Matt’s Movies: Stallone is Back

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Matt Chouinard, Film Critic

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The Rocky movies are pop culture classics, as nearly everyone has grown up knowing the name Rocky Balboa and about his glorious underdog story that has been told over the course of 30 years and 6 movies. The idea of spinning off a franchise and going in a new direction is never a guarantee for success, but a good premise was presented on how to continue the story, thus creating Creed which is an excellent entry into the Rocky universe that will entertain all, whether they be fans of the franchise, or not.

Creed, directed by Ryan Coogler, takes the franchise in a different direction, now focusing on Adonis Johnson(Michael B. Jordan), the son of Apollo Creed. Adonis was born after the death of Apollo, never getting the chance to know his father. Regardless, he feels drawn to the sport of boxing and is determined to follow in the footsteps of his father and become a boxing champion as well. His dreams bring him to Philadelphia where he finds a friend of his father to mentor and train him, in the great Rocky Balboa (Sylvester Stallone). Along with finding someone to train him, Adonis meets Bianca (Tessa Thompson), a local singer who he begins a relationship with. Together the three of them form a support system for each other that helps set Adonis on the path to establish his own legacy.

The storyline for Creed is a real strength and that is very important as it is trying to reestablish the franchise with a story worth telling. Creed ends up succeeding in delivering a new fresh story, full of interesting, fleshed out characters that will intrigue the audience. It follows a lot of the same themes that made the first Rocky movie great, with an unknown boxer trying to make it in his sport with the help of a veteran trainer and the support of his girlfriend. The film’s story finds a great balance between bringing back the things audiences loved from the older movies, while updating the franchise and maintaining a new, fresh tale. This allows it to appeal to even those watching who haven’t seen the Rocky movies.

The acting performances in Creed are solid and help maintain the overall quality of the film. Michael B. Jordan is great as Adonis Johnson, taking the torch from Sylvester Stallone and successfully carrying the movie with his portrayal of Apollo Creed’s son. He infuses the character with strong motivations and convictions, allowing the audience to learn a lot about the character, and his motivation and sincerity make him a very easy character to root for. It’s an iconic performance that could easily be the beginning of a new franchise for Jordan, as Adonis is a joy to watch, especially in the boxing ring.

Sylvester Stallone ventures out into his 7th outing as Rocky Balboa during this one. He delivers one of his most honest and heartfelt portrayals of the character he created so many years ago. At this point in time Rocky is an old man who doesn’t have much in his life anymore, having most of his greatest moments behind him. Stallone captures this mentality perfectly and plays the character in a way that audiences will sympathize with him and root for him almost as much as they are rooting for the boxer he is training. The performance is very enjoyable, but it doesn’t take away from Jordan’s performance, as Adonis is without a doubt the main character in this story. Balboa is now a firm supporting character, but adapts well to the role and the movie is better because of the dynamic of its two central characters, who present great chemistry.

Most of the other supporting characters in Creed help keep the story executed at a high level. Tessa Thompson in particular gives a good performance as Bianca, Adonis’ singer/girlfriend. Bianca is an interesting character who is given some actual depth and back story, which gives Thompson more to work with. Her interactions with Adonis are very enjoyable and Thompson and Jordan’s chemistry together is very genuine.

The best quality of Creed is the cinematography on display throughout the course of the movie, most of all during the boxing fights. There are a few boxing matches that occur over the course of the movie, all of which are highly entertaining to watch. The way that the scenes are filmed are very intense. Instead of constantly cutting to new shots, the camera moves around and continues to capture the fight from different angles on a continuous shot. This is best on display during Adonis’ first fight with Rocky as his trainer, as the entire fight scene is fought over the course of one continuous shot. Then there is the final fight, which is amazing to watch, filled with intensity and emotion. Adonis is a true joy to watch and the audience is rooting for him as if it was a real sporting event taking place on the screen in front of them. It is an exciting climax, resulting in a great ending to a great story.

Creed is a great emotional story with and excellent lead performance. It’s a story that was worth telling, with some of the best boxing scenes ever used in film. I give it 4 out of 5 stars and recommend it to anyone who is a fan of sports movies.