choose. Yes, Sly’s latest feature is a nice little reunion/reboot combo that gives fans the best of both worlds.
If you’re looking for a rightful descendent of the old Rocky films, you better believe it’s here. Creed fits neatly in with the whole saga as it acknowledges the canon, picks up right where we left off and drops a few tasteful tidbits of nostalgia (Just the right serving, I promise.). Heck, even some of the franchise’s goofier moments aren’t forgotten here and the jabs at them are brief but welcome.
But if you’re the one guy who hasn’t experienced classic Rocky, this film is still damn entertaining. The choice to focus on newbie Michael B. Jordan’s character over the Rocky everyone knows and loves was a bolder one (Heck, listen to it. It sounds like a typical Hollywood cash-in spinoff begging to spin out the series.) but it paid off quite well: our new lead Creed and the team in his corner (A host of characters who are all granted dimension beyond being a set of cheerleaders) prove to be exceedingly engaging enough to court any viewer, well acquainted with the previous films or not.
Which brings us to the Stallone/Jordan team-up that drives the feature: it’s a sublime passing of the torch. Stallone isn’t merely talking with the camera on or trying desperately to slip back into old Rocky form, he knows the character’s changed and he’s changed right with him, deftly demonstrating the Italian Stallion’s descent into illness and old age without sacrificing his lovable tough guy attitude. Jordan, in turn, holds his own with Academy Award hopeful, delivering his own great grit. Are there some typical, somewhat cliche partner push-pull moments that you can tell the direction of pretty easily? Yes, but the chemistry is more than enough to carry you through.
Perhaps the real guiding star of the movie though is director Ryan Coogler who crafts some marvelously paced fights. It takes especial talent in shooting and editing to make a rapid sport like boxing seem deliberate and demanding of tact shot for shot yet Coogler gets the job done as he lays out what very well could be the Rocky series’ jaw dropping slugfests (They’re so good they’ll make you feel even worse that you actually paid for Mayweather-Pacquiao that one time). The climax in particular used bursts of action and slowmo breathers so well it demanded a few gasps from the audience I saw it with.
Creed stands among the best installments of the franchise (Objectively and technically in fact, it’s probably the best Rocky film to date.) and leaves things nicely open-ended as it could very well be a stepping stone to a spin-off (Which I’d oddly welcome after seeing all this renewed story.) or a knockout closer to a series that has certainly had its ups and downs. Will Sly get some good news come the 28th? Maybe. Let’s put American flag shorts on Tom Hardy and call him Apollo until then.