Saturday, February 25, 2023

Review: "CREED" Fights Furiously in the Shadow of "Rocky"

TRASH IN MY EYE No. 9 of 2023 (No. 1898) by Leroy Douresseaux

Creed (2015)
Running time:  133 minutes (2 hours, 13 minutes)
MPAA – PG-13 for violence, language and some sensuality
DIRECTOR:  Ryan Coogler
WRITERS: Ryan Coogler and Aaron Covington; from a story by Ryan Coogler (based on characters created by Sylvester Stallone)
PRODUCERS:  Roger Chartoff, William Chartoff, Sylvester Stallone, Kevin King-Templeton, Charles Winkler, David Winkler, and Irwin Winker
CINEMATOGRAPHER:  Maryse Alberti (D.o.P.)
EDITORS:  Claudia Castello and Michael P. Shawver
COMPOSER:  Ludwig Goransson
Academy Award nominee


Starring:  Michael B. Jordan, Sylvester Stallone, Tessa Thompson, Phylicia Rashad, Andre Ward, Tony Bellew, Ritchie Coster, Jacob “Stitch” Duran, Graham McTavish, Gabe Rosado, Brian Anthony Wilson, Max Kellerman, Jim Lampley, Michael Wilbon, Tony Kornheiser, and Hannah Storm

Creed is a 2015 boxing drama and sports movies directed by Ryan Coogler.  It is the seventh film in the Rocky film series, which began with the 1976 film, Rocky.  Creed is also a spin-off of the Rocky series.  The film focuses on a young boxer who struggles with his legacy, but seeks out his late father's friend and former rival to be his trainer.

Creed introduces Adonis “Donnie” Johnson (Michael B. Jordan).  He is the son of former heavyweight boxing champion Apollo Creed via an extramarital affair.  Creed's widow, Mary Anne (Phylicia Rashad), took Donnie into her home in Los Angeles, which opens up many opportunities for him.  However, Donnie also wants to be a boxer, but when he finds that no one will support or train him, he travels to Philadelphia, Pennsylvania.

There, he convinces Apollo Creed's old friend and former rival, Rocky Balboa (Sylvester Stallone), to train him.  Initially reluctant to return to boxing, Rocky eventually agrees and begins training Donnie at his old stomping grounds, Front Street Gym.  When Donnie gets the offer to fight the “light heavyweight” champion of the world, “Pretty” Ricky Conlan (Tony Bellew), Stallone isn't sure that he should do it.  Donnie's new girlfriend, singer-songwriter, Bianca (Tessa Thompson), also has her doubts.

To do this, Donnie will have to embrace his legacy as well as forge a new one for himself.  But is he willing to accept that the world does not want Adonis Johnson.  It wants “Adonis Creed?”

I have never watched the movie Rocky or any of its sequels in their entirety.  I doubt that I have ever watched enough of them to amount to an entire film.  I don't like boxing movies, although there is one I do like, the 1949 Film-Noir, The Set-Up.  However, I have been a fan of writer-director Ryan Coogler since seeing his powerful film debut, Fruitvale Station (2013).  I am crazy about his two films for Disney's Marvel Studios, Black Panther (2018) and its sequel, Black Panther: Wakanda Forever (2022).  I am intrigued by the upcoming Creed III, so I decided to see the one Coogler film that I'd skipped, the first film in the series, 2015's Creed.

In some ways, Creed seems entirely reliant on the first three film in the Rocky series.  It obviously would not exist with those films, but sometimes Creed acts as if it could not exist without constantly referencing the past.  Creed, as a film, struggles with its own legacy (Rocky) as it tries to become its own thing just as Adonis Johnson struggles with the legacy of Apollo Creed.  Will becoming Adonis Creed overshadow Adonis' own identity and achievements?  Can Creed escape the shadow of Rocky.  Perhaps, they find a happy medium, Adonis more so than the film that tells his story.

Beyond that, Creed is a really good film because Ryan Coogler is an exceptionally good filmmaker.  Here, his work makes him come across as a natural, and I now see why Marvel was willing to consider him for Black Panther all those years ago.  Coogler gives Sylvester Stallone the space he needs to give his best performance as Rocky Balboa in three decades.  The role had become a stereotype, but here, Coogler makes old and ailing Rocky seem like a genuine life lived instead of as a caricature revived.

Coogler also gets Michael B. Jordan and Tessa Thompson to give what still seem to be the best performances of their careers.  Adonis and Bianca have weight and depth, and Jordan makes Adonis feel like an especially developed character.  Jordan carries Adonis' history and emotions as if they were real things.

It is a shame that the Oscars could only recognize Stallone – via the “Best Supporting Actor” category that he did not, but should have won.  It is as if the Academy, especially the directors and screenwriters' branches, fears Ryan Coogler colossal talent.  Still, Creed, in spite of its spin-off imperfections, will be remembered much more than many of 2016's Oscar favorites.

8 of 10
★★★★ out of 4 stars

Saturday, February 25, 2023

2016 Academy Awards, USA:  1 nomination: “Best Performance by an Actor in a Supporting Role” (Sylvester Stallone)

2016 Black Reel Awards:  5 wins: “Outstanding Actor, Motion Picture” (Michael B. Jordan), “Outstanding Supporting Actress, Motion Picture” (Tessa Thompson), “Outstanding Director, Motion Picture” (Ryan Coogler), “Outstanding Original or Adapted Screenplay, Motion Picture” (Aaron Covington and Ryan Coogler), and “Outstanding Motion Picture” (Sylvester Stallone, Irwin Winkler, David Winkler, Robert Chartoff, William Chartoff, Kevin King-Templeton); 4 nominations: “Outstanding Score” (Ludwig Göransson), “Outstanding Ensemble” (Francine Maisler), “Outstanding Original Song” (Tessa Thompson, Ludwig Göransson, and Sam Dew for the song, “Grip”), “Outstanding Original Song” (Donald Glover, Vince Staples, Jhené Aiko, Ryan Coogler, and Ludwig Göransson for the song, “Waiting for My Moment”)

2016 Golden Globes, USA:  1 win: “Best Performance by an Actor in a Supporting Role in a Motion Picture” (Sylvester Stallone)

2016 Image Awards (NAACP):  4 wins: “Outstanding Actor in a Motion Picture” (Michael B. Jordan), “Outstanding Supporting Actress in a Motion Picture” (Tessa Thompson), “Outstanding Writing in a Motion Picture-Theatrical” (Ryan Coogler and Aaron Covington), “Outstanding Directing in a Motion Picture-Theatrical” (Ryan Coogler); 2 nominations: “Outstanding Motion Picture” and “Outstanding Supporting Actress in a Motion Picture” (Phylicia Rashad)

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