Wednesday, September 20, 2017

Creed (2015 film)

Directed by Ryan Coogler and screenplay by Coogler and Aaron Covington from a story by Coogler that is based on characters created by Sylvester Stallone, Creed is the story of a young man who is the illegitimate son of Apollo Creed who wants to follow in his father’s footsteps as he seeks the help from his father’s greatest opponent in Rocky Balboa. The film is a spin-off of sorts of the Rocky series that has Balboa return to the world of boxing but as a mentor to the son of his greatest opponent while he is fighting his own personal battles as Stallone reprises his role as Balboa with Michael B. Jordan as Adonis Creed. Also starring Tessa Thompson, Wood Harris, Tony Bellew, Graham McTavish, and Phylicia Rashad. Creed is a thrilling and evocative film from Ryan Coogler.

The film follows a young man named Adonis Johnson who learns at a young age that he’s the illegitimate son of Apollo Creed from Creed’s widow Mary Anne (Phylicia Rashad) who adopts him hoping he would get the chance of a life without any complications. Yet, Adonis yearns to fight like the father he never knew as he travels from Los Angeles to Philadelphia to meet the man who was considered his father’s greatest opponent in Rocky Balboa who had disconnected himself from the world of boxing as he’s reluctant to return to that world. The film’s screenplay by Ryan Coogler and Aaron Covington definitely provide some insight into who Apollo Creed was before he fought Balboa as well as the fact that he was a flawed man who cheated on his wife just before he died. Yet, it is more about this young man in Adonis who is trying to make his own mark without using his father’s namesake as he wants to do it on his own despite the fact that he’s given a great education, a stable job, and a home that many struggling boxers would want.

Unfortunately, Adonis still has a chip of his shoulder of not feeling wanted nor feeling like he has an identity as he turns to Balboa for help who has his own reasons for not wanting to train him. Still, Balboa sees the passion in Adonis and the hunger to fight as he would train and mentor him while Adonis finds his footing in Philadelphia where he embarks on a relationship with a young R&B singer named Bianca (Tessa Thompson) where they both live in the same building. The script doesn’t just play into Adonis coming into his own as a boxer and a person but also Balboa struggling with the past as well as the fact that he’s becoming sick forcing him to confront his own mortality having already lost so many people in his life. The film’s climax does involve a big fight where Adonis not only has to accept his namesake but also fight a top fighter who is about to go into forced retirement due to an impending prison sentence.

Coogler’s direction is stylish in terms of not just some of the compositions but also in the way he would create scenes in the film. Shot mainly in Philadelphia with some of it in Los Angeles as well as the film’s climax in Liverpool, the film does have a somewhat worldly feel yet it is grounded in the streets as it play into Adonis’ need to connect with the real world as he is first seen as a child fighting with another boy at juvenile center where he would meet Mary Anne Creed for the first time. Much of the direction is intimate as Coogler would use a lot of medium shots and close-ups to play into Adonis’ encounter with people including scenes with Bianca as they’re both individuals fighting to reach a certain dream as well as having similar struggles as Bianca wears hearing aids in her ear due to some disease. That sense of grounding in Coogler’s direction gives the film an air of authenticity that often lacks in boxing films while using Philadelphia as this epicenter of an array of diverse cultures.

While there are some wide shots in some scenes, Coogler’s approach to directing the few fights in the film are stylish as the first major professional fight for Adonis against a top contender from Philadelphia is shot entirely in one-take for two rounds with a long tracking shot with Steadicam cameras to capture the fight. It’s among a few moments in the film where Coogler would create something that feels technical but also add a realism to what goes on inside the ring. The direction does have a few visual references to the Rocky films yet it remains all about Adonis and what he has to fight for in the film’s climax where he goes up against the light heavyweight world champ in “Pretty” Ricky Conlan (Tony Bellew) as it carries a lot of weight into what is at stake. Overall, Coogler crafts an enthralling and rapturous film about a young man trying to make his own mark in the world with the help of the man who gave his father one of his great fights.

Cinematographer Maryse Alberti does brilliant work with the film’s cinematography with its emphasis on natural lighting for many of the scenes set in the daytime along with some stylish lights for some of the interior scenes set at night. Editor Michael P. Shawver and Claudia Castello does excellent work with the stylish cuts as it has elements of jump-cut and slow-motion cuts to play into the drama as well as the training montages and the fights. Production designer Hannah Beachler, with art directors Danny Brown and Jesse Rosenthal plus set decorator Amanda Carroll, does fantastic work with the look of the house that Mary Anne lives in as well as the apartment that Adonis lives in at Philadelphia as well as the gyms that he goes to with Balboa. Costume designers Antoinette Messam and Emma Potter do terrific work with the costumes as it is mostly casual to play into the look of winter-time Philadelphia as well as the look of the boxing trunks Adonis and other fighters would wear.

Visual effects supervisors Alison O’Brien and Dean Wright do nice work with the film’s minimal visual effects as it is mainly used for the film’s climax for the size of the crowd in some shots of the film. Sound editor Benjamin A. Burtt does amazing work with the sound in the way some of the punches are presented as well as the sound of the crowds in the fights and the way music is heard at the apartment Adonis is living in. The film’s music by Ludwig Goransson is superb for its mixture of orchestral bombast with elements of R&B grooves, hip-hop beats, and electronic textures to play into the local atmosphere of Philadelphia while including elements of Bill Conti’s score music from the Rocky films while music supervisor Gabe Hilfer creates a fun soundtrack that consists of blues, R&B, and hi-hop from acts such as Harold Melvin & the Blue Notes, 2Pac, the Roots with John Legend, Meek Mill, and several others from the Philadelphia hip-hop and R&B music scene.

The casting by Kathy Driscoll and Francine Maisler is incredible as it feature some notable appearances and small roles from the famed cut man Jason “Stich” Duran as Adonis’ cut man, Andre Ward and Gabriel Rosado as a couple of light heavyweight fighters Adonis encounters with, Alex Henderson as the young Adonis, Ritchie Coster as one of Rocky’s old opponents in Pete Sporino who is now a trainer whose son is a fighter training at Rocky’s old gym, and Wood Harris as Tony “Duke” Evers’ son Tony Jr. who runs a gym in L.A. that isn’t keen on training Adonis as he’s training another fighter that was supposed to fight Conlan. Tony Bellew is terrific as the light heavyweight champion “Pretty” Ricky Conlan as a top boxer who likes to talk trash as well as be trouble as he would become Adonis’ top opponent hoping to beat him.

Graham McTavish is superb as Conlan’s manager/trainer Tommy Holiday as a man who is trying to take care of Conlan’s business as well as be the one to set the fight against Adonis. Phylicia Rashad is fantastic as Mary Anne Creed as Apollo’s widow and Adonis’ stepmother who is not keen on having Adonis follow in his father’s footsteps as well as wanting to protect him from being beaten as she has to accept the fact that he is his father’s son. Tessa Thompson is excellent as Bianca as an R&B singer-songwriter trying to make it as she befriends Adonis and becomes his girlfriend while trying to understand his struggle towards his father’s legacy and other issues in his life.

Sylvester Stallone is phenomenal as Rocky Balboa as the former boxing legend who has retired as he reluctantly becomes Adonis’ trainer and mentor while dealing with his own mortality as Stallone provides some charm and wit but also a humility and grace of a man facing his life and the guilt over the loss of one of his greatest friends. Finally, there’s Michael B. Jordan in a sensational performance as Adonis Johnson-Creed as the illegitimate son of Apollo Creed who is trying to define his own legacy as he struggles with his identity as it’s a performance with some humility and charisma but also a grounding as a young man coping with the legacy of the man he never knew.

Creed is a tremendous film from Ryan Coogler that features great performances from Michael B. Jordan and Sylvester Stallone. Along with its incredible ensemble cast, top-notch direction, gritty visuals, and a hypnotic soundtrack, it’s a film that isn’t just a worthy entry into the Rocky series but also a boxing film that explores a young man trying to find himself in and out of the ring. In the end, Creed is a spectacular film from Ryan Coogler.

Ryan Coogler Films: Fruitvale Station - Black Panther (2018 film) - Black Panther: Wakanda Forever

Rocky Films: Rocky - (Rocky II) – (Rocky III) – (Rocky IV) – (Rocky V) – (Rocky Balboa) – (Creed II) - (Creed III)

© thevoid99 2017


Dell said...

So happy you finally saw this...and enjoyed it. We agree Coogler is very stylish in his direction. He is a director on the rise (also directed Fruitvale Station). I'm looking forward to seeing more from him.

Brittani Burnham said...

I've never been crazy about the Rocky movies so Creed was just okay to me. Though it is probably my favorite because it has the least Stallone. lol

Still, I'm glad most Rocky fans seemed to really enjoy Creed and I'm glad they got another movie for the franchise.

thevoid99 said...

@Wendell-I really like what Coogler did with the film as it has me even more excited for Black Panther and I hope Creed II is just as good.

@Brittani-People give Sly some crap because we can barely understand him but he's still got that sense of charm that makes him so loveable. He's like a teddy bear.