Tuesday, 1 December 2015

Film Review: "Creed" (2015).

"Your legacy is more than a name"
. This tagline is front and centre in the ring for Creed. This sports drama film, co-written and directed by Ryan Coogler. It is the seventh Rocky film, whilst serving as a spin-off, as we see the former World Heavyweight Champion Rocky Balboa serves as a trainer and mentor to Adonis Johnson, the son of his late friend and former rival Apollo Creed.

The story of this champion's rise to the ring began in July, 2013, when it was announced that MGM had signed on with Fruitvale Station (2013) director Ryan Coogler to direct a spin-off of Rocky. The film would focus on a young man following in the footsteps of his late father, Apollo Creed, and getting a mentor in the now-retired Rocky Balboa. Michael B. Jordan was set for the role of Creed's son, Adonis Creed, and Sylvester Stallone was set to reprise his character of Rocky. Original producers Irwin Winkler and Robert Chartoff would produce, along with Stallone and Kevin King-Templeton. This is the first film in the series that was not directed or written by Stallone. In November 2014, real-life boxers Tony Bellew and Andre Ward joined the film, with Bellew to play a fighter, "Pretty" Ricky Conlan, the main opponent for Creed. Shooting was set to begin in January 2015, in Las Vegas and Philadelphia. In December 16, Tessa Thompson was added to the cast as the female lead. In January 2015, Phylicia Rashad reportedly joined the film to play Mary Anne Creed, Apollo's widow. In January 2015, Graham McTavish tweeted about his involvement in the film. Filming began in January 2015 in Liverpool, and later moved to Philadelphia, and shot in all the iconic locations. Front St Gym is on Clearfield Street. Mighty Mick's gym is on Front street. Both gyms are located in the Kensington section of Philadelphia. Adrian's Restaurant scene was filmed at The Victor Cafe in Philadelphia. During the climatic match between Creed and Conlan, Stallone requested that Jordan wear the famous American flag trunks that Apollo Creed wore in Rocky (1976) and Rocky wore in Rocky III (1982) and Rocky IV (1985) to keep tradition in the Rocky universe. Coogler wanted to uphold the series' father/son theme. "It's a sport where you need to lean on other people", the filmmaker said. "You see fighters have this bond with their trainer. We saw it with Tyson and Cus D'amato. We saw it with Rocky and Mick. It's a very special bond. We wanted to capture that." Coogler, who grew up watching the Rocky films with his family, wanted to tell a personal story much like he did with Fruitvale Station.

Despite a new champion in the ring, it almost didn't happen. Stallone was initially apprehensive about revisiting. "I said, 'No, no, no'... It was a struggle to get the last one done and I was so happy with Rocky Balboa and the conclusion of Rocky's story that I thought, 'We don't need to go any further with it.' I dismissed his idea." But it was the director's persistence that led him to reconsider. Later Stallone has expressed his pride in being a part of a story. "What's amazing is that this character and these stories have stayed around without any special effects, without any car chases, without blowing anything up, which is what I usually do, no bullets, no cursing, no sex scenes... That's what I think is so phenomenal. That a generation that wasn't even around when we did the third one, forget the first one, would embrace this and take it to a new level." Jordan credits Sylvester Stallone with putting him at ease while he joined a cinematic legacy. "Sly did the biggest thing for me, which was to take that pressure off of me... to not worry about competing or living up to what the other Rocky films were - just to be myself." Carl Weathers, who played Apollo Creed, gave his strong endorsement to the movie and Jordan's performance. Jordan felt extremely honoured. Just as the film was entering pre-production, Stallone's oldest son Sage Stallone died of a heart attack. Stallone has admitted that the loss almost sent him into a full breakdown, but Coogler was eventually able to convince him to use the film as a dedication to Sage, focusing specifically on the father-son relationships that appear in it. Although initially resistant, Stallone said at the Golden Globes that Creed helped him cope with Sage's death.

The film stars Jordan as Adonis Johnson Creed, Apollo's son, with Stallone reprising the role of Rocky Balboa in his seventh Rocky film. It also features Tessa Thompson, Tony Bellew, and Graham McTavish. The cast gave stellar performances, especially to Jordan and Stallone. Jordan brought a raw and intense swagger to the Rocky role and made it his own. In addition, Jordan was the perfect choice to play this character. Coincidently, Jordan was born in 1987, 2 years after the fictional death of Apollo Creed. So he is the perfect age to play Adonis. As for Stallone, despite making countless mindless action films and being told he's old for these kinds of movies, he's still got it! He perfectly played the part of the mentor that belonged to Burgess Meredith. Funny enough, Rocky is almost the same age as Paulie when he trained Rocky in the first film.

Creed is a crowning achievement in the careers of Coogler, Jordan and Stallone. In addition to a heart-warming script, Jordan has created a character of equal appeal and charm but funny, gruff but good-hearted nature as Rocky. However, the story does feel achingly familiar at times, though Jordan and Stallone have a certain power, they are certainly not the weakest elements in the film. In the end, this film is the real deal, offering a raw, gritty feel that none of the slicker sequels even attempted to replicate.

Simon says Creed receives:

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