Monday, November 28, 2016

Creed (2015)

Lately, it seems I've been on passing the torch theme.

In Kevin Smith's Green Hornet, it's from father to son.

In Project Superpowers, it's the same characters taken out of commission magically and brought to the present day where they are sorely needed.

In Creed, it's the illegitimate son of professional boxer Apollo Creed coming of age and seeking out a mentor who knew his father in a way that only professional fighters would as Adonis Johnson Creed gains tutelage under the skillful hands and eyes of none other than Rocky Balboa, whom Creed affectionately calls "Unc."

The young Creed does a great job of being both outcast and silver spoon child. His youth finds him in a prison center for children separated from others for his continuous fighting. In walks Mary Anne, wife of Apollo Creed, and offers to take in the youth.

For those, like me, who've forgotten, Mary Anne is Apollo's wife. Adonis is not her son. It turns out Apollo had an affair and this son was born after Apollo died.

Mary Anne raises Johnson in style, providing him with a good life. Life much better than Rocky himself enjoyed at the end due to those issues he suffered in Rocky V. Still, Johnson isn't happy with a desk job and spends time fighting in Mexico where his record is 15-0 with those 15 victories being knockouts.

Quitting his day job, he seeks out Rocky for "real" mentoring. Rocky's reluctance to enter the ring in any guise again quickly folds under the determination and spirit he sees in Johnson. Soon the two are working as one with Johnson gaining greater skill under his teacher's watchful eye.

The impressive thing here is how Stallone pushes himself into the background. If you've seen Stallone's other recent movies, you know that despite his age, he's in fantastic shape. In Creed, there's none of that. He's well hidden and concealed behind layers and layers of clothes. This allows actor Michael B. Jordan to shine as Creed.

After bonding with the training, the opportunity comes for young Creed to start his professional career. Boxing is, after all, a business. Adonis claims another KO victory. This prompts more attention onto him, especially when people learn that he is the son of Apollo Creed. He'd been fighting under Adonis Johnson up to that point.

His "rival" in this instance has some build up. One of the professionals that Adonis fought early in the film laid him out soundly. That professional in turn was knocked out at a weight in by the fighter that now Creed has the opportunity to fight: Pretty Colan.

I've mentioned before how showcasing the strength of an enemy can be done by destroying a formerly shown strong rival to the hero? Yeah, hook, line, and sinker here. Colan's so strong he breaks the other guy's jaw at a weigh in. Scary right?

But Colan is going to jail for gun possession. To earn extra money, a fight with a "Creed", even if he is young and untested in the professional ring, is seen as a sure thing.

And this leads into more training!

Now on some levels, there are obvious callbacks to the original Rocky movie. The unknown against the great champ. The theme of "going the distance." The idea of mentors and their values. The numerous training montages. These are all solid devices.

But the film goes a little further in character development. Adonis is no Rocky. He's had a different life. While there has been the struggle, especially in acceptance of never getting to talk to his real father, he later young life was a breeze in comparison. His training under the legendary Rocky is no small thing either.

But the film pushes further. Rocky becomes a sort of father figure for young Creed. But is also diagnosed with Cancer and after seeing the treatments fail to help his wife, Rocky declines them, prepared for death.

Adonis and Rocky decide they will fight together! It's an interesting choice as they don't shy too much from the effects of chemo and the damage it causes to both the physical aspects of a person, or the appetites of a person. Especially telling when it's an Italian who's been shown to enjoy eating rich food.

Creed has some technical bits that were off when I viewed it. The use of Green Screen is blatantly obvious in the last fight where the two boxers are clearly the only thing in the actual room and everything else has been added afterward.

But that's a minor complaint in all. I suspect as the screens get better, especially with Ultra Definition or HD 4 or whatever professionals are calling it now, those flaws in old movies will only be more obvious. It'll be like watching DVDs of old 50's horror movies and laughing at how obvious it all seems.

I'm not a sports fan but Creed is a worthy addition to the Rocky series and sets up things to move forward with or without Rocky as a contributing cast member. If you've enjoyed the original Rocky and the recent version of it where Rocky is older but still fighting, Creed is in that vein.