Format: Amazon Prime Streaming
Back around 2015, PaulT started pestering me to go see Creed (2015) with him. But, as I mentioned in my post on Rocky, I wasn't against Rocky or Rocky movies, I just hadn't ever gotten to them. And I felt weird jumping in and watching the seventh movie without having seen much more than the fourth movie a handful of times and the third once or twice, decades ago.
Well, I solved part of the problem by watching Rocky and Rocky II, and was still on the slow burn to make my way to Creed, but after Black Panther, also directed by Ryan Coogler, Jamie pitched we jump ahead and I leaped at the opportunity.
I find it odd that in my creeping middle-age, I'm far more likely to have an overt emotional reaction to a family movie like Coco that so perfectly hits every tear-jerking note correctly than nearly anything aiming at an adult audience. I get the rush of action movie, and laugh at the right moments (you do not need to ask me why I'm not turning that turtle over), but a lot of movies leave me more thrilled with the technical execution than the story itself.
But, Jesus, man. Creed.
A synopsis of the movie is a bit unfair. There's really nothing new here when you go over the plot points. Heck, some of them seem like they should be showing up on After School Specials or plots of network nighttime 1 hour melodramas.
The film picks up well after the events of Rocky IV, which took place in 1985. In that film, Apollo Creed - Rocky's pal and hardest competitor, dies at the hands of a Russian boxer during what was billed as an exhibition match. No one ever accused Rocky IV of being a great movie, but we learn that Apollo had an illegitimate child, a son named Adonis Johnson (the now superstar Michael B. Jordan), who was born after he died.
Adonis' mother had also passed, and as a boy, he was rescued from the system by Apollo's wife (played here by the ever lovely, ever talented Phylicia Rashad). Despite the white-collar life his adoptive mother provided for him, a life of luxury in a mansion, Adonis wants a chance to prove himself, despite a lack of training, in the ring. He gives it all up and heads for Philadelphia, seeking out Rocky (Stallone returns to pass the torch) to be his Mickey. And finds his own Adrian in Bianca, a musician and singer (played by the omnipresent and also newly dubbed superstar, Tessa Thompson).
Because for all those plotnotes I can rehash, the strength of Creed is, sure, in the plotting - but it's in the execution of all of the elements of a film working together. The same script that brings a compelling story also has characters and dialog that earn the audience as much as those first Rocky movies. The performances Coogler draws out of his cast are raw and visceral, but never played for shock or from a place that feels out of touch with the audience. At the end of the day, you have to want to pull for every single one of these characters, and you have to believe what they're going through, and Creed is the odd movie - much like Rocky - that lacks any clear antagonist. The film is somewhat blunt that it's, if we can pull middle school story rules out of our pocket, Man vs. Himself.
And if the characters happen to help one another through what that means for each of them, all the better.
For Rocky fans - don't worry. The film does nothing but honor the legacy of the prior films. Stallone may play Rocky as older and wiser - maybe less of a meathead than in those first films when lack of experience helped define him. He's learned a few words, but he's still all heart. And so is Adonis Johnson.
I'll leave it there. There's plenty more to write about, but instead I'll just give the movie a thumbs-up and say that, sure, if a sequel is earned by wanting to spend more time with characters, then I am onboard with the slated Creed 2.