director: Ryan Coogler
writers: Ryan Coogler & Aaron Covington
starring: Michael B. Jordan, Sylvester Stallone and Tessa Thompson
genre: Drama | Sports
released: November 25, 2015 (U.S.), January 14, 2016 (Germany), January 28, 2015 (Greece)
A wise choice was made when it came to the decision of who the underdog would be in the new Rocky film. As the story of Adonis Creed has a lot drama to it and becomes even greater in combination with his mentorship by the legend Rocky. Additionally, having the filmmaker of the acclaimed drama "Fruitvale Station" direct the film. Results in a production that focuses equally on its boxing matches that are intense and dramatic, while also on its scenes of drama that are raw and emotional for all to see and enjoy.
The unknown son of Apollo Creed Adonis (Michael B. Jordan), embarks on a journey to become a pro boxer like his father before him, but without taking advantage of his famous name. Thus, he will embrace his mother's maiden name and travel to Philadelphia to start his pro training, away from the Hollywood spotlight and familiarity.
There he will find the only one that can assist him on this path, which is his father's old boxing foe and best friend Rocky Balboa (Sylvester Stallone). Together they will find a bond they always secretly desired and new glory that without one another wouldn't have been ever possible.
I was never a big Rocky fan and always was of the opinion that they were slightly overrated, cliched and over the top. Still, they always tried to have a positive message and maybe have some social commentary in the process. See "Rocky 4" with the Cold War message and with all the film's in general having the constant theme of minorities and impoverished youth finding their way to success through the sport of boxing.
However, with this film in particular we do finally get a multifaceted drama that works incredibly better than its previous installments. For one, its no longer just about Rocky, he also has a costar this time that deserves some of the recognition as well. Also having Rocky take up the mentor role was the only logical way to go and who better for him to mentor than Creed's son Adonis.
A son who may have come out of nowhere, but makes a whole lot of sense once we hear about his roots, which the film doesn't shy away with. Showing how as a kid he had nothing to live for and was left abandoned by his parents in different and depressing ways. Overall, the story is primarily about him trying to form his own identity and prove to people and himself that he isn't an embarrassment to the family name and history. Which is something new to the franchise and a personal and dark feeling no one wants to feel.
Michael B. Jordan who plays the role of Adonis Creed fleshes out the character perfectly, delivering in the drama department whenever needed, while also being a beast in the ring. Playing the character as a reserved individual with a hidden temper that only comes out when he's being too cocky or when someone points out his issues of ego fairly often. Beside him, he has the romantic female lead in Bianca played by Tessa Thompson. Who portrays an interestingly crafted character that demands from Creed to be conscious of his actions and what it really takes to be in a relationship. They both grow as characters in the film and is a sweet romance that may be cliched, but isn't corny in my opinion.
In addition to them is non other than Rocky himself Sylvester Stallone, who is back in his most famous role next to Rambo and gives one his best performances to date. Having an impeccable chemistry with Jordan and being mighty funny along the way. Worthy of not is that he actually looks like he was enjoying himself during the filming of the role. It really is a great representation of acting ability and professionalism that he can look back on and be proud of.
And while the performances are great and the drama occasionally griping in the film. This is pretty much the same exact story we have seen before in "Rocky 1". Nevertheless, it really doesn't matter, because it works. Every beat we've seen before feels natural and nothing ever feels out place or too Hollywood for that matter. Because throughout Adonis Creed's progression as a character, he gets knocked down more times than you could expect and it shows really that he is just man that will give it his all to reach the top. Through not only psychical training but also intense mental training. Something the film really sells you on with Rocky's training being about bringing out every bad thing that has ever happened to you and unleashing it in the ring and not in life. Creed understands this and eventually breaks in the film and becomes his father son for the better and not the worse.
Moreover, the film is immensely helped by Coogler's direction. Who treats the film foremost as a dramatic story rather than a cash grab sequel. First he doesn't rush to get us into the big fights of the film, having in between a lot character scenes with the training of Adonis from Rocky and the intimate moments of him and Bianca together. Also the fight scenes themselves feel never short, always intense, varied and climactic. More importantly they are treated each differently than one another. For example the first fight is a complete one shot take, where the choreography is meant to be in your face and intense. Really demonstrating that things got real for Creed and that he will have to keep up. Then with the second fight it becomes much more choppier, where each blow is felt, paused, glamorized to a certain point and also viciously bloody.
This is the passing of the torch this saga needed and it is the underdog story everyone thrives for. It showcases flawed characters that grow to be better in life and aspire for more in the process. Having incredibly tense moments of boxing action and sorrow moments of drama that should put it on top of your watchlist and as one of the most entertaining films of the year.