”Creed” sees the powerful ”Fruitvale Station” team, of director Ryan Coogler and actor Michael B.Jordan, reunite. We follow Adonis ‘Creed’ Johnson, an illegitimate son of the legendary Apollo Creed, and his desire to fight, build his own legacy and step out of his fathers shadow. Obviously, this being a rocky film Sylvester Stallone takes a starring role and the cast is rounded out by Tessa Thompson, a rising star fresh from rave reviews for her role in ‘‘Dear White People”.
Here is the trailer!
First things first, I’m NOT a huge Rocky fan. I’ve seen the first two, once each, over a decade ago. So my immediate reaction to this, albeit entertaining, trailer was ”JESUS, ANOTHER ROCKY? GOD F*****G DAMN IT! HOW MANY MORE”. Then I saw Coogler, Jordan and Thompson’s name attached and then the hugely positive review. SO I decided to give it a chance…
And I loved it!
This film does not tread new ground; boxing and sporting struggle are well trodden cinematic paths. Yet despite this, Coogler brings something fresh and exciting to it. The cinematography was excellent, contrasting the privilege Adonis leaves behind with rough, down trodden streets of Philly and the turmoil of his childhood. On top of this are the expertly choreographed and filmed training and boxing match scenes. Shot up-close and personal, with dynamic camera work following every blow dealt, hit taken and the blood and sweat the fighters give to it. There are also many careful and inventively framed nods to the original Rocky. My favourites being the Adonis’ ”Rocky run” and the closing scene.
This is then supported by a brilliant score, full of original compositions and hip-hop beats, all heavy on the inspiration and power. There are snippets of the original Rocky score and they are used sparingly to great effect; this provides enough separation from Rocky whilst still being perfectly placed to elicit those goosebumps and drive. The two best examples of this are the ”Rocky Run” (mentioned above) and during the final climactic fight.
Now the acting: Tessa Thompson is brilliant in her supporting role as Bianca, a talented singer suffering from degenerative hearing loss. Beyond her superb performance, Tessa helped craft the character of Bianca and the film only benefits from it. Bianca is not there, to prop up Adonis. She has her own arc, dreams and drives and has no problem putting herself first, for her career and aspirations. In other words, she is a real character with depth and personality and is sign (along with many other female characters of 2015/6) that roles for women in film are getting more substantial. Her chemistry with Michael B. Jordan is palpable and their scenes together provide much warmth to the film via their sharply written dialogue delivered with realism and feeling.
Michael B. Jordan is fantastic as Creed. Tough, determined, vulnerable, unsure of his future legacy all while struggling to come to terms with his difficult family history. His hard work to getting into boxing shape paid huge dividends for the film. He brings a raw, animal physicality to the screen that shines through to every punch he throws and word he speaks. It really is a shame he has not been seeing award nominations for this brilliant work.
And FINALLY we get to Rocky himself, Sylvester Stallone. Now, I often enjoy mocking Stallone about how he unintelligibly mumbled his way through a 40 year movie career, ranging from rarely great, occasionally tolerable and often dire. HOWEVER…here he is sensational. With a heartfelt and captivating arc, there was plenty for Stallone to work with allowing him to bring some real depth and emotion to the role. This is, I would say, his best work ever, better than the original ”Rocky”’. The real sense of family between Stallone and Jordan makes for great viewing; one of the best examples of the bond between athlete and mentor/coach I’ve seen on film. All of which means I am more than happy to eat my previously mocking words!
This film is everything a sports film should be:
Inspiring, powerful, moving, heartfelt!
What’s clear to me, is that this is more than a worthy and skilled addition to the Rocky franchise but a self contained film which is a marvel. Finally, it brings and, more importantly, reinvigorates the series for a whole new generation, as well as showcasing some very talented actors who have a very bright future.
VERDICT: ”inaudible mumbling”…CUE THE TRUMPET THEME