Monday, December 21, 2015

Creed


   In a day and age when the premise for this movie sounds like just one bad idea cash grab in a whole summer lineup of bad idea grabs, it's nothing short of inspiring that this movie is as good as it is. Of course, it had a lot of talent in it, and behind it. You'd almost be doing yourself a disservice thinking you're going to see a new "Rocky" movie. He's in it, and like an old friend it's a delight to see the character again, but this isn't his movie. Not by a long shot. You won't see the opening credits roll in the same way like a Rocky movie, you won't see Michael B. Jordan's character Adonis doing all of Stallone's old stunts. This isn't Rocky VII, this is Creed.

   Nevertheless, the filmmakers knew that the crowd flocking out to see this movie, was going to be fans of the franchise. People who're too smart to suggest Stallone step back in the ring as anything more than a trainer, and it's amazing how well that role fits him at this point. Point being is that this is a movie that doesn't have to try and break the Rocky mold to cut it's own path. Literally every other boxing movie made after the original Rocky has existed in it's shadow. Creed doesn't face that problem, or at least not in the same way other boxing movies do. See, any other boxing movie, no matter what the premise- always has to shake things up to be unlike Rocky enough to prove it's own worth.

  So many of those other boxing movies keep insisting they're not really about boxing. When they might as well be saying, "We're not a Rocky clone! We swear!" Creed has the unique position of not being a Rocky movie, but having Rocky in it. It doesn't have to avoid the familiar trademarks and training montages that the franchise has become iconic for. It doesn't have to go too far to say it's not a clone or a rip-off. The only firm statement that it's making is that it's simply not a sequel. This isn't Balboa's story anymore, this is Adonis' story. Adonis Creed. As the movie chugs along, a welcome sense of familiarity sets in- but director Ryan Coogler handles the story and the characters with such reverence that it feels fresh. There's a real energy to Creed, and it's nothing if not it's own beast.

  As much as the movie is about boxing, it's just as much about birthright, legacy, and of course... family. I will admit, despite being a great damn flick, it's not perfect. I was feeling it throughout, little things here and there. Adonis' main opponent is only ever treated like a perfunctory plot point. There was an opportunity here to really create an adversary for Adonis that wasn't just a good fighter, but a flesh and blood character. Nobody is going to be thinking about this guy after the credits roll. The movie needed a rival for Adonis like Apollo was for Rocky back in the day. Then, there's a very crucial and essential plot point that while emotionally charged and handled rather well, seems to kind of upset the pacing of the last act.

  Also, Apollo's other children are literally never mentioned. For a movie so very focused on birthright, and this family name- you'd think his other children would have something to say about an illegitimate son of his taking up the Creed name in the boxing world. But, there was a lot to address and nothing short of a three hour movie could've accommodated everything. Thus, Coogler and Co. make the smart move and keep the movie tightly focused on the budding relationship between Adonis and Rocky. I was taking mental notes all the way into the final fight, which was fantastic by the way. All the fights in this movie look stunning. The camera follows the action with an energetic flow, and it puts you right in the action in a way only the best of the movies in the franchise ever have.

  Anyways, my inner-critic was already making notes for this review well into the climactic fight when the proverbial bass dropped. Suddenly, I realized that no matter how deep into the fight this was, the real climax had only just started. It was such a revelatory moment that my inner-critic was immediately silenced, and I wasn't even watching a movie at that point- I was watching a fight, and I had a ringside seat. It was such a classic moment that was delivered in such a pitch perfect way, that it took everything I had not to literally cheer as loud as I possibly could. My concerns and my complaints melted away, and the movie just... clicked. The last twenty or thirty minutes of the movie are absolutely sterling.

  I haven't been this engaged or invested- hell, or even this excited watching a Rocky movie since I first saw the original as a kid. There was a lot on the line here, so many reputations- in the movie, and behind the scenes. I can safely say without spoiling anything, and with a massive smile on my face, this movie is a winner. It never tries to duplicate the things that made the Rocky movies what they are, but it doesn't ignore them either. It acknowledges those things, and nods to them when necessary. It's appreciative of the generations of fans that would turn out for this movie, and it doesn't let them down either. Well... honestly, I can only speak for myself. I, myself, was not let down.

  This movie was a true blooded knock-out. fantastic performances from the whole cast had me wiping man-tears off my face by the end. If this is the last movie Rocky is in, and/or if this is the first and last Creed movie, the franchise went out on the highest possible note. Amazing. Stirred up feelings that hadn't been touched since Rocky Balboa. Great flick.

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