Revisiting Rocky: A Look Back at Creed

For the previous review on Rocky IV – please click here.

For the previous review on Rocky V – please click here.

For the previous review on Rocky III – please click here.

For the previous review on Rocky II – please click here.

Creed is the latest entry in the Rocky Series and to be honest, when is enough enough?  The film itself is very good as it boasts great performances from both, Sylvester Stallone (as Rocky) and Michael B. Jordan (as Adonis Creed).  Even before it came out in theaters, I asked myself if it was necessary.  The end of Rocky Balboa boasted a pretty heartfelt conclusion to the franchise and although some say this is a spinoff, it really is just another entry into the Rocky story.  So the question comes about again…when is enough enough?  This film, too, is not the end of the story as we will be getting Creed 2, expected to come out later this year.  (More on that later).

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Creed is about Adonis Creed, the son of Apollo Creed (who was played by Carl Weathers in the first four films).  Donnie decides he wants to box just like his father, much to the opposition of Mary Anne Creed (played by Phylicia Rashad).  For Adonis, it’s about pursuing not only his own dream, but also to finish what his father started.

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Donnie decides to go to Adrian’s, Rocky’s restaurant that was introduced in the previous installment.  Looking at pictures on the wall, Rocky realizes he is staring at the son of his former frenemy, Apollo.    Adonis wants to box, but Rocky doesn’t want to train (maybe he’s having flashbacks of Tommy Gunn turning on him?).  There’s some callbacks here that are really important.  The fact that a few of the moments from the previous Rocky films are being mentioned allows the Rocky fans to get a drawback to these previous favorite moments, but also a new audience to get acclimated to the relationship that Rocky and Apollo had.  This is important so that everyone gets a feel for why Adonis is asking Rocky to be his mentor and important to the backstory of their characters.  (In summary, good characterization).

Just as important as the Mentor/Mentee plotlines in the Rocky films, there is always a love story going as well.  (Although, I suppose it was absent in Rocky Balboa as Marie was more of a friend.)  Here, Tessa Thompson is introduced in the film as Adonis’s neighbor and eventual love interest, Bianca.  Making her different from Adrian is the fact that she’s a little bit more brash and able to stand up to Adonis when they meet first.

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Of course, since Rocky Balboa’s character is a big part of this film, he’s involved in his own storyline.  First, there is the fact that just like Adrian in the previous film, Paulie (previously played by Burt Young) has an off-screen death.  There is a difference, here, though.  I wasn’t bothered by Adrian’s death as it was the plotline that drove much of the sixth Rocky film, but Paulie’s death is mentioned once and forgotten.  In the first film, Paulie’s slovenly and drunkard act is what drives Adrian to finally agree to go out with Rocky.  In the second film, it’s him that causes Adrian to collapse.  In the third film, his jealousy and rage is a subplot.  The point is that Paulie’s character is important to the whole overall arc of the series and any first time audience wouldn’t understand that with just a throwaway line.  So I definitely did not like that aspect.

Then, there is Rocky, Jr.  He’s born in the second film, but starts becoming an important part of the Rockyverse in the third and subsequent films.  Here, however, he is relegated to a picture.  (Sadder is the fact that it’s a picture of the late Sage Stallone).  I don’t have too much of a problem with that because this is the story of Adonis, not Robert Balboa, but still his character has become a running joke now (much like the Griswold kids in the Vacation series) in that they can’t keep the same actor for each of these films.  Why not show a picture of Milo Ventimiglia, who played the character in the previous film?

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There is also the very realistic storyline of Rocky having non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma – drawing back parallels to his wife’s death.  Death has also become a key theme of each movie since the third film and here, besides Paulie’s death, it becomes a central theme for the Rocky character himself.  While Rocky doesn’t die in the film, how he reacts to his own possible mortality is a plotline in and of itself.

Of course, it wouldn’t be a Rocky film without a fight and here it is presented in the final boxing match between Ricky Conlan (played by real-life boxer Anthony Bellew) and Adonis Creed.  The film has several callbacks to the first film (and in my opinion) a little predictable.  There’s the American stripes and stars shorts worn by the Creeds…there’s the underdog story, this time it’s Creed, not Balboa…and there’s the fight to the finish, much like Rocky and Rocky Balboa, that is decided by a split decision.

And this all sets up…the next film, Creed 2.  From what we know now, Adonis is set to face the son of Ivan Drago (played by Dolph Lundgren in Rocky IV), the same man that killed his father in the ring.  It will be the eighth film in the series and while not much has come out about the film, I can only hope that the Rocky legacy ends once and for all.  He has gone through love, marriage, heartbreak, birth of his child, deaths of his mentor, best friend, wife, and brother-in-law and now his own visions of mortality.  The Rocky character has been through everything he can be through and it’s time to end his story.  It’s been eight films and a story that has lasted over 40 years.  The underdog story has been told in its completion and, as a fan, I hope we can finally say goodbye and put the character of Rocky Balboa to rest.

FINAL GRADE:  B+

 

What are your thoughts on Creed?  How do you feel about more movies in the series or do you believe that it should have ended by now?  What are your hopes for Creed 2?  Let me know with a comment again and…for next week….it’s Rocky Balboa.