Creed

Creed

Director: Ryan Coogler

Writers: Ryan Coogler, Aaron Covington, Sylvester Stallone

Cast: Michael B. Jordan, Sylvester Stallone, Tessa Thompson, Phylicia Rashad, Andre Ward, Tony Bellew, Ritchie Coster, Jacob 'Stitch' Duran, Graham McTavish, Malik Bazille, Ricardo McGill, Gabe Rosado, Wood Harris, Buddy Osborn, Rupal Pujara, Brian Anthony Wilson, Joey Eye, Liev Schreiber, Michael Wilbon, Elvis Grant, Max Kellerman, Jim Lampley, Michael Buffer, Tony Kornheiser, Hannah Storm, Alex Henderson

Synopsis: The former World Heavyweight Champion Rocky Balboa serves as a trainer and mentor to Adonis Johnson, the son of his late friend and former rival Apollo Creed.

MPAA Rating: Rated PG-13 for violence, language and some sensuality

Stevennix2001's Rating and Summary Review if you don't want to read the actual one

9.5 / 10

Pros:

- Great acting performances; particularly from Sylvester Stallone and Michael B. Jordan.

- The film features the right amount of nostalgia to appeal to the die hard "Rocky" fans, while still giving audiences a hint of something new and interesting.

- The father son relationship between Adonis and Rocky is rather touching, as they both learn a lot from each other throughout the movie.

- Fight choreography is a lot more realistic than it's ever been, when you compare it to the previous "Rocky" films.

- Villains are a bit more down to Earth than most of the previous "Rocky" movies; apart from Mason Dixon from "Rocky Balboa."

- The story was evenly paced.

- Cinematography was great.

- Script was amazing. Chalked full of emotional punches and surprises.

Cons:

- While the film is original for the most part, there's still a few classic "Rocky" cliches that are obviously implemented to appease fans.

- In "Rocky Balboa", it was implied that Rocky was trying to move on with his life after Adrian died, which became a huge plot point in the last "Rocky" movie, yet that seems to be almost forgotten in "Creed." Granted, the film isn't about Rocky, but it's worth pointing out.

Your legacy is more than just a name

"Creed" is a film that'll hit you in the gut with such an emotional punch that you'll be feeling it for days. While it's not quite as powerful as the original "Rocky" movie, it's still far better than anyone could've expected. Unlike most "Rocky" based movies, this one features a new protagonist in Apollo Creed's son, Adonis Johnson (Michael B. Jordan).

At the beginning, it's revealed that Apollo Creed (Carl Weathers) had an affair with another woman, while he was married. Adonis was born after his father died in "Rocky IV", and he inevitably found himself bouncing around foster homes in between serving time in juvenile hall. Somehow Apollo's wife found out about him, and she invites Adonis to live with her.

Fast forward years later, and Adonis is now an adult. Working in some prestigious office position, while moonlighting as a boxer on the side. Although his mother would never condone him fighting in the ring like his father, he can't seem to stay away from it. Often watching old boxing highlights of his father's bout with Rocky Balboa, as you can tell there's a lot of hidden animosity there. Whenever Rocky throws a punch at Apollo on the big screen at his house, he mimics Balboa's every punch; almost as if he wishes he could punch Apollo himself for abandoning him. It's quite interesting to watch. Not only does this say so much about Adonis' character, but it foreshadows the inner struggles we see him face later on.

Against his mother's wishes, he quits his job to become a boxer full time, and then moves to Philadelphia to seek out the only man that can help him in Rocky Balboa (Sylvester Stallone). Although Rocky is reluctant at first, he inevitably agrees to train him. Of course, Adonis also meets a young girl named Bianca, whom he falls in love with. And after they hook up, the three of them form their own little niche family together.

If you're wondering where Paulie and Robert Balboa (Rocky's actual son) are during all of this, they're gone basically. Paulie is dead, and Robert moved to Canada, after we last saw him in "Rocky Balboa", so Adonis isn't the only one that has abandonment issues in this story.

Without giving away too much, Adonis' trains to prove something to himself, as he deals with his inner demons of being cast in his father's shadow. Meanwhile, Rocky deals with his own battles as well, as he faces an opponent he may not be able to win against this time. I won't say what this new enemy is for Rocky, but I guess Ryan Coogler (The director) felt it wouldn't be a "Rocky" film if Balboa didn't have something to fight for too.

While it would've so easy to capitalize on the nostalgia factor alone to attract audiences (i.e. the live action reboot of "Cinderella), "Creed" strikes the right balance here. Sure, there's nice little touches that remind us of the previous films like Adonis having to chase chickens like Rocky did. The bruised eye during a match that closes shut to where he can only see out of one of them; similar to what we saw in first "Rocky" movie. Hell, we even get a nice training montage as well. However, even with the nice little nostalgia touches to the movie itself, there's still quite a few elements to this new series that makes it stand on it's own. For starters. the boxing matches are a lot more realistic this time around.

Unlike most of the previous "Rocky" movies where there was hardly any real attempt to mimic real life boxing methods, this one seems to have more of a realistic approach to choreographing the fights. Don't get me wrong, it's still not a hundred percent realistic, as there's still a lot of trash talking, while keeping the blocking to a minimum. However, Coogler has the fighters throw in just enough jabs, and blocks to make the fights more believable, while simultaneously maintaining the same fast pace action that fans loved about the previous movies.

Hell, they even bring up weight classes among fighters, which is something that was never addressed in any of the previous films.

But the main reason this film stands on it's own is because of the brilliant performance of Michael B. Jordan, and the surrogate father/son relationship that Adonis has with Rocky Balboa. Sure, you could argue that Rocky had a similar relationship with his former trainer, Micky (played by the late Burgess Meredith), from the first three movies. However, it was never quite as fleshed out as we see here.

In this movie, these two share a common bond. Both know the pain of being abandoned, while they both try to reconcile with their own inner struggles in life. And similar to the "Karate Kid" remake, it seems that they both have a lot to teach each other. Rocky teaches him how to find his way, while Adonis reminds him what it means to be a fighter again in life. It's quite touching to watch, and both actors carry their performances rather well.

In fact, I could argue that both of them deserve an Oscar nomination for their perspective roles, but that might be pushing it, as I doubt any of them will.

However, I will say that apart from featuring some of the same "Rocky" cliches that I mentioned before like the bruised eye and etc, one flaw that I found about "Creed" was it's lack in continuity with "Rocky Balboa." Spoilers for those that didn't see "Rocky Balboa", but Adrian died of cancer, which became a huge plot point for Rocky to come out of retirement to box again because he wanted to get rid of his hatred of losing his wife. It was a touching story to say the least, and we were even reintroduced to Marie, who was originally the little girl that cussed out Rocky in the first movie. In "Rocky Balboa" though, she was all grown up, and she seemed poised to become Rocky's new girlfriend eventually.

I won't spoil "Rocky Balboa" for those that haven't seen it, but most of the story was about Rocky moving on from Adrian's death, and accepting the fact that he would have to move on someday.

In "Creed", that lesson seems to have been forgotten, and Marie isn't even mentioned at all. Sure, it's still noted that Adrian is dead, and Rocky still owns his restaurant that's dedicated to her, but it feels strange that "Creed" didn't have a one or two minute of exposition to explain this.

Don't get me wrong, I know this is Adonis' story now, so obviously they're not going to focus too much on Rocky anymore if this becomes an ongoing movie series. However, they could've easily had Bianca or Adonis ask Rocky if he tried to move on after his wife died, and he could've replied back saying how he tried dating this one girl a few years back, but it wasn't the same. That could've easily been done in two minutes, and it would've been fine.

Granted, I know this is a minor nitpick considering it was never explicitly stated that Marie and Rocky would get together after "Rocky Balboa", and like I said before, this isn't Rocky's story anymore. It's about Adonis Creed, and that's where the focus should be. Hence, it's a minor nitpick that I'm sure most "Rocky" fans won't give a crap about.

Even if you've never seen any of the previous "Rocky" films, then don't worry. The movie is self contained enough to where it's friendly to newcomers, while still making various subtle references to some of the previous movies that'll make any die hard fan glee with joy.

Overall, this is arguably the best boxing film that I've seen since "Southpaw" and "Rocky Balboa." As Rudy Tomjanovich used to say, "You can never underestimate the heart of a champion." Well this new champion definitely has a lot of heart. If you're a huge fan of the "Rocky" franchise, or just movies in general, then "Creed" is definitely worth checking out.

© 2015 Steven Escareno

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