Movie review: Creed + a look back

Movie reviews

Hello!

Welcome to another review of the Oscar season! This time, we are talking about the 7th entry into the Rocky franchise – the spin-off/sequel Creed!

IMDb summary: 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.

2015 has already had one boxing movie – Jake Gyllenhaal’s Southpaw. However, Creed, being a sequel to the Rocky franchise, received much more attention: it earned more money and got a few awards’ nominations, while Southpaw lacked both.

Before seeing Southpaw, I knew nothing about boxing (still do not know that much) or sports movies, however, I watched all of the 6 Rocky films in a span of 2 days before going to see Creed. I have also watched a lot of other sports movies during the Christmas break like McFarland USA, Million Dollar Arm and Concussion, so I am no longer a newcomer to the genre of sports dramas. Nevertheless, Creed managed to surprise me and exceeded all my expectations – it wasn’t just a great sports movie, it was simply an amazing film.

A look-back

As I have mentioned before, I have seen all of the Rocky films. It is not essential to watch them before seeing Creed, because that film stands on its own, however, your enjoyment will definitely be improved if you are able to catch all the references and callbacks to the previous films.

Rocky franchise has always had so much heart because these films were made by people who actually cared about the story. Sylvester Stallone basically created Rocky for himself and used this character as a building block for his entire career. While nowadays, some of the scenes (mostly the romantic ones) from the first few films look a bit cheesy, the overall story/arc of all the films is timeless. Rocky is also one of the best characters of cinema because he is the everyday-est everyday guy that anyone can relate to or identify with. He is also one of the truly nicest characters – he is never cocky and always good-hearted, even when he finally succeeds in boxing.

Other characters of the franchise are also worth mentioning. Personally, I really disliked Paulie – he was such a whiny brat. I also had mixed feelings about Adriana – I really liked her in a few films and hated in others. However, my favorite character of the series (not counting Rocky) was Apollo Creed, so I was very pleased that his legacy is continued in Creed and future sequels. I really liked Rocky’s and Creed’s friendship, so that’s why the 3rd film is my favorite. I also enjoy Rocky 3, because that film contains a few scenes of Rocky training in the pool and for me as a swimmer that just seals the deal.

The Rocky franchise also has really exciting fighting scenes that make the viewer feel like he/she is in the ring. Rocky films are also famous for their training montages, which are not only amazing to watch but are great examples of spectacular film-making and editing. These montages are usually followed by great theme songs. Eye of the Tiger is the most famous one, though, the one that I enjoy the most is Hearts on Fire.

Rocky 5 is my least favorite film of the franchise and it is also the film that showcases Rocky in a trainer’s position. I was worried that Creed would also suffer from the same problem, since Rocky is once again training someone else and not fighting. However,  Creed was really smart when dealing with this problem – the creators just wrote a side storyline for Rocky which not only made him even more interesting of characters but tied that storyline into the main plot-line and the main idea of the film (more on this later).

Awards Rocky vs Creed

Rocky won 3 Academy Words back in the 49th Oscars – best editing, director, and picture. Creed has only received one nomination – best supporting actor for Stallone and lots of critics are predicting that he will surely win since Stallone has already picked up a Golden Globe and a Critic’s Choice Award. I think he definitely deserves it not only for his amazing emotional performance in Creed but for his whole life’s work of being Rocky.

Writing and Story

Ryan Coogler was the person that came up with the whole idea of Creed. He was the one who convinced Stallone to come back to the franchise and to continue it. Coogler then also co-wrote the script with his friend Aaron Covington. Both of them are kinda new to Hollywood. The only previous feature film on Coogler’s resume is Fruitvale Station (he both wrote and directed it) also starring Michael B.Jordan.

I believe that both Coogler and Covington did a really nice job with the script. They paid respect to the lore of the franchise with all the references and callbacks to the previous films as well as reinvigorated it with fresh storylines and new characters. One of my favorite scenes was the dialogue between Rocky and Adonis in the jail cell when Creed finally broke down. I also loved Rocky’s side story. It felt so unfair that an athlete, who has suffered a lot in a ring, can now possibly be defeated by an illness. I also felt bad for Rocky because he did not deserve this, being such a nice guy in general. This story-line also touched me on a personal level, as I have lost a few close relatives to cancer. Finally, the idea ‘I fight, you fight’ just totally destroyed me emotionally in the best way possible.

Directing

Ryan Coogler also directed the picture and did a very good job. That’s why Marvel/Disney snatched him up for Black Panther. I loved the visuals in the scene where Adonis is punching the air by the screen, which is showing the video of Rocky’s and Apollo’s fight. I also really liked the long takes and around/circle type of filming of the fight scenes. This type of cinematography differed a lot from the jump-cuts of the previous Rocky films’ fight scenes.

Acting

The movie had a great ensemble cast, consisting of both old and new faces. I will only briefly mention a couple of them.

  • Michael B. Jordan as Adonis “Donnie” Johnson Creed – Jordan was amazing in the role. The physical transition that he went through is also worth a separate round of applause. He is definitely a wonderful actor and I hope that Creed will turn into a separate franchise on its own because I do want to spend more time with his character. I have seen only a few of Jordan’s films (to be truthful, he has not been in that many films), sadly one of them being Fantastic Four. While that movie was awful, I do think that Jordan was really good as Johnny Storm. He also has a comedic side – watch him in That Awkward Moment – a really nice comedy (and that is coming from someone who hates comedies most of the time). I still need to see Jordan’s and Coogler’s Fruitvale Station – I am sure that it will be amazing. I am also thinking about checking out 2012’s Chronicle.
  • Sylvester Stallone as Rocky Balboa. Stallone was really good in this role back in 1976 and he is still a great Rocky 40 years later. He is one of the most likable actor ever. The last movies that I have seen him in were The Expendables trilogy (he came up with the idea of that franchise as well). Now I just need to re-watch all the Rambos
  • Tessa Thompson as Bianca –  she was a really great love interest for Jordan’s Adonis as well as just a great character on her own. I haven’t seen many of her films, though, she did appear in last year’s Selma

In short, Creed was a great comeback for the Rocky franchise as well as just a great movie in general. The storyline was both emotional and interesting, the acting – wonderful and the boxing scenes were nostalgia-inducing but still fresh and exciting.

Rate: 4.5/5

Trailer: Creed trailer

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