Monday, September 26, 2016


When I wrapped up my series of blogs covering the first six Rocky films last year I stated I would return to this franchise again covering the then-unreleased seventh film in the franchise, 2015’s Creed (trailer). I just finished a second viewing of the film on BluRay, so it is now time to see if this contemporary take on the classic line of boxing films lives up to the brand’s pedigree.

In case you missed the premise behind Creed, it takes place in the present several years after Rocky Balboa. Even though that film ended on a high note Rocky (Sylvester Stallone) is back to being lonely and down in the dumps. His son moved out to Vancouver, his best friend and brother-in-law Paulie has passed away and his newfound friends from the previous film, Marie and her son Steps are nowhere to be seen with no explanation for their absence in this film which I found beyond baffling.

The focus though is not on Rocky who we do not even see until about 20 minutes into the film. Instead this film is centered on the illegitimate son of Rocky’s former rival/friend, Apollo Creed who goes by Adonis/Donnie Johnson (Michael B. Jordan). After a couple early rough childhood flashbacks, we see Donnie just does not have the heart to stay at his office job in LA while he moonlights in the underground boxing scene in Tijuana. After local trainers blackball him for getting professional training, Donnie decides to move to Philly and convinces Rocky to take him under his wing.

Sylvester Stallone gives up the director’s chair to Ryan Coogler, and it is immediately noticeable the contrast between his version of a Rocky movie and a traditional one. This one has a more gritty/street feel to it, and as much as I love the past films, I especially enjoyed Coogler’s vision for the film as his cinematography changes felt more organic and not forced. Rest assured there are still plenty of vintage Rocky moments like a gratuitous amount of training montages along with the expected trademark Bill Conti songs. I do not want to give too much away, but Creed does not shoehorn the classic songs in throughout the film like some may expect and instead saves them for pivotal scenes in the movie that only amplified the scene when I realized that over half the film went by before they were implemented.

This would not be a Rocky film without a romance angle and Donnie’s love interest in this film is his neighbor Bianca (Tessa Thompson). Their scenes developing their relationship feel both different and similar to how Rocky and Adrian first started seeing each other in the very first film. By the film’s end Bianca proves to be just as instrumental for Donnie’s success as Adrian was for Rocky.

Halfway through the film we are treated to the first of the film’s two big fights where Donnie faces off against Leo Sporino (Gabe Rosado). I have never seen a fight shot like this in a movie to the best of my recollection. The best way I can describe it is like there is a stationary camera between the two fighters and it is constantly spinning around with a new dynamic camera angle on one of the fighters kind of like the camera in the classic game Punch-Out! It is incredibly effective at making me feel like you were right there in the fight, and I can only tip my hat for the filmmakers being so brazen to stick with this unique camera shot throughout the entire fight.

Of course the big draw of the film is Donnie’s headline fight against world champion, “Pretty” Ricky Conlon (Tony Bellew). Creed does a fine job antagonizing him by setting him up as a boxer who has one last fight scheduled before he goes to prison for making a terrible mistake, and he wants to capitalize on Donnie’s name by having one more big payday to set up his family before he gets locked up.

The build up to the headline fight hits all the right notes, and if you have seen past Rocky films then you know what to expect, but this time expect a contemporary take courtesy of Coogler. If you watched the previews, then you know both Donnie and Rocky have challenges they both have to overcome before the big fight night. The film makes sure to deliver plenty of emotional montages that got me all psyched up going into the last fight, and just like in Rocky Balboa they have quite a nice professional broadcast setup thanks to a partnership with HBO Sports. Like most Rocky films, expect a main event fight that goes the distance with a lot of highs and lows for both combatants in the ring complete with nasty gashes, cuts, buckets (literally!) of blood and stunning knockdowns. It is easily a championship fight worthy of the Rocky pedigree.

There are only a few extras on the BluRay. There are 20 minutes of deleted scenes. None are really all that must see, and I can see why they were cut as they mostly were there to help set up the backstory going into the first act of the film. There are two behind-the-scenes features that are both must see however. Becoming Adonis is about the intense year-long training Michael B. Jordan went to transform into Adonis Creed. Know the Past, Own the Future interviews most of the cast and crew about the history of Rocky and how Creed is essentially about passing the Rocky torch to a new generation.

The Rocky films are just as imperative to sports films as they were when the first one hit over 40 years ago. Creed excels in spades, and then some at continuing the Rocky legacy of the ultimate underdog story. My only nitpick is why Rocky’s son is only briefly mentioned in the film when I expected to see him at least make a cameo in the film’s final act and why the new characters introduced in the last film are not even officially recognized here. Minus that gripe, I am thumbs up all the way with Creed. I hope to see Michael B. Jordan carry the Creed torch for at least a couple more films for a new generation of movie-goers.

Other Random Backlog Movie Blogs

12 Angry Men (1957)
12 Rounds 3: Lockdown
21 Jump Street
Angry Video Game Nerd: The Movie
Atari: Game Over
The Avengers: Age of Ultron
Batman: The Killing Joke
Batman: Mask of the Phantasm
Batman V Superman: Dawn of Justice
Bounty Hunters
Cabin in the Woods
Captain America: The First Avenger
Captain America: The Winter Soldier
Clash of the Titans (1981)
Clint Eastwood 11-pack Special
The Condemned 2
Dirty Work
Field of Dreams
Fight Club
The Fighter
For Love of the Game
Good Will Hunting
Hercules: Reborn
Man of Steel
Marine 3 & 4
Mortal Kombat
The Replacements
Rocky I-VI
Running Films Part 1
Running Films Part 2
ScoobyDoo Wrestlemania Mystery
The Secret Life of Walter Mitty
Source Code
Star Trek I-XII
Take Me Home Tonight
The Tooth Fairy 1 & 2
Veronica Mars
The Wrestler (2008)
X-Men: Days of Future Past

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