I don’t look forward to the release of a film like I used to years ago. It’s too hard to commit to making a trek to the theater knowing there’s a chance I will sit through something that doesn’t live up to its own hype. In the past six months, I looked forward to three films: Straight Outta Compton, The Peanuts Movie, then finally the Thanksgiving gem, Creed. I made a point to see them all and each one evoked a feeling of nostalgia for my childhood, in their own way.
Creed reminded me that I onced loved boxing and I really liked Rocky (and Rocky IV). It’s hard to believe I ever found boxing to be enjoyable but I did in my younger days. I think there was something about the hype, the promotion and the glorious trash talk. It’s not hard to understand liking Rocky; it’s a great tale of triumph and love, set against the backdrop of a boxing ring. Creed is what you love about Rocky and much more. It’s a new day for this franchise.
The film is about Adonis “Donnie” Johnson (Michael B. Jordan), the son of the late Apollo Creed. Donnie didn’t know about his father until he was a pre-teen. Having recently lost his mother, Donnie was left to struggle through life without either of his parents, fighting it out in juvie and facing the prospect of bouncing from one foster home to the next. All of that changed when Apollo’s widow, Maryanne, (Phylicia Rashad) found Adonis and took him into her home. With Maryanne’s help, Donnie had new hope: he attained an education and eventually started a promising career.
With success and the love of the mother he needed, Donnie finally had it all. However, something was missing: his passion. He would participate in amateur boxing matches in Tijuana but he knew that, with proper training he could be a star. He decided to leave the posh life in L.A. behind to go to Philadelphia where Rocky Balboa (Sylvester Stallone) could show him the ropes. Basically, he did the reverse Fresh Prince of Bel-Air.
Michael B. Jordan brought his A-game once again. I feel like I’ve known him for years but I know I don’t know him at all. I remember him as a young troubled kid named Wallace on The Wire, a troubled young high school football star named Vince on Friday Night Lights, and well troubled again (but reformed) as Alex on Parenthood. After his breakthrough performance as Oscar Grant in Fruitvale Station (also directed by Creed’s Ryan Coogler), there was no mistake how much talent we were witnessing from this man. This role is absolutely no exception. There is no one else who could have stepped into these shoes. I may feel a little uneasy watching Wallace/Vince/Alex hop around shirtless and glistening with sweat but I get over it because the acting is so great…yes the acting!
The bond between Adonis and Rocky is tender but strong. For all of the jokes made about Sylvester Stallone over the years, this latest turn as Mr. Balboa will make the haters eat their words. Stallone reminds you why you love Rocky. He’s passionate, committed and just an every day kinda guy just trying to make it. Adonis revives something that was fading in Rocky and Rocky serves as the father figure he always needed. Jordan and Stallone were a great match on-screen, playing off each other naturally in tense moments and delivering unexpected chuckles along the way.
This film hits mostly high notes; the dialogue is funny, the story is warm, and the cinematography and editing are top-notch. The blossoming love story between Donnie and his neighbor Bianca (Tessa Thompson) feels a little forced and I wish I could know more about his relationship with Maryanne but the rest of the film makes up for what feels a little missing in its primary female characters. I can’t help but wonder if some critical scenes were cut for these characters but it doesn’t take away from the film overall. Rocky fans will jump for joy at all the nods to the classic films we know and love. Thanks to the excellent camera work, stellar editing and perfectly placed sound effects, it feels like you’re attending actual boxing matches, especially in the final fight. The use of close-ups on each boxer felt like we were in Mike Tyson’s Punch-Out in the way we would only dream of as kids!
Ryan Coogler and Michael B. Jordan make a great team. Together or apart, I look forward to seeing more of them. This film truly has something for everyone and it lives up to the hype. Creed is a must-see! Can you really watch this trailer and not believe me?