Creed - Rocky Who?
I’m not the biggest ROCKY fan. I mean, I like the first one just fine, how could you not? It’s one of those classic feel-good films where if you don’t like it, I’m not entirely sure you like happy feelings. Hyperbole aside, it was a very well-made film that has held up fairly well. It shows a side to its lead and co-writer, Sylvester Stallone, that I wish we had seen a little more of in the years since. CREED is similar in a lot of ways, in that it’s a well-made feel good movie that shows a side to Sylvester Stallone that we all wish we could see a little more of. It obeys its formula to a tee, but the people involved are all good enough at their jobs that I had no problem getting invested with the going-ons within the film.
Adonis Creed (Michael b. Jordan, cleansing his palette after FANT4STIC) has been adopted by the wife of his father, Mary Anne (Phylicia Rashad, who is underutilized, to the film’s detriment). However, he can’t shake the urge to box like his father. So he quits his job in LA and in answering this siren’s song, moves to Philadelphia to push Rocky Balboa (Stallone) to train him. He eventually succeeds, and it all inevitably leads to a climactic boxing match.
What makes CREED work is primarily the craft of the film (more on that in a moment), but there are some interesting themes and character motivations at play here. There is a common thread between Creed, Balboa, and Creed’s girlfriend, Bianca (Tessa Thompson), in that they all love doing something that will destroy them in the end. Balboa is feeling the consequences, and Creed and Bianca can see that, but they can’t shake that itch despite Bianca’s degenerative hearing disorder, and Creed knowing what happened to his dad. CREED is a fascinating statement on what the desire to explore an art means for some people, how it is in some cases, their literal lifeblood.
The big factor here, as it is with all films, but with CREED especially, is the craftsmanship. The performances are all great, Stallone is in top form, and Jordan and Thompson are great, promising young actors, but Ryan Coogler’s stellar direction is what helps CREED land home. His FRUITVALE STATION is a crushing sit, and an irrefutable masterpiece, but nothing in it would lead one to believe that Coogler could handle directing boxing matches as well as he does in CREED. The two matches in the film are thrilling, visceral, and constantly engaging.
CREED also draws a fantastic parallel of Stallone’s entire career. We see, throughout the film, that the loves of Rocky’s life have all left him, not unlike how Stallone’s youth, and his prime have left him behind. The last scene and shot, which yes, involve the famous Philadelphia staircase, land this point home. It is blatantly obvious what they’re doing, and you as the viewer know that, but you go along regardless. Coogler’s direction is to be partially thanked for this, but Stallone is the key to making it work. He is absolutely loveable here, proving that, despite the crap he has put out in the decades since, he is still a national treasure.
CREED is just as much about the city of Philadelphia as it is about Rocky, Adonis, and Bianca. The streets of the film all have a story, everyone has a connection; everyone knows each other. Those were some of my favorite scenes of the movie, those little moments where Rocky would be talking to a guy he hasn’t seen in years, yet has known his entire life. The city has a pulse, and everyone feels connected.
CREED defies expectations. It uses its clichés, but it uses them like a talented carpenter will use wood. You expect it, but they’re all pieces that are important to creating the whole. And the whole of CREED is something to behold. See it, and then see it again.