Wednesday, April 13, 2016


Who would have thought, back in 1976, when the world was introduced to Sylvester Stallone in the movie, Rocky, that we would’ve had sequels to that film up until 2015?  After the abysmal Rocky V in 1990 (although I liked it), I didn’t think we’d ever see that character again.  Auspiciously, we do get another upshot of the Rocky saga, this time as a spinoff, making the son of Apollo Creed the centralized character of the story.

I’ve got to admit, when I’d first heard of this film being made, I thought it wouldn’t have seen the light of day, mainly because I didn’t think Stallone was going to be a part of the film.  Even when the movie was released, I really didn’t have any intention of going to see it, thinking that maybe Sly was going to make an appearance in the form of a cameo or that the story was just going to be a rehash of the first movie, only with the son of Apollo Creed as the boxing character.  I really can’t put my finger on why I decided to sit this movie out, but I can say, now, it was a mistake that I had.

As Oscar season had come around and the buzz surrounding the movie became prominent—not to mention the whole snubbing of black actors making headlines—I had become interested in seeing the film.  Not only had I paid attention to Stallone being nominated for his supporting role in the film, but I’d also kept tabs on the discussions encompassing the performance of Michael B. Jordan.  By the time the Academy Awards had come and gone, I really wanted to see Creed.

Finally, the film made its way onto the home media platform of DVD, so I placed it at the top of my Netflix queue and awaited its arrival (which was the other day).

Here’s the synopsis, with a little help from…

In Creed, the former World Heavyweight Champion, Rocky Balboa (Sylvester Stallone), serves as trainer and mentor to Adonis Johnson (Michael B. Jordan), who is the son of his late friend and former rival, Apollo Creed.  As Adonis tries to make a name for himself at first, he eventually takes on the name of his father when he’s given the chance to fight ‘Pretty’ Ricky Conlan (Tony Bellew) for the belt of the Light Heavyweight Championship.

It’s been a while since I’ve seen a movie at home (that isn’t a comic book movie) in which I’ve been enthralled from beginning to end.  I guess it helps that I’m a huge Rocky fan and have seen all the movies in the saga multiple times.  When I’d first watched the first two movies in my preteen years, I’d wanted to pursue boxing and couldn’t get enough of it, constructing makeshift boxing gloves from tisse-paper-padded socks and making my brother be my sparring partner.  I’d given our first family dog the name of “Rocky” back in 1981 which shows how much I’d loved the first two films.  With all that said, it’s not hard to believe that I’d enjoyed this movie entirely.

Now, I’d mentioned earlier that there was a lot of talk about Stallone’s performance as Balboa, but my attention was focused on Jordan’s take as the son of Creed.  Let’s face it, Sly has been this character for 40 years…it’s not a stretch to see him put on the fedora, bounce a rubber ball around, and speaking Philadelphia-street slang.  Seeing this outsider, Michael B. Jordan—who was born in 1987 and, like the character he plays here, after the character of Apollo Creed was killed off in Rocky IV—take on this role and did it so brilliantly, shows you what a wonderful actor Jordan can be.  I really take umbrage with the Academy to snub this individual, but I’ve never paid attention to the Oscars and feel it’s all a sham of a bunch of self-absorbed and out-of-touch people who hardly ever get it right, in my opinion.  One day Michael B. Jordan will be up on that stage, accepting an Oscar for some performance, I really can see that coming for him.

It’s good to return to the world we’d seen in the 1976 film—man, the streets of Philadelphia haven’t changed in all these years, huh?—so it feels like a Rocky movie through-and-through.  I know we’d kind of got that feel from the previous movie, Rocky Balboa, but that movie—as good as it was and I loved it—it was too much a downer as we saw it as a melancholy piece and the character’s goodbye to the franchise, but this film is a breath of fresh air as we can see this as a new saga to continue.

I like the story they tell here, although it’s a bit convenient to add the exposition that Apollo Creed had an extramarital affair before he died that produced a son of the right age for this film (the kids we’d seen in Rocky and Rocky II must be in their forties by now).  When I’d first heard about this film being made, it was said that the film was going to center around the grandson of Apollo Creed, so that might’ve been one of the earlier drafts they’d been looking into to solve the appropriate age problem of the main character.

If I’ve got any nits to pick, it would be the background of Adonis character.  It seemed like he wasn’t really that down-and-out when he arrives in Philly to start his career in boxing, looking like he could’ve returned to his life back in Los Angeles with his adopted mother, Mary Anne Creed (Phylicia Rashad), at any time…maybe even going back to his financial advisor job he’d previously quit to pursue boxing.  I never really thought he had anything to lose as we even see, in the beginning of the movie, how he travels to Mexico on the weekends to fight matches.  But that’s a minor observance and certainly has no bearing on the story as a whole.

The chemistry between Stallone and Jordan is great—and I mean GREAT—from the moment they meet and get to know one another.  I like how they bring the secret match between Balboa and Creed we’d seen at the end of Rocky III into their first encounter, which they finally give us an answer as to who’d won that fight.  Certainly, there are a lot of props given to Carl Weathers during this film—you really can’t have this movie without the character’s mention—and Stallone shows, both in character and probably in real life, his respect for the actor/character, Carl Weathers/Apollo Creed.

Like the previous movie, the movie brings in a real boxer, Tom Bellew, to play the part of the adversary, Ricky Conlan.  Unlike the previous movie, however, Bellew has some pretty good acting chops and you truly gain a hate for him, making you root for Jordan’s character to beat the shit out of him in their fight.  Yet, we really don’t see Bellew’s character all that much, and I feel that might be a detriment to the story, especially comparing it to the 1976 film where we see the personal side of the antagonist in that story.  It would’ve been nice to see a more three-dimensional representation of his character, giving us some insight into his anger issues he displays early on in the film, maybe showing us a closer look into his personal life.

The romance between Adonis and his neighbor-turned-girlfriend, Bianca (Tessa Thompson)—the local singer he discovers her to be when visiting the club where she performs—was a nice touch, letting us see Adonis is just not all about boxing.

And speaking of music, the film showcases some familiar nods, but goes into quite a few unique cues to help this movie establish itself as an original feature.

Lastly, I was very surprised to see that this movie wasn’t written by Stallone, but was penned—as well as directed by—by Ryan Coogler.  I’ve heard some good things about him, especially the docu-
drama, Fruitvale Station, which was the story of the young unarmed African-American who was shot and killed at a BART station a few years back.  Coogler is also set to direct the comic book movie, Black Panther, which is part of the Marvel Cinematic Universe, so I’m pretty excited about that one and to see where he goes from there.

So…my final “bit” on Creed?

A well-rounded film, Creed is full of nostalgia if you’re a Rocky fan and has enough to care about for the younger generation.  The camera work is phenomenal, putting you in the ring so close to the fighters you almost can smell their sweat, and it’s amazing that they performed many of the shots without any edits.   The film is packed with inspiration and is thoroughly entertaining.  The interaction Stallone and Jordan have with each other is reminiscent of the Stallone/Meredith chemistry within the earlier Rocky films.  The cast is superb…the interaction never feels contrived, but believable.  The film, as a whole, should not be missed…especially if you’re a diehard Rocky fan like me.

Thanks for reading!

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