3 out of 5 stars
Living up to a father's legacy
Walking into the cinema...
Another incarnation of Rocky, but does anyone care about the Italian Stallion anymore?
Adonis Johnson (Michael B. Jordan) has struggled throughout his life. His adolescence has been spent in foster care and juvenile detention where he learned to find his solace and survival in fighting. One day Mary Ann Creed (Phylicia Rashad) walks into his detention centre cell and offers him a new life. She tells him that this young delinquent is the son of the late Apollo Creed. Despite being the son of another woman, his new mother chooses to raise this troubled young man as her own. He is given a pauper to prince experience, but despite the privileges of this lifestyle, Adonis yearns to get into the ring and fight. After university, he is working his way up the corporate ladder, but chooses to leave it behind and move to Philadelphia to pursue this dream to box like his father. He searches for his father's friend and rival, Rocky Balboa (Sylvester Stallone), to ask him to consider to being his trainer and to guide him through the world of boxing.
There is some hope for the Italian Stallion franchise, despite all of the scepticism that precedes seeing another Rocky film. The choice of director is the up-and-coming Ryan Coogler (Fruitvale Station) and he partners with the potential new face of this franchise, Michael B. Jordan. The challenge for this young team is to respect the original material and still offer something fresh.
The decision to develop the Apollo Creed story provides an originality that lays the groundwork for the rest of the film. From the outset, Coogler manages to give this well-worn storyline a new look and feel. His raw, retrospective touch honours the original Rocky film, but gives it his own signature of the inner-city through grey hues through the street-wise reality of Philly. He also manages to incorporate actual champion boxers into the story, which gives the film a reality that cannot always be conveyed through actors.
Coogler taps into the fact that Stallone will command a certain presence, but should not carry the film on his own. The Rocky star is well-cast as the support for the new story line without sidelining the script. Also, the incorporation of Balboa's illness adds the needed emotional component that gets effectively woven into the boxing saga.
The first half provides a promising set up for Creed and then comes the inevitable preparation for the big fight. Like most boxing dramas, this is where things become regretfully formulaic. Adonis and Rocky are knocked around by the challenges of life and they must prove themselves to one another and the world. Similar to Southpaw from earlier in the year, the drama of Creed moves into a conventional storyline that comes to a peak at the final fight. Coogler seems to go through the motions in the second half of the film and fails to cast a worthy villain to the storyline. The Rocky franchise usually provides memorable antagonists, but not for this outing. 'Pretty' Rick Conlan (Tony Bellew) is a real-life boxing champion and has the mouth to prove it, but lacks the physical presence to be considered a formidable opponent to Adonis, who is an impressive force on the screen.
Creed does provide some promise for the future of this franchise, but will need to change its formula for it to continue any further. For fans of boxing films, this will provide a nostalgic experience with a fresh twist. The beginning does offer something new for this genre, but ultimately it turns into a perfunctory lesson on how to get ready for a big fight.
REEL DIALOGUE: What are some of the bigger questions to consider from this film?
One consistent component of the Rocky franchise is the value of having the right support crew in the corner of the ring with the boxer. In boxing and in life, having the right people around you to inspire, motivate, and encourage you makes the difference in how things will go in the short and long term. The blessing of Christianity is not only a relationship with God, but the community that comes along with the package. Being part of this group of people should offer the needed sense of encouragement and inspiration through life's journey. We are hard-wired to need people in our lives. What better group to have around you than those who have that connection with Jesus and share the hope that can only be found through Him.They are not perfect, but they do serve the perfect God.
1. What does the Bible say about boxing? (1 Corinthians 9:26, 2 Timothy 4:7)
2. Does this life have any purpose? (Jeremiah 29:11, Ephesians 3:8-12)
3. What does the community of Christ offer people? (1 Corinthians 12:12-31, Romans 12:4-5)
Leaving the cinema...
Creed is an example of being shackled by a formula. The beginning offers promise and proves to be a decent boxing tale, but for all of the fresh components they get lost in the standard boxing formula.