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Movie Review: Creed

I recently saw the 2015 movie Creed, and these are my thoughts (this review contains some spoilers).

Creed is the seventh film in the Philadelphia-centric Rocky franchise which stars, of course, Sylvester Stallone as the street-tough-everyman boxer Rocky Balboa, and Michael B. Jordan as Rocky’s protege Adonis Creed, who is the illegitimate son of Rocky’s rival-turned-friend Apollo Creed, who was killed in the ring by Ivan Drago in Rocky IV.

If I had to rank this film in the franchise, I would say that Rocky is clearly – and obviously – the best film of the series (and, obviously, one of the greatest movies of all time).  It probably also goes without saying that Rocky V is the weakest of the series.  I would also say that while Rocky III and Rocky IV are fun films, they are not nearly of the quality of the other films (save Rocky V) and, in my mind, are of a different genre of the other films as well.  III and IV seem more like action-hero movies rather than dramas about boxing like the others.  I think Rocky II and Rocky Balboa – though not as classic and celebrated as the original – are quality movies in their own right and are worthy sequels to Rocky.  I would place Creed with Rocky II and Rocky Balboa in terms of quality.  In order, I think I would rank them (1) Rocky; (2) Rocky II, Rocky Balboa, and Creed; (3) Rocky III, Rocky IV; and, (4) Rocky V.

Creed brings the film series back to its roots by portraying a young boxer who is a decent person, but whose live is unmoored and in need of a mentor and direction, who is suddenly thrust into the boxing limelight, and uses boxing to gain some stability and meaning in his life.  This movie serves as a so-called “soft-reboot” of the series.  This film does not restart the film franchise as if the first six movies do not exist.  What it does do is create an entirely new set of characters and potential story lines which can now become independent of the franchise but using this film as a transition that is entirely respectful of the franchise’s history and continuity while, itself, creating a new continuity for future films.  As a very respectful soft-reboot, there are many great scenes which do homage to Rocky that any fan of the series will really appreciate.  These scenes also – in their own way – establish Adonis Creed as the new Rocky Balboa by giving them similar beginnings and feelings; it is clearly a welcome and warm passing of the torch between the characters.

As seems to be the pattern for poor Rocky in nearly each of his films, this film finds him losing yet another person from his life, this time in the person of Paulie.  Rocky is more-or-less content with his state in life as a former famous athlete now owning/managing a local Philadelphia restaurant, and seems to have reluctantly come-to-terms with his solitude.  Later in the film, however, it is revealed that Rocky is suffering with non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma with a guarded prognosis.

Adonis, however, is a troubled kid due to his illegitimacy and his pedigree, and, although he has apparently, by the start of the film, straightened up and found some success in the corporate world, he still finds himself unfulfilled.  Having been apparently abandoned by his biological mother – and having his father die before he was born – his step-mother (Apollo Creed’s widow) took him in as her own son.  Adonis takes out his frustrations in the boxing ring by getting involved in small-time boxing matches at local gyms.  Of course, she is totally opposed to Adonis’ boxing ambitions considering the fate of her husband.  Being completely disillusioned by his life, he makes the startling decision to quit his job (despite a recent promotion), and moves to Philadelphia in order to persuade Rocky to come out of boxing retirement and train him to be a professional boxer.

Once they meet, the story that ensues is one of mutual affection, support, and inspiration, as they each face their own trials and lean on one another to navigate through them.  As with any good Rocky movie, the best parts of the film are the vulnerable moments when the characters grow and develop as opposed to the more famous boxing match scenes.  They each learn to accept, understand, embrace, and perhaps even love, themselves, and their true identity, through the insight and developing friendship of the other (Adonis being the son of a celebrated boxer and Rocky as an declining older man who can no longer be who he once was, but still has a lot to offer).  Of course, the movie would not be a Rocky movie if there was not a run up the Art Museum steps, and I absolutely love how they did it and presented it in this film.  It made the famous run perhaps more meaningful and significant than ever.

I thought this film was well done with good acting which really captured the spirit of Rocky.  The relationships were authentic and the struggles the characters faced real.  Like the better Rocky moments, this one is unpredictable and allows the characters to experience true loss and conflict.  Stallone should have received an Oscar for his performance, if only because of reputation and legacy (not to mention being robbed of one for Rocky).  It is a worthy addition to the franchise and I am looking forward to where the franchise goes from here.  I suspect the next film will have less Stallone and more Jordan and, if that film succeeds, Stallone completely phased out by the film after that.  I highly recommend this film.


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