Hi everyone, Bryan Here….
Another year, another ‘Rocky‘ movie. Some of you might be saying, “When is enough, enough?” More times than not, you might be right with any string of sequels that goes back the third installment, particularly with the ‘Rocky‘ franchise. Sure, the first ‘Rocky‘ film from 1976 was spectacular, and arguably one of the better movies ever made. It even won a ton of Oscars that year, including Best Picture. ‘Rocky II‘ came shortly after, which was still excellent, but starting with ‘Rocky III‘, things got silly and the films lost some focus. Still, audiences world wide packed theater houses to see the Italian Stallion (Sylvester Stallone) underdog his way up to the top, never quitting and giving his best. It’s a great message.
A few years ago, Stallone went back to the ‘Rocky‘ franchise with ‘Balboa‘, which had him in the ring again with the best fighter in the world at the time. It was a good movie, full of dramatic moments and that key spark that made the original so good, although most people don’t really talk about it much these days. As we’re nearing the end of 2015, Stallone has passed the reigns onto two excellent and talented people with the ‘Rocky‘ franchise in this more or less seventh installment of the ‘Rocky‘ films, simply titled ‘Creed‘. Director Ryan Coogler (Fruitvale Station) delivers all of the goods and then some with this second feature film of his with Michael B. Jordan (Fruitvale Station, The Wire) starring alongside Stallone himself.
I couldn’t have asked for a better ‘Rocky‘ film and I can’t wait to re-live it again. Coogler took the best parts of the original ‘Rocky‘ film and told fresh tale that follows Apollo Creed’s (Carl Weathers) son into the boxing world with a little help from Rocky Balboa himself. This is really the first time we get to see the best and worst parts of Creed’s legacy with his son Adonis (Jordan), who works at a high end financial firm and lives with Apollo’s widowed wife Mary (Phylicia Rashad) in a big mansion built by the Creed legacy. When not at work, Adonis competes in underground boxing matches in Mexico, but still lacks all discipline and skills to be a real fighter.
In addition to that, he still struggles with his past, not having a father, and growing up in group homes until Mary came and adopted him. After some soul searching, Adonis decides he wants to confront his father’s past and become a boxer one his own. He moves to Philadelphia and looks up Rocky, who is still tending to his Italian restaurant and visiting Paulie and Adrian’s grave regularly. Just like the original film, we see the struggles of the trainer/boxer relationship, but this time the trainer is Rocky himself as well as some excellent montage sequences that lead up to the best fighter in the world setting up a challenge to the underdog that is Adonis to be televised worldwide on HBO.
Coogler even adds a side story that sets up some great dramatic and emotional moments where both Adonis and Balboa are fighting for something big. One of my complaints here is the romance between Adonis and his neighborly crush on Bianca (Tessa Thompson). Unlike the original film where Rocky and Adrian’s relationship was natural, cohesive, and not forced; this one here feels rushed, forced, and a bit cheesy. The sex scene didn’t help either, but there are enough great moments here to not have that weigh down the entire movie.
Coogler’s camera movements are inventive and fresh here as well, and gives a great look at the world of boxing inside the ring, as in the first fight, Coogler uses one long tracking shot, circling the fighters without any cuts for the whole fight. It was amazing to watch. Jordan’s performance as Creed is top notch. He’s charismatic and owns every scene he’s in as he struggles with his past and his future in this movie of who he wants to be.
Then there is Sylvester Stallone, playing an aging Balboa who just knocks his performance out of the park. I wouldn’t be surprised if Stallone got an Oscar nomination here – he’s that good. If you were to rate all of the ‘Rocky‘ films from Best to Worst, you’d still have the original film at number one, but ‘Creed‘ is a very close second.
– Bryan Kluger