Director Ryan Coogler puts you in this winning sports drama with Adonis Johnson (Creed), well played by Michael B. Jordan, and classic character Rocky Balboa, well played by Sylvester Stallone for the seventh time.
Coogler and Jordan worked together on the 2013 drama Fruitvale Station and combine with Stallone for a high quality experience. The main characters find solace, redemption, and love as they cope with loss on many levels.
Coogler also co-wrote the screenplay with budding filmmaker Aaron Covington and the story based on Stallone’s written characters. Filmmakers create touching emotions where time is precious and characters show genuine passion and encouragement to the very end. “Time takes everybody out; time’s undefeated,” says one main character.
Adonis struggles living a double life, but his persistence and heart save him in the end. His acting equals the physical demands of the role as he impresses with his physical skills, emotional heart and genuine charisma. Definitely a star making role for him.
Sylvester Stallone co-stars as Rocky “Unc” Balboa and co-produced this wonderful film. Filmmakers retain continuity as Rocky lives largely a solitary life without Adrian, his son and Paulie while managing his restaurant.
Rocky wisely considers his physical limitations without diminishing his tough charisma. “I’m not leaving until I tell you what’s on my mind,” he says. Rocky know when to deliver well-timed advice while carefully weighing every move his makes. “Now were going to shut his big mouth aren’t we?” he says to Adonis.
Filmmakers incorporate some humor using the obvious generational differences between the two main characters. Adonis subtly and politely corrects Rocky’s spelling while audiences get good moments relating to their different perspectives and uses of modern technology.
Rocky’s masterful teachings and heroic lore help mold Adonis into an amazing fighter. Adonis’ father, Apollo Creed, previously played by Carl Weathers, factors in prominently even though filmmakers do not use his speech in these scenes. “I do the talking; you do the fighting,” Rocky says to Adonis.
“What do we train for?”…”To win. Not get killed.” This mantra echoes all the characters as each fighter (introduced with an impressive text graphic overlay) works hard to meet their dreams.
The victories are so sweet as audiences are easily caught up into the spectacle and passion of boxing. “Got one! That’s cause of you!” Adonis says to Rocky.
This duo gradually forges through some tough and challenging times for themselves not money, ego or glory. “I don’t know if you’re ready or I’m ready. I’ll do what you want to do,” Rocky says to Adonis.
Tessa Thompson stars as Bianca, a local musician, who goes far beyond the typical “love interest” role.
Composer Ludwig Göransson worked with Thompson, to create nine original songs for the film. “Grip” is a definite standout that deserves a full version (filmmakers only created enough for the film’s purposes). Bianca even gets a memorable appearance in ring.
Bianca and Adonis make a formidable couple. They progress from sharing basic life goals to full disclosure. “You gonna find a problem with everything I say?” Adonis says as Bianca demands Phylicia Rashad (TV’s The Cosby Show) has a prominent, but mostly functional role as Mary Anne Creed, Apollo’s widow.
The boxing characters include Pretty Ricky Conlan, played by Tony Bellew; Adonis’ main sparring partner Amir, played by Malik Bazille; Danny ‘Stuntman’ Wheeler, played by Andre Ward and Stitch, played by Jacob ‘Stitch’ Duran.
Ritchie Coster (The Bounty Hunter, The Dark Knight, TV’s The Blacklist) plays boxing trainer Pete Sporino while Gabe Rosado plays his son Leo “The Lion”.
Filmmakers address the authentic work put into each fight and emotions behind it on all sides ranging from the physical challenges of training to boxers learning to fight for their own lives and safety at Delphi Boxing Academy.
Editors Claudia Castello and Michael P. Shawver combine forces with cinematographer Maryse Alberti (The Wrestler) enhance each element in the film ranging from a look to a fist unclenching,
Stallone won an Oscar for the first Rocky film (1976) and made his own film genre where audiences’ emotional connections and resulting involvement made people stand up and cheer in their seats…now it’s time to talk about Coogler’s Oscar worthy work.
The boxing sequences are obvious showcases as Coogler set the stage well (explaining pertinent rules, etc.) as fighters “hope on the tails of heroes.” Coogler and his Steadicam operator Ben Semanoff create a stunning two-round boxing match in one single shot, which is alone worth the price of admission.
Coogler keeps a unique third person point-of-view where the audience always feels in the middle of the action. He also incorporate circular shots around the main characters at key sequences and conveys updated information in the film series through modern media (YouTube, HBO Sports specials, etc.).
Only possible improvement would be changing a far shot during a sparring match where Adonis gets frustrated into a close-up from Adonis’ point-of-view. Also, the overdone make-up on Adonis’ lips distracts before the final boxing match.
Ludwig Göransson creates a great musical score and also worked on Fruitvale Station with Coogler. The musical score does not feature prominently into the story until later near the beginning after an important origin sequence addressing Adonis’ background. The musical score gets a bit too loud during a sequence where YouTube videos are being shown on a large screen near the beginning of the film.
“Last Breath” by Future and “The Fire” by The Roots featuring John Legend stand out on the song soundtrack along with Goransson’s “You’re a Creed” and “If I Fight, You Fight (Training Montage)” score pieces, especially since they incorporate previous musical work from the Rocky film series.
Filmmakers honor and delight the built-in fan base with numerous references (e.g. look at Adonis’ shirts as he trains), mentions in character dialogue and flashbacks, including one key visual during the last boxing event in the film. They also include some satisfying revelations (e.g. end of Rocky III fight result) that advance the story and develop the characters.
Filmmakers cover every element well among the 133 minute running time. Everything presented for a reason (often more than once). Even the release date is very special.
Filmed in England, Las Vegas, Nevada and, of course, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, Creed comes highly recommended (***1/2) and is rated PG-13 for violence, language and some sensuality We’ll see if the home video version an alternate ending(s).
Copyright © Michael Siebenaler