Wednesday, November 25, 2015

Creed Review

The Rocky franchise has been close to my heart for as long as I can remember. My dad has always loved these movies and so has most of my family for that matter. One of my all-time favorite things to do is to sit down on the couch with my dad and have a Rocky marathon. Even the installments that are slightly more cheesy are still enjoyable in my opinion. There's just so much to love about these movies. After growing up watching these movies over and over, when I was 17 years old, Hollywood graced us with another Rocky movie in Rocky Balboa. That was a calming of the beast movie, so to speak. A one last hurrah. I loved it! It was great to see Rocky  back one last time. Or so I thought. Hollywood being Hollywood wasn't ready to let this franchise go and decided to bring us a spin-off following Apollo Creed's son with Rocky as his trainer. A lot of people were worried at first, but I never complained. I didn't expect a masterpiece, but I was excited to see Rocky once again. The trailers appeased many of the haters and made me even more excited. Yet despite all the anticipation, I totally did not expect what I got. Many have said that this movie is as good as the first. I'm hear to tell you that they're right. Creed is a masterpiece, just like the first Rocky.

As a bit of a refresher, Apollo Creed was Rocky's opponent in the first movie. The two faced off again in Rocky II and became allies in Rocky III. One of the most emotional scenes in the franchise is when Apollo Creed died in the ring at the beginning of Rocky IV. In this new movie Creed, our main character is Apollo Creed's son, Adonis Johnson, who goes by Donny. He obviously never knew his father, but boxing was always a part of him anyways. It was in his blood. He was never officially trained by anyone, but rather he trained himself by watching videos of boxers fight, specifically his dad and Rocky, and replicating their moves. When he was young, he was raised in foster homes in Los Angeles mainly until his mother found him and decided to take him in. When he comes of age, Donny decides that boxing is what he needs to do with his life, so he leaves his home in Los Angeles and moves to Philadelphia where he finds Rocky and asks him to train him. Rocky is hesitant at first because he has moved on from that aspect of his life, but he eventually accepts and the two become a small family.

If you reflect back on the first Rocky, you remember that it's actually a fairly slow-moving movie. Yes there is plenty of action, especially at the end, but the training montages and the the boxing matches aren't the main focus of that movie. The main focus is on the character of Rocky. We are introduced to him. We follow his life. We see his struggles. We watch his relationships develop, particularly the one with his girl Adrian. We really dive deep into fictional character's life and because Sylvester Stallone is so good, we immediately develop a strong emotional attachment to him. The movie doesn't rush into the action or the fighting. It takes it's time getting to know the characters and thus when we do finally get to the fight with Apollo Creed, it means a whole heck of a lot more. This is the same exact formula that Creed follows and it works. The character of Donny is so well written and thus his story is so interesting to follow. He knows his heritage. Yet he goes by the name Johnson because he doesn't want to let that heritage define him. He wants to create a name for his own separate from his father. But to be honest, he is a little lost. He has an identity crisis and throughout the movie we watch as he tries to discover who he really is. And the movie takes its time to develop this character. Deciding to take things slow is always a big risk, but in this instance it becomes a beautiful character piece.

Donny obviously isn't the only character we follow in this. We also dive pretty deep into the character of Rocky once again. Thus in addition to serving as a spin-off movie with this new character that we grow to care about, this movie also serves as a seventh movie in the Rocky franchise. I don't want to even touch any details about what Rocky is going through in this movie, but this essentially picks up where Rocky Balboa leaves off as we dive deeper into an older Rocky who's far past the prime of his career and struggling with his own issues. Thus we get double the character development as we follow both of their individual stories. But you can almost call it triple because in addition to diving into their own individual challenges, we also dive into their relationship together. Rocky wasn't ready for this. Donny just shows up and essentially throws this on him and there's some real growth and struggles in this relationship that's essentially an uncle/nephew relationship. Yet it transforms from that at the beginning of the movie into a more father/son relationship as we go on. Donny never had a father figure in his life. Rocky did have a son, but that son is not really a huge part of his life at the moment and thus Donny fills that void.

A well done character piece is hard to pull off, but when it is done right, they are some of the most memorable movies out there. They key component to getting this type of movie right is to have the perfect cast that give it their all. Michael B. Jordan and Sylvester Stallone do just that. Michael B. Jordan is an up and coming actor that I've had my eye on for a while now. He was in the TV show Friday Night Lights as well as the movie Chronicle in 2012 and Fruitvale Station in 2013. Every time that I've seen him on screen recently, he's given it his all. He had the potential to break out in a more commercial way when he was cast as Johnny Storm in the recent Fant4stic movie, but sadly that opportunity was crushed when that movie turned out to be a disaster. Wasn't his fault, though, and I was hoping he would get another opportunity to shine. Well he has. I'm happy for him because he blows it out of the park in this movie in what I think is an Oscar-worthy performance. Speaking of Oscar-worthy performances, the other part of this duo, Sylvester Stallone, is probably even more worthy of an Oscar nomination. This is the role that Stallone was born to play and not only is it great seeing him in this role again, but it is amazing to see him once again knock it out of the park with a performance that is equal to the performance in Rocky that actually got him an Oscar nomination. I really hope this movie is able to get him another nomination.

I've gotten this far in this review and yet all I've really talked about so far are these two characters and how amazing they both did in these roles that were so beautifully written. This should tell you something about this movie. If you are hoping for a movie with non-stop boxing action, you're going to the wrong movie. But just like in Rocky, when those boxing matches do come, they are absolutely phenomenal. It's not just your average boxing match. It means something a whole lot more and thus becomes something very symbolic to what the characters are both going through. The cinematography for these scenes are absolutely stunning. There's even one of the matches that goes all out Birdman on us. That was incredible. If you don't know Birdman, that movie had some absolutely fan-freaking-tastic camera work combined with magical editing skills that gave the movie the illusion of being done in one long shot. Not all of the fighting sequences are done like this in Creed, which is probably a wise decision, but when they do go with it, it's phenomenal. Yet when they also go the typical route of plenty of cuts showing different angles and different perspectives, it's also pretty darn good in its own way. It adds some real great intensity to the emotion we are already feeling because of what we've watched the characters go through.

Finally, I can't leave this review without talking about the score for this movie. A good score is always key for any movie, but especially this genre. You need to have the proper build-up during the emotional scenes. You need to have the perfect song in place for the training montage that occurs right before the final fight. You need to have the appropriate music during the fight and when the fight ends. This often makes or breaks this type of movie. There was especially a lot of pressure for Creed because the Rocky movies nailed this. The song "Gonna Fly Now" by Bill Conti is one of my favorite songs and is definitely the best training montage ever. But that's not the only thing, the score in general is simply perfect. And Rocky III also produced the classic song "Eye of the Tiger." Yeah, the pressure was pretty high and they delivered. What I really liked is that the score in Creed was very representative of the type of movie this was. The movie flooded us with nostalgia by bringing Rocky back and continuing his story, yet it was also the dawn of a new potential franchise following Michael B. Jordan as Donny. As such, Creed used a lot of elements of the classic Rocky score and it was great hearing that music again. On top of that, the movie also added a brand new score and new themes for Donny as he progressed and thus the whole score, old and new, was simply beautiful.

In the end, Creed went above and beyond my most lofty expectations. I always go into a movie hoping that it will be great and I love it when I witness a movie that is almost complete perfection. Few feelings in life match the feeling of exiting the theater after witnessing a near perfect movie. I didn't expect the latter to happen for Creed. I expected a fun, Rocky spin-off. In fact, when it comes to this genre, I find that I am pretty easy to please. There's a definite formula that these boxing/fighting movies follow, but it's a formula that works and its a formula that pleases me. I enjoy all the Rocky movies. Not all of them are made equal, but they are all enjoyable. Even other movies similar to Rocky are usually pretty good. Warrior was one of my favorite movies of 2011 and Southpaw still remains one of my favorite movies from this year. I didn't expect perfection out of Creed, but I had no reason to believe that I wouldn't enjoy based on my history. Yet perfection is what I got and that made me super happy. When it comes to boxing movies, it doesn't get much better than Creed and thus I am going award Creed with a very deserving 10/10.

1 comment:

  1. Great Review!!! I'm SO pumped for CREED. I would have seen it already if it wasn't for having to wait till Friday to see it with all my family together for the 1st time. 17 of us going strong with custom CREED T-Shirts!!!