Creed (2015)

CREED

As stated previously (and enthusiastically), if Sylvester Stallone is in a movie, I’m going to watch it. So it shouldn’t be any great surprise that Creed is on my list of must-watch movies. Well, must-watch in the way that free movies are a must-watch. And, no, I don’t mean ‘free’ as in illegally downloaded versions of movies. GETTING UP ON MY VERY STURDY SOAPBOX

As a university student who at the end of my degrees had reached maximum student loans (yes, this is a sad possibility), I justified to myself that downloading content without paying for it was just one way of having more options. As a person working in the creative industries I realized just how crap that ideology is and cannot ever go back to stealing someone’s creative content. “But actors get paid millions of dollars!”, you say. Yep, they do. But the actors are just one part of a huge machine of industry that work to put out a film. Suck it up.

Don’t even get me started on the publishing industry—BOOKS ARE NOT EXPENSIVE!

Stepping off my soapbox now, and getting back to Creed—I waited patiently for my turn to come up at the library before watching my ‘free’ dvd. Funnily, I didn’t have to wait very long to get a hold of this masterpiece. If you don’t already know the story of underdog boxer, Rocky Balboa then I feel sad for what you’ve missed out on in terms of epic heroic stories. It’s not Beowulf, but for the sake of this amazing comparison let’s say it’s close.

Here’s a recap of the Rocky franchise to get a better sense of where and how the latest film, Creed, fits in:

Rocky (1976)
“You’re a bum, Rock. You’re a bum.”—Mickey (played by the salty Burgess Meredith), Rocky’s reluctant trainer.

It’s the Cinderella story of boxing. Rocky is a low-level fighter who is chosen by heavyweight champion of the world Apollo Creed (played by the solid Carl Weathers) to be his opponent in a title fight. Rocky is in it for his pride, and to prove to himself and his new lady, Adrian (played by the lovely Talia Shire), that he’s not totally worthless.

Rocky II (1979)
“You’re gonna eat lightnin’; you’re gonna crap thunder.”—Mickey
Rocky won the fight with Apollo Creed in a split decision, but he’s still pretty much a bum. His winnings are spent. He’s married Adrian and inherited a cantankerous drunk of a brother-in-law named Paulie (played by the unappealing Burt Young). Creed, embarrassed at having been beat by a nobody, challenges Rocky to a rematch.

Rocky III (1982)
“The worst thing that happened to you, that can happen to any fighter: you got civilized.”—Mickey
Rocky fights Clubber Lang (Mr. T)! Mickey has a heart attack!! Apollo Creed trains Rocky!!! All the exclamation marks in this third of the series which ends with a behind-gym-doors rematch between Apollo and Rocky…oooooh.

Rocky IV (1985)
Despite the fact that Mickey is sadly absent from the rest of the series, Rocky IV is my absolute favourite of the franchise. If Dolph Lundgren as Drago, the steroid-taking, Apollo-killing, Russian fighting machine doesn’t entice you over to my side, the intense Siberian training montage will. Also, Rocky grows a beard. Not enough? Brigitte Nielsen (future wife to Sylvester Stallone) plays Ludmilla, Drago’s cruel wife. Stunning.

Rocky V (1990)
“Get up you son of a bitch! ‘Cause Mickey loves you!”—Mickey
AKA, the Rocky movie that I never remember. Rocky’s accountant absconds with all his money and the family is forced to move back to the ‘neighbourhood’. Rocky opens up Mickey’s old gym and starts to train an up-and-coming fighter named Tommy ‘Machine’ Gunn (played by real life boxer Tommy Morrison). Through a series of, quite frankly, boring-ass scenes, Rocky and Tommy end up fighting each other in the street Warriors-style. Elton John serenades us in the closing credits.

Rocky Balboa (2006)
Sixteen years after his beat-down in the street, Adrian has died of cancer and Rocky now owns a restaurant named after her. He’s old and moldy, and swans around his memorabilia-strewn establishment retelling fight stories for his customers. He has a terrible relationship with his son (saw that coming), and the light at the end of the tunnel is being crowned the winner in a computer simulated match-up against the current heavyweight champion, Mason ‘The Line’ Dixon (played by the American professional boxer, Antonio Tarver). Rocky actually accepts a bout against the much younger and much fitter champion. Sylvester Stallone is so old that it hurts me a little to watch the fight scene. Almost as painful as watching this movie.

That brings us to Creed (2015).
Adonis ‘Donnie’ Johnson (played by better-than-middling Michael B. Jordan) is a wannabe fighter who seeks Rocky out as a trainer. Donnie, Apollo Creed’s child from an affair, had been rescued from a youth facility by Apollo’s widow, Mary Anne (the ferocious Phylicia Rashad), and raised in luxury. The struggle is real.

This movie tried too hard to hit all the sweet spots: the passing of the torch between Rocky and his protégé Adonis, a sort of full-circle thing between Rocky and the spirit of Apollo Creed; Rocky back in the ring, sort of (he’s no Mickey, that’s for sure); and the potential for a future installment of the franchise with a younger fighter (it’s happening, please no).

Overall the fight scenes were on mark and exciting. However, the side story of Apollo’s budding relationship with his neighbour Bianca (Tessa Thompson) takes up way too much screen time with little-to-no chemistry between the two actors. I wanted more scenes with Phylicia Rashad, who definitely had the best line of the film when she’s trying to convince Donnie how much fighting sucks by telling him that there were times when Apollo was beat by an opponent so badly that she had to wipe the shit from his ass while he recovered. (Paraphrased, because at the time I forgot to write down the line and I would now have to wait 88 weeks before my turn came up at the library again—this film’s status is gaining popularity, at least in the library lending world.)

Worst part of this movie: the training montage with Donnie and the motorcycles. WTF. Apparently it’s a Philadelphia thing. I dunno. I’m not convinced.

Best part of this movie: seeing Sylvester Stallone portray his approximate real life age. Very convincing.

Overall I wouldn’t watch this again but I wouldn’t not watch this for the first time.

Watch this on a rainy afternoon and if you happen to fall asleep halfway through that’s okay.

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