Wednesday, December 9, 2015

Movie Review #351: "Creed" (2015)

Director: Ryan Coogler
Rating: PG-13
Running Time: 2 hours, 12 minutes
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Adonis Johnson, a troubled young boy, learns he is the biological son of boxing legend Apollo Creed when Creed's widow, Marie Ann (Phylicia Rashad), adopts him.  Now a young man, Adonis is trying to make his own way in boxing, doing his best to avoid his father's sizable shadow. 

Is it just us, or is Rocky Balboa one of the most likable characters in cinematic history? Sylvester Stallone returns as Rocky Balboa, but this time, he is in a more supporting role as he plays trainer to Michael B. Jordan's character Adonis Johnson 'Creed'. Adonis 'Donnie' Johnson was the result of an extramarital affair that Apollo Creed had with Adonis's mother right before he passed away. After Donnie's mother died, he spent many years in the foster care system and in juvenile hall, bounced around from place to place. Eventually, Apollo's widow Marie Ann Creed (Phylicia Rashad), informs Donnie who his father really was and invites him into her home. Being raised by Marie Ann, Donnie has been afforded every luxury imaginable. He has gotten a good education and even has a good job, but just like his father, his heart lives and breathes fighting. Against the wishes of his "Ma," Donnie decides to quit his job and begins fighting professionally full time. When nobody in L.A. will train him, he heads to Philly and seeks the help of Rocky Balboa, his father's opponent-turned-friend.

The original "Rocky" was released in 1976 and won an Academy Award for best picture, much to the chagrin of the masses. None of the Rocky sequels have come anywhere close to the original in terms of overall quality, emotional depth, and impact. Until now. "Creed" is an Oscar-worthy film if we've ever seen one. Let's start from the top. First off, it has such heartfelt, wonderful performances from both Michael B. Jordan and Sylvester Stallone. Jordan proves he is a better caliber actor than what was shown in "Fantastic Four" earlier this year. We knew from the minute we saw him in "Fruitvale Station" that he'd eventually get the chance to make his mark on Hollywood. He sure as hell illustrates why he belongs on a list of the best up-and-coming actors with his performance as Donnie Johnson. Much like the original "Rocky," "Creed" is less about boxing and more about personal struggle. This time, the struggle is not financial. Here, Donnie has to struggle to come to terms with own identity. Adonis never knew his father. He was born after his dad died in the ring against Ivan Drago. By merely being who he is, Donnie lives in the very large shadow of Apollo Creed, especially when he moves to Philadelphia to get trained by Rocky Balboa. Donnie worries he will not live up to his father's name and has to work at coming to terms with being a Creed. Also, because he lost both of his biological parents at a young age coupled with spending many years in foster care, Adonis struggles with his own personal sense of self-worth and his definition of both family and love. Meanwhile, Rocky has his own struggles. He is battling a serious illness. He has felt a profound sense of loss and loneliness after the passing of both his wife Adrian and his brother-in-law Paulie. His son has moved to Vancouver and doesn't call all that often. Rocky doesn't feel like there's much left to live for. In their separate struggles, Adonis and Rocky find both each other, and themselves, as they both learn and re-learn what it means to be a family, even if it doesn't always mean sharing the same DNA.

There are certain parts of "Creed" that were filmed as long, continuous shots, a technique we have come to love in the last few years. Director Ryan Coogler does a brilliant job mixing this style of camerawork with various colors, sounds, imagery to create an entirely new yet still cohesive tale about self-discovery, heart, and drive. Even though this film technically still follows the same tried and true "Rocky" formula, with a couple of different actors, somehow, it manages to feel fresh and entertaining, in addition to being completely heartwarming and tear-jerking. Between the stellar acting on the part of Michael B. Jordan, Sylvester Stallone, and Tessa Thompson, and the incredible direction, "Creed" has simultaneously resurrected the "Rocky" series and has formed its own intriguing spin-off, honoring the films and characters before it yet still embracing the newfound story. Simple enough, everything about this movie is what we had hoped "Southpaw" from earlier this year could have been and more. It's a near perfect film and needs to be recognized for its greatness in both reinvigorating and recapturing what once was a winning formula. "Creed" inspired and uplifted us,  but is emotionally resonant enough to draw tears all at the same time. We loved every minute of this movie, and we cannot wait to see where the franchise goes from here.

My Rating: 9/10
BigJ's Rating: 9.5/10
IMDB's Rating: 8.6/10
Rotten Tomatoes Rating: 93%
Do we recommend this movie: ABSOLUTELY YES!!!

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