When people ask me my favourite movies of 2015, Creed is right up there in my top picks. You know how The Force Awakens took Star Wars of old, paid homage, introduced new characters, re-introduced much loved old characters and created a whole new buzz for a franchise in much need of a kick in the space pants? Well, Creed does much the same for the Rocky franchise, with a neat kick in the boxer shorts.
Fruitvale Station director Ryan Coogler directs and co-writes, lending the same passion and much needed new lease of life to Sylvester Stallone’s Rocky as JJ Abrams brought to George Lucas’ Star Wars. Casting Michael B. Jordan as Apollo Creed’s son, Adonis, and taking the plot of the first, great Rocky movie almost beat-for-beat, Coogler crafts a big, fat, proudly sentimental love-letter to underdog sports movies. Yup, every cliché we loved about the first Rocky is here. Music montages? Hell, I think I counted three! Rise and fall fights? Sure thing, only this time there’s an entire bout shot in one long continuous take and (pun intended) it rocks. But what delivers the knockout blow here is that while Adonis trains to beat his pugilist foe in the ring, his old trainer, Rocky Balboa, fights The Big C.
Sure it has issues. Women are an afterthought. The romance subplot is unconvincing. But, these are all issue the first testosterone-fueled Rocky had. Star Wars chose wisely to update those issues, whereas Creed clumsily attempts to sidestep sexism by introducing Tessa Thompson as Adonis' strong, independent love interest. It's a gesture sure, but a weak, undeveloped one that, hopefully, will be paid more attention in the inevitable sequel.
Creed is a movie with a big heart and an even bigger love of the Rocky movies. Jordan is superb as the young fighter taken beneath the old guard’s wing, but the standout here is Stallone who, maybe for the first time since dinosaurs roamed the Earth, actually acts, and damn if he ain’t great. Seriously. I’d give him the best supporting actor statue now and be done with, it’s that wonderful to see him flex his acting chops rather than churning out yet another excruciating Expendables sequel with his WWE / action pals.
Who’d have thought it? Two franchise revivals that actually work in one year. 2015 wasn’t so bad after all.
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