Do yourselves a favor today. Before you go eat way too much Turkey, go see Creed–because it will motivate you to run 10 miles after dinner.
This movie was so enjoyable it made me consider running from Orlando straight to Philadelphia. I would’ve darted up those Philly steps so quickly my body might’ve actually caught a tailwind and achieved liftoff.
I sat in the theatre on tuesday around 10:30 p.m. wiping the crust out my eyes and debating whether I should go home. A few previews later my eyes were wide open, and my fists were clenched shut.
Akin to the original Rocky (and I’m talking the original), “Creed” starts out in a hole in the wall. Adonis Creed, the main character, paces in a back room sporting a pretty mean scowl.
The tension builds. He jabs at the wall. His muscles tense, and it was here I realized this is NOT a Rocky movie, this is something else entirely. And it’s because of this change in focus that the film works incredibly well.
In fact, this is the best film I’ve seen all year.
The director Ryan Coogler (which sounds just like my last name, therefore I like him even more), is a master behind the camera. I’ve NEVER been so captivated by a boxing match–even when watching the original Rocky movies.
He does this by not cutting the scene. Coogler lets his scenes breathe–in one shot–and it makes us feel the events are unfolding in real time instead of being chopped, edited, and presented like a film.
It was a fantastic decision. I had goosebumps for about five minutes when Creed came out to 2pac’s Hail Mary, the camera following the whole way, never cutting. I now know what it feels like to walk out to the ring for a boxing match.
It’s these creative decisions that helped elevate the film above a traditional boxing movie, and above all other movies of the year too.
Now, let’s talk about Rocky.
Sylvester Stallone delivers one of the best performances of his career. Are you hearing all the Oscar Buzz? Good. Because he deserves it. This is a man that’s been able to play this character for nearly 40 years! To be able to come back to a character year after year and nail it is the mark of master.
This time Stallone isn’t directing or writing, he’s reprising his role of Rocky. Fifteen minutes into the movie he hobbles up a flight of stairs into view, clearly old, clearly a seconday character.
This new dynamic allows Stallone to really shine as Rocky. It feels more realistic. He’s not getting into the ring anymore. He doesn’t want the spotlight. In fact, Rocky doesn’t even want anything to do with boxing anymore.
It’s precisely this reason that makes his character so interesting. We’ve all known Rocky to love boxing, but in this one he doesn’t want anything to do with it anymore. All of his loved ones are dead, and he’s here, visiting their graves every day and talking to a bunch of tombstones.
It’s sad. But in comes Michael B. Jordan’s Creed to whip Rocky’s metaphorical behind. He goes by Johnson, by the way. That’s because Adonis doesn’t want anybody to know that he’s Creed’s illegitimate son–which is a storyline that’s no doubt the backbone of this film.
Mirroring Stallone’s doubts in the first Rocky, Adonis is scared of losing–he’s scared of taking on his real name and not living up to it. He’s also holding in a lot of anger regarding his father.
It’s this anger that drives him.
The movie goes toe-to-toe with many issues. For one, Creed’s girlfriend is a singer who also happens to have gradual hearing loss. What she loves to do is what’s damaging her.
She mirrors Adonis. His father died in the ring. Enough said.
Is doing what we love worth the risk? Are those few moments where we feel alive worth the suffering later?
The movie is also about family. Creed refers to Rocky as family–despite not being related. Creed’s old wife takes Adonis in, despite not being his legitimate mother. And finally Creed swears off his own father.
What does it mean to be family?
As I walked out of the theatre I couldn’t help but think back on all the great Rocky movies I’d seen. Rocky is very much a common man who accomplishes uncommon things.
We don’t love him because he won. We love him because he fought. We love him because he faces his fear, and goes toe-to-toe with Apollo.
Life is hard. Our biggest opponents are ourselves. Many times we have doubts, but the true victory is saying to hell with the fear while strapping on our gloves to go to war with the very thing that scares us.
Rocky does have cancer in the movie. He doesn’t want to fight it, but Creed convinces him to go through with the treatment. “If I fight, you fight.” he says. Perhaps the most heroic thing Rocky has done was saved for what might be his final appearance as the iconic character–he decides to fight death itself.
Michael B. Jordan was electric as Adonis Creed. I hope they make more, because you bet I’ll be buying tickets to see more of these things–even without Stallone.
Creed reminds us that it’s always the right choice to follow our dreams, and it’s never a wrong one if we fail in that pursuit. After all, it’s the way we fight–not winning–that makes a name.