Creed Review

Creed is a 2015 boxing drama written by Aaron Covington and co-written/directed by Ryan Coogler. The film is the seventh installment in the iconic Rocky film series after a nine year long hiatus.

Story
Adonis Johnson (Michael B Jordan), the bastard son of legendary fighter Apollo Creed, is determined to create a legacy separate from his father's in the boxing world. To do this, he seeks the help of retired boxer Rocky Balboa (Sylvester Stallone) to train him. That's the simplest explanation of the plot I can give without giving away the film's emotional punches. The story is mainly about Adonis' growing friendship and bond with Rocky and his battle against his father's legacy. The carries this story on the shoulders of a meta narrative; this is a movie tied to the Rocky films but is trying to be its own, unique movie at the same time, kind of like what Adonis is trying to do. The emotions really hit home, especially in the turning point between the 2nd and 3rd acts.

Adonis is a compelling character in his own right and has an understandable mission. You sympathize with his desire to get out of his father's shadow and be his own man. You admire his passion and drive to succeed no matter how hard he has to push himself. Rocky is also an enjoyable character. I've never seen any of the other Rocky films, so I couldn't tell you how similar he is in this film to the previous ones, but I find him really enjoyable. He's quiet and laid back, but also passionate and proud. He's like an Italian/American appropriation of Mr. Miyagi. I also like where they have him starting int he beginning of the film; he's now retired and working an Italian restaurant, so it makes for a good use of the "hero finds a teacher in the lowest of places" cliche.

The screenplay is really well written. It sounds natural, yet inspiring. It's good at giving exposition, but avoids sounding forced. Every character has a consistent personality even when they're going through drastic change in their lives. What each character does makes emotional sense, is what I'm saying. There are a few Rocky references and callbacks that you won't get if you're never seen the original movies, but that's really a nitpick as they don't undermine the overall experience.

Technical
The film is very fond of long takes, especially during boxing scenes. This gives the film a sense of continuation, like we're in the fight as long as Adonis is. It also gives it a sense of authenticity. If there had been a lot of cutting during the fights I'm sure it still would've been good, but then we wouldn't have felt the whole impact of the fight. By being forced to sit through the entire fight from start to finish we get the sense that we're seeing a real fight right before our eyes, especially when the fighters start to get injured. The cinematography is also very unsteady, constantly bouncing up and down even in non-fight scenes. This works for the film, though, because it keeps the sense of kinetic energy and intensity throughout. In the opening scene, we see Adonis being kept in his juvie cell for beating up another kid. In this scene, even though he's just talking with somebody else, is always slightly shaking. This is used to show Adonis' tensity and that he's still reeling from the fight, recovering from the anger and adrenaline.

The fight scenes are well choreographed in that they feel authentic. The boxing isn't done with any kind of flair or elaborate choreography, but is just kept to two guys hitting each other. It definitely works for the tone of the movie, but if you were expecting something exceptional out of the fight scenes I think you'll be disappointed.

The sound editing is pretty good, particularly with distance. In an early scene of the film, Adonis is getting ready for a fight and as he walks up the stairs to the ring you can hear the cheering of the crowd. As Adonis gets closer, though, it gets louder and when he finally enters the ring the rumble of the audience is perfectly clear. This may be a trivial thing to comment on in that it seems like good sound editing should be an industry standard at this point, but you'd be surprised how many movies abandon that kind of thing all together. There's also a great moment near the end where Adonis goes down and everything around the ring fades out. Instead, we only hear the voices of Rocky and Adonis' girlfriend. Then, when he finally gets up we can hear everything again. It kind of reminded me of that scene from the end of Raging Bull when all the sound fades out as DeNiro gets punched out. The sound design is ok, though I always had the feeling that the punching sound effects should've sounded and therefore felt a lot harder. Instead, they sound like the punching sounds from Indiana Jones.

The choices for the soundtrack are good, mostly consisting of hip-hop/rap. There is a callback to the original Rocky theme tune and it definitely helps sell the emotion of the moment.

The costume design is simple, but it matches the personality of each character. Adonis is almost constantly dressed in boxing and training clothes since that's his primary goal in life. Rocky is dressed in normal clothes, symbolizing his retirement, and when he does put on sweats to train Adonis they're old and worn, showing that he's been out of the game for some time.

I want to touch on one specific moment from the beginning of the movie. Apollo Creed's wife has just visited Adonis to get him out of juvenile hall so he can live with her. She tells him that she was the wife to his father and when he asks her who his father was the title comes on the screen. That was a brilliant little moment and just something you don't see very often anymore. In modern Hollywood, most filmmakers don't bother to do anything interesting with the title; instead they just show it at the beginning or end of the movie with no real entrance. However, what creative filmmakers will do is give the title a segway into the film. For example, in Joss Whedon's Serenity, somebody is looking for somebody else. The hunter rhetorically asks "Where are you hiding?" This prompts the title of the film, which happens to be the name of the ship the prey is hiding on. The title is now an answer to the character's question.

Summary: Creed is a surprising gem, managing to be it's own great drama despite being a Rocky spinoff. It's the Rocky movie for a new generation and I think it's going to be remembered for a long time.

A

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