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The Power In A Name

The original Rocky was released in 1976, almost 40 years ago. Rocky was more than a movie for its time. The quintessential underdog story, about how with enough hard work you can achieve your dreams. We’ve grown with Rocky over that time-span with five hit or miss sequels, 4 if you do the wise thing and forget Rocky 5 ever existed (I did).  However, father time is undefeated and Rocky can’t don the gloves anymore. Enter in Adonis Creed, the son of Rocky’s greatest in the ring rival Apollo Creed. We get a new underdog story, one for the new generation and it is as rich and fulfilling as the first time Rocky stepped in the ring.

To briefly get the unfamiliar up to speed, Apollo Creed died during a boxing match in Rocky 4. Adonis is Apollo’s illegitimate son, the result of an affair. Adonis was unaware of who his father was and his mother died while he was young.  He found himself making the unfortunate rounds between group homes and juvenile detention.  Apollo’s widowed wife, Mary, finds Adonis.  She informs him of his father and chooses adopt him and raise him as her own.  As he grows into adulthood, he becomes bored with his normal job and yearns to be a fighter. He has a talent for fighting but the real problem is that he is a Creed.  Nobody wants to train him to be a boxer, so much so that he is regulated to self-training and taking fights in Mexico.  They fear his comfortable upbringing makes him unsuitable for such a harsh and grueling lifestyle as a boxer.  Frustrated with the lack of support in his hometown of LA, he quits his white-collar job and moves to Philadelphia. Seeking the tutelage of his father’s greatest rival Rocky Balboa. Rocky is apprehensive for his own reasons, one chiefly being his guilt of not throwing in the towel for the Apollo fight.  However, out of sense of obligation to his late friend/rival he eventually decides to train him.

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Creed succeeds because it captures the other side of the coin. Rocky was a story about a guy growing up with nothing and turning his life around to follow his dreams. Creed is a story about a guy growing up in the shadow of an all time great athlete. Having never known his father but haunted by his legacy and name.  Adonis feels this overwhelming pressure to succeed but isn’t given the opportunity because nobody wants to take the risk on him. Playing the familiar story beats from this angle not only feel fresh but is gonna resonate more with today’s generation.  A generation that grew up with a lot more resources and opportunities than their parents did.  While still staying true to the overall narrative of the “underdog” story. Adonis has a lot of raw talent but his lack of experience and formal training shows, allowing the audience to feel connected as Rocky trains him to be an actual professional fighter.

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The performances in this film are seriously strong.  Michael B. Jordan has officially washed out the bad taste he left in anybodies mouth from this summers disaster Fantastic Four.  Much the same way, Stallone received an Oscar nomination for the original Rocky. Michael B. Jordan deserves one for Creed. Convincingly portraying someone who is smart and humble yet suffers from an anger and resentment from living in the shadows.  You’ll connect with his desperate actions as someone who is passionate about his dreams and feel equally touched as he refers to Rocky affectionately as “Unc”.   This is where Stallone comes in delivering his most effective take as Rocky since the original. Rocky is damaged, and not by the amount of punishment he took in the ring.  He is damaged because time has put the best things in his life behind him.  He has survived his coach, his rival, his best friend and his wife.  He isn’t bitter about it, he just accepts it for what it is and you see that in every nuance of Stallone’s performance.  Stallone should be an automatic bid for best supporting actor, and who knows maybe he’ll actually win it this time.  Lastly, is a very top notch performance from Tessa Thompson as Bianca, Adonis’s love interest.  One of the stronger love interest ever put in a sports movie. She isn’t just there for the motivation of Adonis.  She is a very developed character, with her own struggles and demons to face and overcome.  Her relationship with Adonis is built way more to the balance of equals than one coveting the other’s attention.

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Creed is a remarkable example of how a franchise builds on its strength and adds new ones.  The cinematography is outstanding, with increased quality to the character interaction, training montages, and the fights themselves.  There is a single take of a boxing round that is nothing short of phenomenal.  The film will grab your attention and hold it for the entire run time.  It’s power and impact might have you holding off a few tears and clapping when the credits roll.

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[youtube https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Uv554B7YHk4]

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