By Jon Gallagher
Creed (WB, 2015) – Director: Ryan Coogler. Writers: Ryan Coogler & Aaron Covington (s/p). Ryan Coogler (story) & Sylvester Stallone (characters). Stars: Michael B. Jordan, Sylvester Stallone, Tessa Thompson, Phylicia Rashad, Andre Ward, Tony Bellew, Ritchie Coster, Jacob “Stitch” Duran, Graham McTavish, Malik Bazille, Ricardo McGill, Gabe Rosado, Wood Harris, Buddy Osborn, & Rupal Pujara. Color, Rated PG-13, 133 minutes.
I can’t believe that I’m about to type some of the words I’m about to type, at least in the order that I put them in.
Go see this movie.
In what amounts to the 7th installment of the Rocky franchise, nearly 39 years after the original Rocky took home the Oscar for Best Picture, Sylvester Stallone reprises his iconic character, this time in a supporting role as he helps train the son of his former rival turned best friend, Apollo Creed.
Now wait just a cotton pickin’ minute. Apollo had a son? Didn’t Apollo die in the ring at the hands of some juiced up Russian robot back in the early days of the franchise? How did he have a son?
They do an okay job of explaining this rather complex situation. According to this movie, Apollo had an affair and this son, Adonis, is the result. Adonis was born after his father died (1985) which would put him around the age of 30. That’s going to be a sticking point with a few moviegoers, but I decided to accept the explanation they gave rather than to harp on it (like I tend to do sometimes).
Adonis (Jordan), or Donnie, uses the last name of his mother, “Johnson.” The boy is in and out of juvenile detention centers for most of his early life as his mother dies when he’s still a child.
Enter Mary Anne Creed, Apollo’s widow (Rashad) who takes him in, lines up a job for him, and basically pampers him. She has obviously been careful with Apollo’s sizeable fortune.
Donnie, however, wants to fight. He goes to Tijuana to fight in unsanctioned bouts, and he’s very good. He’s 16-0, but he’s facing the equivalent of local tough guys rather than seasoned boxers. He gives up his “day job” with some financial advisers and decides to pursue a boxing career, much to the displeasure of his adopted mom.
Donnie heads for his father’s training facility in LA, but the head trainer won’t work with him since he’s older than most. In fact, Donnie is roughed up in the ring by the star pupil, who happens to be the No. 2 boxer in the world in that weight class.
Donnie leaves California and heads for Philadelphia where he meets up with Rocky. Rocky wants nothing to do with him at first, and tries to discourage him from getting in the ring.
Instead of getting Rocky for a trainer, Donnie goes to Mighty Mick’s gym, the place famous for training Rocky. He’s told he can work out there, but the head trainer is more interested in working with his own. He’s not told anyone that he’s Apollo Creed’s son because he’s determined to make it on his own.
Rocky shows up and starts working with Donnie. The head trainer wants to schedule a match between his boy and Donnie, hoping that Rocky’s name will help draw some big money. Right before the bout, the trainer finds out that Donnie is Apollo Creed’s son, but agrees to keep it a secret.
And he does. For a day or so. When the news hits the media that Creed’s kid is fighting, it gets the attention of the World Champion, Pretty Ricky Conlan (Bellew), who is not only undefeated in 29 fights, he’s never even been knocked down.
A fight is scheduled and the last part of the movie centers on the fight itself.
If you can overcome the obvious plot holes, mainly Donnie’s age and why no one knows Creed had a son, then this is an excellent movie, almost as good as the original Rocky.
And well it should be. This movie mirrors the original in so many ways that it’s impossible not to see them. Let’s take a look.
Both movies feature a professional champion who takes on an unknown underdog opponent. Both movies have the underdog being trained by an aging ex-fighter who is unorthodox in his training methods. Both underdogs develop a love interest with an unlikely female character during their training. And both movies have a challenger who spends most of the main event blocking punches with his face.
The plots of the other Rocky movies are just dissimilar enough to the original to make this sequel fresh again.
The fight scenes in the main event were totally reminiscent of the original Rocky with a surprised, somewhat unprepared champion underestimating his inexperienced opponent. One of the funniest moments of the movie comes with the expression on Conlan’s face after Creed (who has agreed to use his father’s name for this fight) hits him for the first time.
There is one spot in the main event that they use the original music from Rocky. When the sound system in the theater cranked out the opening bars of “Gonna Fly Now,” chills ran down my spine and I felt a big smile slowly growing on my face.
Another plot hole is the main event itself. There are a lot of punches exchanged during the fight, just like Apollo and Rocky. There’s no way that two men could stand up to that kind of punishment for more than a minute, let alone 12 rounds.
They’re excused for this. Most boxing matches are pretty mundane and boring with few punches connecting until need be. Had the director modeled the fight scene after a real fight, we’d have all been snoring by the end of the film. Instead, he mirrored the Apollo-Rocky match, and came up with a winner.
Here’s one of those sentences I never thought I’d type. Stallone is amazing in this movie. His performance has Oscar nomination written all over it. During the course of the movie, we find out that Rocky has non-Hodgkins lymphoma, a disease that he actually welcomes because he feels he’s been left alone in this world by friends and family who have passed on. All those blows to Rocky’s head in his previous movies must have straightened out his slurred speech and made him more wise. He dispenses invaluable advice without coming across as a bitter old man.
Michael B. Jordan does an admirable job in his role as Adonis Creed. He shows a brazen confidence combined with a touch of insecurity, mixing the two into a complex character who is both interesting and likeable.
Tessa Thompson is Bianca, Donnie’s love interest. An independent young nightclub singer, she’s quite the opposite of Rocky’s Adrian, but still manages to inspire and motivate the protagonist perfectly.
Go see this movie!
See it in a theater with a bunch of other people. If you get a good group to watch it with, you’ll hear plenty of cheering during the fight (which is really weird if you think about it – cheering for a fighter in a movie), which adds to the overall experience of the movie. This is one that I will watch again once it comes out on video, and one that I wouldn’t mind owning.
I came out of the theater smiling and feeling better than when I went in. That seemed to be a general consensus of those who attended the same showing.
I’ll give this one an A+ for giving me my money’s worth and then some. It far exceeded my expectations.