Surprising 7th round for Rocky

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Sceptic is the word that best desribes my initial thoughts when I heard Creed was to hit theatres. Scepticism towards the idea that the Rocky saga would be continued. Then the, in my mind, most unimaginable thing occurred: Sylvester Stallone got nominated for an Oscar for his role in Creed. It got me thinking that there must be a good piece of mainstream filmmaking behind it. And there is. Ryan Coogler manages to create a movie that punches itself to victory in a 130 minute long round.

Creed. A last name and a noun. Together they make a young boy who is lost in this world and needs some guidance, a creed if you will, in order to get on the right track. Adonis Johnson wishes to make a name for himself, rather than using his father’s name; and who is more appropriate to get the son of late Apollo Creed into shape than the champ himself, Rocky.

The movie may seem to have a slow start, in particular if you go in expecting a fight. Donnie (Adonis Creed) is finding his way in life and the movie builds up to that, escalating in a fight of epic proportions where you can expect to be holding your breath once or twice. While Stallone gives an excellent performance, many believe his best ever, Michael B. Jordan shouldn’t be neglected. Especially when in the ring Jordan convinces with an intensity that makes you wanna block a punch for him, which heightens the movie viewing experience. This tension that draws you in also surges by cause of the camerawork. One of Johnson’s earlier fights is done in one take; circling around the ring, feeling the excitement of the audience, making every swing feel all the more real. While this trick is not repeated to the same extent in later fights the camera makes it feel as if you are right there on the stands.

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What is missing in Creed is, is a certain depth to the main character. Whereas Rocky was this character with his own regiment, a crush on a girl, down to earth in a way; there is Donnie who had a rough time the first few years, but then grows up in a luxury environment and ends up in the financial district. His opponent calls him out on that, and it is true from a certain perspective. It is hard to gain sympathy for Donnie as it seems he just gets everything handed to him. This is not the case as is already explained at the beginning of the movie, yet somehow this is not convincing especially when Donnie shows that his biggest struggle is that he does not want to fare on his father’s name. It seems odd that this is what bothers him most after troubling younger years in foster homes. However, the story does come together to a satisfying end and the exploration of the other characters, Rocky and neighbor Bianca, make up for this plot hole.

After Fruitvale Station, Coogler pleases us with another exhilarating piece of filmmaking. The build-up to the climax is executed impeccably, and while there is a lack of character depth, Creed is a monumental comeback for Stallone and a splendid debut for Donnie “Hollywood” Creed. Coogler knocks this one out of the park, and it almost makes me hungry for more.

3.5 Stars
January 24th, 2016

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