Friday, November 27, 2015

Creed [2015]

MPAA (PG-13)  CNS/USCCB (A-III)  ChicagoTribune (3 1/2 Stars) (4 Stars)  AVClub (B+)  Fr. Dennis (3 1/2 Stars)

IMDb listing
CNS/USCCB (K. Jensen) review
ChicagoTribune (M. Phillips) review (O. Henderson) review
AVClub (J. Hassenger) review

"For most of us life is in some way a fight" -- Jim Lampley, HBO Sports (cf. Genesis 32:23ff)

Creed [2015] (directed and story by / screenplay co-written by Ryan Coogler along with Aaron Covington based on the characters [wikip] [IMDb] by Silvester Stallone [wikip] [IMDb]) continues, arguably even reboots (if in a somewhat different way) the wildly successful / legendary Rocky franchise [wikip] with which Silvester Stallone [wikip] [IMDb] famously made his mark the Hollywood scene:

Plugging the first Rocky movie, which he himself wrote, Stallone told the producers that he would not sell them the rights to the script unless he was allowed to play the lead role.  A gutsy move, the producers conceded though Stallone was initially paid LESS than he would have been if he had just sold them the script.  HOWEVER, the film won three Oscars including Best Picture and Best Director, and was nominated for seven others including two for Stallone himself, for Best Original Screenplay and Best Actor in a Leading Role.  The rest is, of course, screen / Hollywood history ;-).

The current film concerns Adonis Johnson [IMDb-Ch] (played by Michael B. Jordan) an illegitimate son of (fictionalized) boxer Apollo Creed [IMDb-Ch] / first opponent then friend to Rocky Balboa [IMDb-Ch] (played in this film as always by Silvester Stallone) in the early Rocky films [wikip]Apollo was killed (in Rocky IV [1985]) before Adonis (or Donny) was born.  Thus Donny never knew his dad, though he spent his early years in Los Angeles (where Apollo and _his wife_ had lived) both angry and fighting. 

In an early scene in the film, set in 1992, Apollo's widow Mary Anne Creed [IMDb-Ch] (played by Phylicia Rashad) searches out Adonis / Donny in a L.A. Juvenile Detention Center and adopts him, raising him as her own (apparently because boy's mother had died as well).  

Flashing forward to the present day, despite being given all the possibilities of growing-up in the mansion, neighborhood and going to the schools / colleges afforded by his boxing legend father's, that is Apollo Creed's, money, he still leaves everything behind to seek his destiny by following in his father's footsteps ... as a boxer.

So ... after breaking his adoptive mother's heart, he packs up his bags and heads to Philadelphia, to look-up the legendary Rocky Balboa (again, played by Silvester Stallone) his legendary dad's former rival then best friend, to ask him to train him.  The rest of the film ensues ... ;-)

Of course, initially Rocky doesn't want to do this.  After all, he's "retired" from fighting, runs a lovely restaurant named Adrian's after his beloved wife [IMDb-ch], who had died of cancer sometime between Rocky V [1990] and Rocky Balboa [2006].  But, for his long-deceased friend Apollo he decides to do so anyway.

There are other fairly predictable yet crowd-pleasing characters / plot-twists in the story.  Notably there's a young, still not-yet-famous urban-contemporary singer named Bianca (played by Tessa Thompson) who lives in the same building as Adonis while he's training in Philly.  The two "become close" as the story progresses.  She also "has a story" ... Though a talented singer, like a surprising number of talented musicians, she's also suffering from Progressive Hearing Loss, which will of course effect and perhaps even end her music career at some future date.  That, of course, is being saved for development in a future episode in the story ...

Of course, much still happens.  And of course, it all ends (more or less) well and ... in a way that leaves the story open for future installments ;-)

SOOO ... Why do we like films _like this one_ that are, after all, quite predictable / formulaic?

My sense is because of the quote by sportscaster Jim Lampley with which I began this review -- Life is often a struggle, a fight.  Hence, despite the objective (concussion) dangers of boxing, the figure of the Fighter / Boxer is a Jungian Archetype, a figure that we can understand, empathize / identify with.  Thus we watch boxing matches (and movies about boxers) as if we ourselves were the boxers / fighters in the fight. 

Indeed, that life is often a struggle, is symbolized in the Bible in the character of Jacob in the Book of Genesis: After many years of struggle, Jacob spends a night wrestling with an Angel and at the end of the Night he receives a particular blessing: He's renamed Isra-el, meaning "One Who Wrestles with God" (Genesis 32:23ff).  Of course, the whole people of Israel come to take on that name, and it's really a name intended for all.  Why?  Because we all wrestle with / struggle in life.

And IMHO, that's why we enjoy movies like this.  And indeed, it's always a joy to watch film that, even as it acknowledges the struggles of life, lifts us up as well ;-)

Great job!

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