Monday, January 18, 2016

Creed (2015)

I really could not believe, first, that a seventh Rocky movie had even been made. Then I could not believe it was getting so many good reviews from so many surprising places. Then I realized it was actually one of two movie released this past holiday season that was the seventh in a franchise started in the '70s, and I thought I might take a look. By the time I got to my 9:40 a.m. weekday matinee, that other movie—Star Wars: The Force Awakens, of course—had just opened the day before. There was a large crowd milling around. I like these weekday morning matinees even when they're crowded because people tend to be more sober earlier in the day, which is how I like them at the movies. My ticket-taker looked surprised and told me I was the first person there for anything other than Star Wars, abruptly assuring me Creed was a good movie too. By the time it started there was a reasonable crowd of a few dozen. Maybe they hadn't been able to get tickets for Star Wars?

Look, the ticket-taker was right, Creed is good, and not just as an afterthought to Star Wars. It's a great sports movie. It's a solid entry in the Rocky franchise—in another parallel with Star Wars, it's the second-best out of the whole bunch, after the original. (Full disclosure: I am not a fan of the Star Wars franchise and only a marginal fan of its Rocky counterpart. Don't make me call it a guilty pleasure.) Creed is full of surprises. As a sports movie, it hits all the right notes, no pun intended. The commitment to excel, the raw talent, the training montages, the underdog tale (with a deep backstory in this case), the brutal opponent, and the matter of the bout itself, fighting the fight blow by blow. All here. One of the best parts is Sylvester Stallone as an aging Rocky Balboa. Maybe age has conferred something—I always thought he was more limited than even Clint Eastwood, but here he is making the Eastwood of Million Dollar Baby and Gran Torino look like Walter Brennan. Stallone is just insanely likable, as Rocky Balboa taking on management of an illegitimate son of his former opponent, Apollo Creed. Toward the middle of the picture it veers around in some confusion about what is real and what is Rocky, but once we get to the main event in the last third it's all sensation and pointed drama, as the sports movie mojo kicks in. Director and cowriter Ryan Coogler (Fruitvale Station, which I haven't seen) has a strong feeling for this material, both the larger franchise and, more importantly, how to film boxing ring sequences. Like the original, it ends on rousing high notes. How much groundwork are they laying for sequels? Plenty—the next one is reportedly already in preliminary development. If Coogler is there for it, and Michael B. Jordan, who is fine as Creed's son Adonis, it might be as good as a Rocky sequel. In other words, in a season of new box office records, I wish Creed all the success in the world. And when the inevitable inferior sequels come along as a result, then I will be sad.


  1. Loved Creed. One of my favorites of the year.

    Good review.

    - Zach

  2. I was just looking at this list of the all-time movie franchises at the box office ( You're right, the problem with these things are that they so seldom go beyond one decent version. Which is part of what makes them guilty pleasures, I suppose. I have a soft spot for the Bourne series, the Terminators, even liked Indiana Jones better than Star Wars.