The former World Heavyweight Champion Rocky Balboa serves as a trainer and mentor to Adonis Johnson, the son of his late friend and former rival Apollo Creed.
ActorsStarring: Michael B. Jordan, Sylvester Stallone, Graham McTavish, Tessa Thompson, Phylicia Rashād, Hans Marrero, Will Blagrove, Tony Bellew, Ritchie Coster, Jacob 'Stitch' Duran, Malik Bazille, Wood Harris, Gabe Rosado
Full disclosure: I have never been a fan of any of the Rocky movies. So now we have instalment 7 of the Greatest Boxing Legend of American Cinema. It does however have several things going for it before even seeing it: it is the first movie in the franchise not written by Stallone, and Rocky is now only a supporting character rather than the lead. Well, both Stallone and Rocky are in their 70s now so indeed instalment 6 was already taking things well beyond credibility.
Before watching Creed, I rewatched the original Rocky. I hadn’t seen it in over 20 years, and it has not stood the test of time well. It is extremely slow and the script is full of poor dialogue and acting, with of course a known finale, but actually that final fight is not as great as people seem to claim it is in terms of directing and cinematography. But of course it is not fair to compare a 1976 movie with today’s standards. So I was kind of keen to watch this new incarnation of Rocky to see what they would do with that kind of story with 2015 filmmaking capabilities. I was expecting it to at least rival Warrior in the fight scenes, and hopefully beat it in storyline. But it doesn’t even come close.
‘Creed’ refers of course to Apollo Creed, the guy Rocky fought in Rocky I and II, and who trained him in Rocky III and who got killed in Rocky IV. Turns out Apollo had an extramarital child, Adonis. Adonis (Michael B. Jordan) is a natural fighter – having picked fights from a young age, he hasn’t been able to leave his fighting needs behind when he finds himself in a regular day job in financial services. So he hands in his resignation, and tracks down Rocky to convince him to train him. Rocky is of course initially reluctant, then won over, then trains him, then a fight with the world champion presents itself out of nowhere (just like the original Rocky script), and we see Adonis training, leading up to the Big Finale.
The best bits are actually the predictable bits: the training montages do the job, and The Big Fight is decent, if somewhat rushed (we only really see the highlights, not the full fight). Then there are various subplots which are hit and miss; best is Rocky struggling with his health which allows Stallone to show something different than just his ability to utter platitudes as trainer (“you are fighting yourself – it’s just you against you, he’s just in your way” … oh lawdy); worst is the love interest with Bianca which, other than being a seemingly required element, adds little to nothing to the story or its outcome.
The directing and cinematography are also hit and miss. There are a few scenes that look like they were thought up over a few beers when after enough of them everything starts to sound like a good idea, but on the big screen they miss the point. Notably an unexplained scene where Adonis is shadow-boxing in front of a projection of the fight between Apollo and Rocky looks, well, just silly. And in an attempt to recreate or hommage Rocky’s running around Philly montages someone decided it would be cool to have Adonis do something like that with a random bunch of motorbikes following him. Wut?
I am sure for fans of the Rocky franchise, this movie delivers, as it is actually not worse than most of those. As a standalone movie it is not very good. Thin characters, poor dialogue, and hit and miss directing weaken the movie significantly and for me after an hour was well on a way to a score of 4. It was then salvaged somewhat by just giving up on the story and watching the second hour for the training montage and final fight which are not bad.
In Greek mythology, Apollo was the son of Zeus (the supreme God), and was God of the Sun. Adonis, whilst remembered as a a pretty boy first, and God of fertility and rebirth second, was actually the product of incest between his earthly mother and grandfather (the King of Cyprus). Not quite of the same stature indeed.