Insert Topic – Creed


Welcome to Insert Topic, where once a week I’ll spend some time talking about stuff. Topics will vary from what’s big in nerd culture to my experiences with trying games or movies or anything really that I’d written off as not my kind of thing. This week I saw the film Creed, and have a lot to say about it.

I’ve been meaning to see Creed since it came out, instead I ended up seeing Star Wars three times, I regret nothing. I did finally see Creed though, Monday was Martin Luther King Jr. Day in the US, and I was off from work, so I decided to go catch a first showing. I’m not entirely sure what I expected going in, I’ve always been a fan of the Rocky movies, well except Rocky V, but even Stallone doesn’t like that one. I’d been hearing good things though, and Stallone won Best Supporting Actor at the Golden Globes for it, so it must be pretty good right?

Yep, it was pretty damn good.

The Rocky movies in the 1970s and 1980s were very much a product of their time. They had those montages, and great ’70s/’80s rock music powering them along with really memorable film scores. Creed follows in that tradition by being very much about today, and for someone who lives just outside of Philadelphia, it feels like home more so than those older Rocky films ever did. I recognized things, street names stand out more, the roads and views of the city are what I’m familiar with. Of course that’s not what makes this movie so good, it’s just something I personally enjoyed. Creed could have been based in any city, and it would have been just as strong. The characters felt real, and the story echoed the right beats from the previous films, but was still a thing all its own.

Sylvester Stallone already won a Golden Globe for this movie, and he’s nominated for an Oscar. He really brings a new life and struggle to the iconic character he’s been playing since the late ’70s. I feel like those old movies became something different than what they started out as, they always found a way to force Rocky into the underdog role again, even though he wasn’t. Seeing him take down Clubber Lang or Ivan Drago is always epic, but you never have any doubt he’ll win in the end. He’s the champ, how could he not? By Creed though Rocky isn’t the champ, he’s not a big celebrity anymore, even after his fight in Rocky Balboa (also a pretty good movie). His loved ones have all passed on, and he spends his time working at his restaurant. The way his character develops and changes over the course of this movie is really something. The emotion and pain Stallone brings to this shows just how great of an actor that man really is.

Funny thing, for all the accolades he’s been getting, Stallone as Rocky isn’t even the best part. This movie is called Creed for a reason. Rocky may steal a scene here and there, but this movie really is as good as it is because of Michael B. Jordan and his portrayal of Adonis “Donnie” Creed (formerly Johnson), the son Apollo Creed never knew. Jordan is absolutely the heart and soul of the movie. He makes it feel real, from his attitude to his interactions and relationships. I think Jordan is really one of the best actors out there right now. He was great as Johnny Storm in the not so great Fantastic Four movie, and his other super powered, but very different character in Chronicle was a standout in a film full of wonderful performances.

It’s a crime that Jordan isn’t nominated for Best Actor or that Creed isn’t up for Best Picture. I’ve been watching a lot of movies lately, and looking back at the films from 2015, especially those up for awards, there is no reason Creed shouldn’t be included in there. I would never expect a movie like Star Wars or Avengers to end up nominated for anything other than technical awards (which are still great accomplishments). Creed is an emotional, character driven drama of a caliber we don’t get often, and would easily compete with any film up for Best Picture.


The whole film is full of amazing characters, and actors who nail it. Jordan has a great chemistry with Stallone, and his romantic interest Bianco, played by Tessa Thompson. Thompson plays her part really well too, there are a few stumbles between Bianco and Donnie, but for the majority their relationship feels real and organic, not something that was just written down in a script.

Unrelated, is jawn really a Philadelphia area colloquialism?

This isn’t meant to be a review of the movie or a fight for why it deserves awards, I have no intention of pointing out the flaws or scoring it. Creed certainly has it’s flaws. It’s not perfect, but no movie ever is. Any missed beats in it are easy to overlook because of all the heart it has. Really just do yourself a favor and see the movie. Whether you can catch it in a theater before it’s pulled or catch it On Demand or on DVD/Blu-Ray as soon as you can. Even if you hated the Rocky movies, that’s not what this is. Yes it’s about a boxing match, yes there are plenty of scenes where Donnie trains, but they’re always ancillary to the characters development. Shadow boxing, running, hitting pads, and every other workout is driven by characters interacting and growing and learning. No scene is wasted, and that is so rare. Early on, a scene that could easily have been fan service or exposition where Donnie watches a YouTube clip of the Rocky vs. Apollo fight ends up being this touching scene where he shadow boxes along with the fight.

The last couple of things I want to mention are the music and the cinematography. Rocky movies have some of the most recognizable music. You can hear them completely out of context and almost immediately realize it’s from a Rocky. I was a little nervous that Creed was just going to reuse all the classic songs and be weighed down by constantly hearing the iconic Rocky Theme as Donnie trained around Philly. That didn’t happen though. Creed has this wonderful mash up of modern hip-hop and these beautiful scores that feel like a Rocky score. The call backs to the old are there, but they are limited and they are meaningful and carry a lot of emotional weight behind them, but they don’t drive the film and that is really wonderful.

The cinematography was another thing that could have very much been too heavy handed with what came before. Too many montages, too much running, too much cutting back and forth between bloody faces. Instead we get so many wonderful styles mixed together. A fight near the middle of the film looked to be just one long take. Jordan and the actor portraying his opponent make it look and feel like a real fight. Throughout the whole film there are scenes like that, scenes that don’t feel like you’re watching a movie, but watching real life. Then on the other side of the coin are these wonderfully done bits where characters are watching 24/7 on HBO and you get the logo in the corner of the screen or the round time clock on screen, just little touches really brought me into the story more.

Creed was a somewhat unexpectedly emotional movie. I’ve always been excited during Rocky movies, there are few scenes more fun than Apollo’s entrance in Rocky IV. I expected that excitement from Creed, I knew during the big fight at the end I’d be ready to cheer and boo like I was really in the crowd. What I didn’t expect was how many other emotions the film would bring out. I don’t intend to spoil anything, but I need to just say again, don’t go in thinking this is another Rocky movie. Creed is something different, something special, and is easily one of my favorite movies of the last several years.

talks a bunch on PodQuest each week. He's also been known to write about stuff from time to time.

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