Creed (dir. Ryan Coogler)

Posted: December 4, 2015 in Uncategorized

Earlier this year the film “Southpaw” had the potential to be a very powerful film about grief, but it shot itself in the foot by becoming a clichéd and formulaic boxing movie in its third act.  “Creed”, by contrast, doesn’t try to be anything EXCEPT a clichéd and formulaic boxing movie.  This unpretentious nature works to the film’s advantage.  I could gripe that “Creed” follows a main character, Adonis (Michael B. Jordan) who is bland and one-dimensional (his dad died before he was born and he was the result of affair and thus grew up in dead daddy’s shadow and is trying to both gain his approval and spite him at the same time…that’s all there is to this character. We get nothing else for him by way of personality).  I could gripe that the film gives us a love interest (Tess Thompson) who seems like a somewhat interesting and unique character, only to do nothing with her except have her sit on the sidelines to be a disposable and unremarkable love interest/cheerleader for our unremarkable hero.  I could gripe that, while “Creed” is a worthy addition to the “Rocky” series compared to most of the sequels, it can’t hold a candle to the great, Oscar-winning original, which is so much different from the sequels that followed that to go back and watch it feels like you’re not even watching a “Rocky” movie.  The thing is, though, that those gripes don’t stop “Creed” from being a thoroughly entertaining film.  Yes, the film could have been more.  It could have eschewed formula and gone for a tale that talked about fatherless black youths, directionless young males in general, poverty in inner cities, or any other issues that this story could have been a clothesline to hang things on.  Instead, we get just another “Rocky” movie, where Stallone’s character is the most interesting thing because he’s surrounded by archetypes pretending to be characters.

 

So yes, Jordan plays the bastard son of Apollo Creed, adopted out of foster care by Apollo’s widow and raised in wealth for the latter half of his young life. Adonis has a respectful and well-paying office job, but he quits that because he wants to be a boxer like his old man.  No one in his hometown wants to train him, and his adopted mother doesn’t approve because, well, she saw her husband get killed by a giant Russian in the ring.  So, he moves to Philly and meets up with Rocky, who reluctantly agrees to train Adonis out of a sense of duty to his late father.  Plus, Rocky is all alone. In addition to Adrian passing, Paulie has also died, and his son has moved to Canada, tired of living in his dad’s shadow.  So, Rocky and Adonis form a surrogate family as we get a rags to riches to rags again to riches again story of the young great training the son of his former rival-turned-friend.  Oh, and Rocky gets cancer.  This would be a spoiler if the trailers didn’t already give it away, so I will say that Rocky’s reaction to the news is one of the most simple, realistic, and heartbreaking things this series has shown us since the original film.  Stallone has always done a great job playing this character, who is ultimately a simple-minded by wonderfully-hearted man and is one of the most endearing long-running characters in film history.  Despite this film not being written by Stallone, the film does justice to the character.

 

This film delivers everything you think it will deliver, and nothing more.  It’s good because of the former, but goes no better because of the latter.  Making Adonis a stronger character, and either eliminating completely or fleshing out the love interest would have gone a long way to making this film better.  In the end, despite the title, this isn’t Adonis’s movie.  It’s still Rocky’s.  Stallone commands the screen, and when he’s not on camera the film suffers and you miss him.  “Creed” feels more like “Rocky 7” than “Creed 1”, and if they’re going to make more movies about Adonis, this character better get a whole lot more interesting. B.

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