If you had told me a year ago that the 7th Rocky movie was going to be a critical and commercial success, I would have laughed in your face. I remember hearing the plot to Creed and laughing out loud, it sounded so ridiculous. Rocky training Apollo's son? How can movie producers milk this tired franchise anymore? I was convinced this movie would suck.
That was one of the stupidest assumptions I've ever made.
Not only is Creed a great Rocky movie, it's a well made movie that stands on it's own merits. This is leaps and bounds better than all the other half-assed reboots and tired sequels that have been churned out in recent years. The big difference; this project was given to filmmakers who care. Filmmakers who go out and try to make the best movie possible. Most of the praise then goes out to director Ryan Coogler, who also wrote the script. Coogler creates a world where the audience can genuinely connect to the main characters, making them rounded and fully fleshed out. Apollo's son, Adonis, is a fighter struggling to find his identity. He doesn't want to box in his father's shadow, but he also wants to carry on some kind of legacy. He soon gets his father's old rival/best friend Rocky Balboa to train him, and the two start to form a strong bond on the road to claiming a heavy-weight title.
More important than a boxing title to Adonis however is his identity and relationship to his father. Coogler creates a series of well nuanced scenes throughout the movie thanks to the sharp dialog and believable settings. The Rocky movies have been known to get kind of outlandish, Rocky IV has the Champ fight a giant evil Russian boxer. Creed however finds enough credibility for the audience to relate to, despite a couple of over-proportioned cliches. I honestly think that this is the best written Rocky movie since the first installment.
While the script is well crafted, the direction is in a league of it's own. Ryan Coogler is definitely on my list of young directors to watch after this. Yes, it's that good. At the halfway point in the movie Adonis has his first professional fight with a more experienced boxer. Coogler films it with such grace and bravado the audience is immersed in the intensity between the two fighters in the ring. The camera circles the fighters in one massively impressive take. I was trying to wrap my head around the techniques and choreography that went into filming such an endeavor.
While Coogler creates a technically sublime film, the real heart and soul lies with the performances. Adonis is perfectly captured by Michael B. Jordan, who lends himself to providing a sense of driven masculinity but also insecurity. He proves more than enough times in Creed that he is capable of carrying a movie by himself. Tessa Thompson does a wonderful job of playing Adonis' down to earth girlfriend, and Phylicia Rashad gives a powerful performance in her few scenes as Apollo's widow. The real MVP of the movie is Sylvester Stallone, who maybe gives one of the best performances of his career as the aging Rocky. His performance is grounded and carefully portrayed. Rocky has been known to be the butt of a few cinema jokes, but this installment gives the boxer the most time to realistically emote.
Creed pays homage to past Rocky movies, but it's also careful to stand out as well. Coogler and company do their best to create something that borrows elements from past entries and create something new and fresh at the same time. Other filmmakers should take note that this is how a sequel/prequel/reboot should be done. With heart and an emotional connection to the characters. Creed is one of the best surprises of the year. A cinematic knockout.
Anything with heavy dramas in it
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