Monday, 18 January 2016


"Every move that I make, every punch that I throw, everything's being compared to him."

I must be honest, as someone with virtually no emotional connection with the ‘Rocky’ franchise (beyond the first one) I was never deeply excited by the prospect of another sequel, especially as none of them come anywhere near the brilliance of the first one. What does excite me however, is the prospect of Michael B Jordan and Ryan Coogler teaming up again to make another movie, which just happens to be this one.

Donnie Creed (Jordan) the illegitimate son of the former world heavyweight champion Apollo Creed makes the bold decision to follow in his father’s footsteps and become a boxer but wishes to accomplish it through his ability rather than relying purely on the Creed legacy. To do this he enlists the help of his father’s former rival turned best friend, Rocky Balboa (Sylvester Stallone).

The plot of the original ‘Rocky’ movie can be summed up in a similarly short sentence, but what makes this movie exceptional is the characters and their relationships with each other. This is so much more than just a fight for the young Donnie, it’s living up to the legacy that has overshadowed him his entire life, from a man he never knew. It’s about searching for a father figure and trying to find a calling in life. Rocky himself simply has no will to go on fighting. Together they make up the majority of this films emotional impact, and contribute to what could even surpass the original film as the best in the franchise.

 Michael B Jordan has had too few opportunities to display his talents as an actor, because everything so far has just been a small indication of what he can achieve on screen. Like Stallone did back in 1976 Jordan embodies that sense of selling the role on a physical level while displaying enough vulnerability to make us sympathise with him. He comes across as the underdog and sometimes pessimistic, but never defeatist. He evokes such a sense of compassion that one has to root for him out of responsive sympathy more than anything else, he is at a crossroad of identity, something we have all gone through. But additionally you get a genuinely rich character with captivating motivations that help sell the new frontrunner even more.

‘Fruitvale Station’ (Coogler and Jordan’s previous collaboration together) was a powerfully provocative movie and ‘Creed’ takes similar elements and applies them to that classic ‘Rocky’ formula we know and love. Through this Coogler is able to write a love letter to the franchise while observing it from an entirely new perspective. It’s hard not to get hyped up in the same way that one did when watching the original ‘Rocky’, with one scene in particular in which Donnie runs down the streets of Philadelphia in real Rocky style, but accompanied by enough modern adjustments to make it relevant and original.

The way in which Coogler directs this film is superb on many levels. From the stunning way he captured the streets of Philadelphia in a beautifully urbanised manner, to the boxing matches themselves. Rather than do what previous ‘Rocky’ directors have done and adopt a spectators view of the action, Coogler places his camera within the ring itself to capture the raw and visceral nature of the fighting. It works brilliantly because the film is permeated with warnings to Donnie concerning the dangers of his father’s profession, and in a few seconds Coogler brings all of those forewarnings to fruition.

At the same time though, Coogler knows just when to hold his camera still and allow the actors and characters to be the forefront of the films strength. Tessa Thompson left such an impression on me with ‘Dear White People’ and once again she brings depth and complexity to a role that could so easily have been side-lined. As the love interest of Donnie who suffers from partial hearing loss,she becomes a fully fleshed out character and rather than lose any of that when she devotes herself to another person, she merely integrates it with the character’s personality.

But of course we have to talk about the Italian Stallion himself. What makes Stallone’s performance so excellent is how, more so than any other outing for Rocky, he has developed the character immensely through sheer acting talent. He carries a weary presence with him but lacks none of the passion and drive that the has always possessed. It’s all done in such a brilliantly subtle way that one could be forgiven for missing these fantastic turns from Stallone. But they are there, and they are magnificent.

Impactful, reminiscent and wonderfully original.

Result: 8/10  

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