I love the Rocky movies, I really do. I’m not even a big fan of sports movies but I love these films. Rocky I probably in my top 25 movies ever. Rocky II very good film, excellent. Rocky III things are getting a bit goofy but still all good. Rocky IV okay the film is not that well written and they have way too many goofy females but it is still an enjoyable watch. Rocky V yeah no one likes that one, not even Sylvester Stallone likes that one. Rocky Balboa was a fantastic return to form and breathed new life into it. However, when I heard there was going to be a seventh film that would have Rocky as a supporting player I was slightly apprehensive about it because I wasn’t certain it could recapture what the previous films had given us and then the reviews came in from America and the reviews were actually pretty damn good and was pretty difficult to ignore with it gaining large amounts of rave from the critics prior to its UK release so I can’t exactly ignore that before going into this review.
The film itself has been written and directed by Ryan Coogler whose previous film Fruitvale Station was excellent and is the Director of the upcoming Marvel film Black Panther and early interviews with the man suggested he had some very interesting ideas for this film but with the movies seven films in at this point is there any chance that Creed could attract anyone new or is this one purely for the Rocky fan base.
Creed takes place some time after the events of Rocky Balboa. Adonis Creed (played by Michael B Jordan) leaves his home in Los Angeles to pursue his goal of becoming a professional boxer and moves to Philadelphia. He tries to make something of himself and convinces his father’s former rival Rocky Balboa (played by Sylvester Stallone) to train him. Whilst he was initially reluctant to train him he eventually sees potential in him and trains him up for several fights including a chance at the Light Heavyweight championship held by Ricky Conlan (played by Tony Bellew) but at the same time Rocky must battle his own demons and has his own fight on his hands. While many of the Rocky films have had their goofy moments this one definitely does not. To excuse the pun it pulls no punches. This has probably been the most down to earth Rocky films since the first two. You could make an argument that Rocky Balboa was very down to earth and you would have a good argument but there was still a couple of goofy moments in it like the speech Rocky gives to get his license back, for example, could have easily come out of any of the Rocky films. However, this is not a Rocky film per se. Rocky is a supporting player and the focus is mostly on Adonis. That is not to say that Rocky is playing second fiddle to this character, far from it. As the film goes on it makes it apparent that both of them seem to motivate each other and that neither one can achieve their goals without the other and their relationship whilst at times it does seem to mimic Rocky and Mickey’s relationship in the first few films, this time it also in some ways really mimics Rocky and Apollo’s relationship in the third and fourth movies and Adonis almost becomes a surrogate son for Rocky since his actual son didn’t want to fight.
The film does put all these elements in and does this excellently. It would have been easy to just make a cheap boxing drama but writer and director Ryan Coogler actually puts real effort into it and Stallone once again has really backed this project by acting as a producer for the film. Coogler said in an interview on the Daily Show that he felt the film was very personal to him and his father who was a fan of the Rocky films and that Rocky and Adonis were meant to be substitutes for the two of them and you really get a sense of it.
I can really feel like Ryan has been working to make this film for his entire life and he should be very proud of it because it is a hell of an achievement. But it is not just about boxing, there is also the fact that Adonis really ends up discovering a bit of himself in Philadelphia. He has his relationship with Rocky but he also has a love interest in Bianca, played by Tessa Thompson, which is also well written and it helps that the actors have very good chemistry. Whilst their relationship does feel believable it also benefits from the fact that it doesn’t completely mimic Rocky and Adrian’s relationship in all the other films which would basically sum up to “I don’t want you to fight”, “I know”, “Are you going to turn up for the final fight?” – “don’t I always” – yeah that got old by movie three. The only relationship that isn’t really explored is Adonis’s relationship with his surrogate mother and Apollo Creed’s wife, played by Phylicia Rashad, which whilst not completely ignored feels like it’s rushed a bit too quickly.
The majority of the characters felt really fleshed out and everything felt like it had a very personal touch done to it which is more than can be said for a lot of sports films and where it does fall into a few of the sports film clichés it is a bit more forgivable because Rocky kind of invented a lot of those sports film clichés.
The other factor to talk about is the “villain” of the film. The Rocky films have always had what would be described in video games as their final boss and a lot have been very memorable. We had Apollo Creed in the first two films, in the third film it was Clubber Lang played by Mr T and of course in the fourth film we had the Frankenstein monster of a boxer, Ivan Drago played by Dolph Lungdren. Though while Apollo was quite a believable villain, Clubber Lang and Ivan Drago were clearly the points where this franchise became a little more unbelievable. Okay Clubber Lang was at least competently written and made a good villain and it wasn’t too bad, for the love of god what was up with Ivan Drago. His introduction really was the point where you thought that the Rocky films started going into satire and that includes Paulie’s birthday present in the fourth film of a sentient robot. Ricky kind of falls into this category. He has a few believable moments like Clubber Lang but he also feels very real and his character does come across as being very cocky so you do want to see Adonis beat the hell out of him just to wipe the smug smirk off his face. He is fairly better than the final confrontation in Rocky Balboa, granted that film had no real villain by the end of it and it was just a straight boxing match. Granted it was much closer to real life but as a result the final confrontation isn’t as memorable. He is kind of somewhere in the middle. He is not quite as good as Apollo Creed but he is not off the scale goofy like Ivan Drago. Actually that is the other factor in this film’s plot that really is a weakness but it is not really a weakness for the film itself. The fact is it does make Rocky III and Rocky IV look more outlandish, particularly Rocky IV and it doesn’t help the fact that Rocky IV is very well referenced in this film as you would expect considering that was the film in which Apollo died. In fact the scene during the final fight where the boxers do the traditional touching of the gloves before the ring bell goes is really similar to the fight scenes in Rocky IV. But that being said the only other weakness I have to this film is the fact that I think they went a bit overboard on the product placement for Everton Football Club. I think this was kind of Tony Bellew’s doing and yes I am glad he was cast because I think actually getting an actual boxer to play this part added extra authenticity to the film but seriously there is a tonne of Everton Football Clubs in this, the shirts are worn everywhere, the final event is sponsored by them and the final fight is held in Everton’s football ground. Granted, it is framed in the story that Ricky is a massive Everton fan and this would probably be his final fight before he goes into prison but still it does feel a bit weird and cheap.
Where this film really succeeds, however, is in the drama of Rocky having to deal with his treatment for his illness. But that is not giving anything away this has been brought up in all the trailers. Rocky early on says he doesn’t want to fight anything because everything he has got is gone and he might as well go with it but it is Adonis that tells him he won’t fight unless he fights with him and that is where the drama really comes from. Many illness dramas can hit very hard but this one hits particularly hard because this is a character that for many of us have been following most of our lives and here he turns out just as merciful and fallible as the rest of us. It really hits home.
If you know your Rocky films you can probably guess kind of how this film is going to end and I did enjoy the ending because it left things open for future films to be made and I would be glad to see more of them because I really enjoyed the plot of this film, it is very well written.
Last year I went to see Southpaw which was another very good boxing film starring Jake Gyllenhall and I said after seeing it that Creed had a tough challenge to live up to that film but I think this film has surpassed Southpaw.
As for the cast they are all excellent but it is merely down to the cast who really make these well written parts come alive, particularly the main casts, Michael B Jordan, Sylvester Stallone and Tessa Thompson. I am really happy for Michael B Jordan because this role really suits him and he plays a blinder. Plus all the potential that we saw of him in Chronicle has finally come to fruition and it is great because everything since that film has been really downhill especially his previous film Fantastic Four and finally he has got the role that he deserves.
Tessa Thompson is proving once again why she is fast becoming one of my favourite actresses working today. She gave one of my performances of the year in 2015 when I saw her in Dear White People which I put on my Top Ten Films of 2015 list and she delivers another excellent performance here. This is an actress you really need to be looking out for right now, she is fantastic.
Sylvester Stallone once again has really put himself into this role and it has really paid off because this time this has earnt him a BAFTA and OSCAR nomination for best supporting actor and after seeing the film it is rightly deserved he is fantastic in this film, possibly giving the best performance of his career. I won’t go into too much detail about how his performance is amazing you really have to see it for yourself and experience it for yourself and I wouldn’t want to give too much away for people who haven’t seen the film.
Sylvester Stallone is the only returning cast member of this film since pretty much every other character has died at this point, even Paulie has died in between films which further adds to the sense of loss the film makes you feel. Although Mary Anne Creed is back she is not played by the actress who played the role in previous films. This time she is played by Philicia Rashad, though mostly at the beginning and the end. Honestly if you have seen the trailers you have seen most of her dialogue. She plays the role very well but she is just not in the film long enough, she is basically a glorified cameo.
Ritchie Coster is in this film and does a decent job and I did enjoy Andre Ward who Adonis fights early on around the middle point of the film. I was also surprised how much I enjoyed Tony Bellew in his role. Despite the fact he is not an actor he is a professional boxer his acting actually does bring something to the role and can physically pull off the actual fights. The rest of the cast is slightly so so. I did enjoy Graham McTavish in his brief role and once again he is another actor who goes rather unnoticed in these sorts of films so I am glad they gave him more time and stuff to do in this film.
Creed has some excellent presentation. Everything to do with the sporting scene is designed to make the scene feel like a Pay Per View event and the build ups are also done excellently. The cinematography is great, especially the latter montages of training. The action scenes themselves are actually really excellent, not just the two major boxing matches that take place in the film but everything that is done you feel the physicality of the performances. These actors really threw themselves into these roles and must have trained for months and it is well worth it because we can see it fully realized on screen.
One of the things Southpaw did so well was to make us feel right in the boxing match and feel every punch but Creed not only does this as well it almost surpasses it. The first couple of boxing matches are almost shot with very clever editing and it was amazing, it looks like it was almost done in one take. Granted the last fight is a twelve round match and that means obviously we have to have a few cuts to speed up things but it doesn’t make the fight feel any less brutal.
The only thing I’m not really happy with the film’s presentation is the soundtrack which has gone a lot more hip hop oriented. Now granted we do get a bit of Gonna Fly Now which it wouldn’t be a Rocky film without but I do get that it does mean this is a new start for these films so it does need a new sort of soundtrack. It is just not really for my taste but I do agree it suits the film rather well.
Creed is an excellent movie. I really had a good time watching it. The tag line is the Rocky Legacy lives and that really feels accurate because this film feels like a passing of the torch from Sylvester Stallone to Michael B Jordan who can continue to make more of these movies. Many of you might say it is a clone and that Michael B Jordan, Tessa Thompson and Sylvester Stallone are basically filling the roles of Rocky, Adrian and Mickey in the first films but to me it feels like a completely different dynamic whilst retaining enough of the semblance of the original dynamic to make it recognizable. The fight scenes are excellent, it is brilliantly shot, the drama feels poignant, personal and well written and all the actors and performances are great, especially Sylvester Stallone’s. If you loved the previous Rocky films you have got to go and see this one. If you are on the fence about it I would suggest going to see it anyway. This might be the film to make you go back and see the previous Rocky movies. I would try to see this whilst it is still in cinemas, don’t wait for it to come out on DVD and if you are planning on waiting for it to come out on DVD wait a little bit longer than usual and maybe even get it into a bundle with all the other Rocky films – just skip Rocky V that movie is still terrible.
“So what were your thoughts on Creed?”
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Well that is another Awards contender out of the way. I am going to take a little break from the OSCAR contenders for my next review but by the time this review has been published I will have seen films like the Revenant and Room and I was meant to see the Big Shore, but next week I thought I would actually see a film that has actually been a 2016 release rather than a film that was released in the USA in 2015 and has only reached our shores now. So next week I review the Sci-Fi film based on the best selling novel “The Fifth Wave”.
Thank you for reading my review, I hope you enjoyed reading it as much as I enjoyed making it.
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