Ladies, gents, and creatures of other such varieties, today we look at Ryan Coogler’s Creed. This was not a movie I was excited to see by any stretch of the imagination. I liked the first few Rocky movies, they had cheesy montages, inspiring speeches, and were just generally good fun. That was until Satan decided that Rocky IV had to be spawned from the deep canals of Hell, and melt our collective faces with undiluted, demonic BAD. Then Rocky V followed suit, like an unwanted middle child. Sure it was slightly more mature than its older brother, but it still packed a bag of “meh,” that altogether made us feel that this family really should stop breeding.
But alas, an open Friday night and no plans made my feet wander into the movie theatre.
The story, for those of you unfamiliar, focuses on Apollo Creed’s illegitimate son, Adonis, and his struggles to make a name for himself in the wake of his father’s massive shadow. Unlike the other Rocky movies, he’s not really the underdog, or at least not in the traditional sense. He’s been raised by his foster mother, Apollo’s wife, had a good education, a well-paying white-collar job, and grows up in a mansion.
This already sets a strong contrast from the what we’re used to – lower class nobody, no money, no options in life. So far the Rocky movies have been just that – the struggle of the underdogs to make a place for themselves in this world, to get some recognition, some fame, and maybe the opportunity for a more prosperous life. This movie, however, decides to take a different direction and run with it. What’s more impressive is that it actually makes it work really well. Adonis doesn’t dare use his real name lest people compare him to his father. He wants to make his own way in the boxing world, but how is he to do that when he can’t get a decent trainer? His father’s old trainer rejects him from his gym on pretty much those terms – “You’ve lived off the silver spoon, you don’t belong here.”At every corner and boxing match he’s reminded that he’s just the product of a famous name and nothing more. He throws caution to the wind and knocks into none other than Balboa’s restaurant and asks him for his help. Little by little the two start developing a relationship, and the movie takes off.
One of the things that really make this movie stand out is Adonis, played by Michael B. Jordan. He’s really well fleshed out as a character, and he’s very, very likeable. In previous Rocky movies, there were some characters that were just fillers, two-dimensional, walking stereotypes, just there to deliver the lines to move the script forward – Rocky’s son in Rocky V comes to mind. But this movie takes its time to tell you who this kid is, show you his struggles – which despite his advantages in life are actually very real. And you really do start cheering for him scene after scene because this movie, unsuspectingly manages to get the feels hooks in. And this is quite the feat. It’s very easy to make a character sympathetic by taking away everything from them, and then having them climb for the top. However, it’s much more impressive to show a struggle of self rather than a struggle of class. This movie just goes to show that no matter how much money you have in your pocket, or how big the house is that you grew up in, things like your past, the death of loved ones, and the desire to prove yourself can be just as real for someone who’s presumably had “every advantage in life”.
Following up on that note, Sylvester Stallone doesn’t disappoint as usual. Again, his role isn’t too monumental or overly dramatic, but for the bit that he has, he really sells it, and sells it well. It really shows that he knows this character, and he wears his skin like his own. You really start feeling for the big softy – the old hero with the good heart who has nothing but ghosts for company. Having followed the series up until now, it packs even more of a punch (so not intended), as we’ve seen Rocky at his start, we’ve seen him at the top. And therefore it’s all the more gut-wrenching to see him having ended up like this – alone, useless, having outlived everyone in his life that matters (excluding his son, because f*** him). There’s definitely a moment or two in there when the air vents in the theatre must have been spitting mad dust because this proud, masculine, young male got choked up and and a little teared up in the presence of his equally proud, masculine, and young amigos.
One last note here, this movie actually has quite a few good laughs. And I don’t mean the lame, poorly written, sports jokes that have their own “cue laughter” button. But I mean some really fresh material. The humour in this was actually really good. One joke had my friends and I laughing like the hyenas from the Lion King for a good 3 minutes. Obviously I won’t tell you which joke, because I also want you and your lot to laugh like hyenas for 3 minutes (or more if you so desire). The jokes weren’t cliché, they were excellently timed, and quite plainly, pretty damn funny.
Mad props to the director, for whom this is only his second feature film. So, I don’t even know what to say – wow – wtf – omg -srsly? And big props also must make their way to Mr. Stallone and Mr. Jordan. Great performances by both – they really sold the characters and made them much more likeable than I’m used to seeing in movies these days.
You got your boxing montages, you got some good laughs, you got a few tear-jerkers, and you got some proper ass-kicking. Pretty solid movie, definitely one of the better boxing/martial arts movies out there right now. Definitely worth the price of admission. Go check it out!