Wednesday 20 January 2016


Jord Of The Rings

2015 USA
Directed by Ryan Coogler
UK cinema release print.

So here we go again with a film that is very much the seventh entry in the Rocky series and, though fans of the original movies know who the character Apollo Creed was, I think the title here is maybe not quite grabbing the less built-in audience for this film in the most opportune manner. I’ve also seen this film listed on some UK posters as Creed: The Rocky Legacy but... yeah, I think the marketeers behind this one could maybe have gone for another title. Not that I don’t like this one, actually... I just don’t think it markets the film to its best advantage, is all.

I’ve always kind of had a soft spot for Sylvester Stallone and for the Rocky movies too. I’ve only ever seen them all once (something I plan to rectify with rewatches sometime over the next few years) but I remember them being big dramatic pieces which were, contrary to some accounts I’ve heard, not really about boxing. Yeah, that’s right. For the most part, the movies are about the personal journey of the Rocky character with the boxing scenario used to explore his personality, relationships with other people and growth as a person... and the majority of them are not bad movies.

After the exception, the atrocious fifth movie in the series, I was kinda happy with where they took the character in the sixth one, Rocky Balboa. Here was a man nearing the end of his life and certainly the end of his boxing career and... it was a lovely finish to the sequence. I couldn’t see Stallone writing anything more eloquent as a send off for the character and, as it happens, he hasn’t. This movie is actually, for the first time in the series as far as I can recall, not actually written by Stallone himself (his screenplay for the first movie was even nominated for an Oscar).

All that being said... this new movie, which follows the fortunes of Apollo Creed’s son Adonis, is actually a pretty good add on. It strays from the series quite a lot... not just because it focuses primarily on the story of the title character rather than Rocky himself... but because it’s not so much about personal growth this time as it is about boxing. Although, that being said, there are really only three official boxing matches in the whole movie. However, the story does also give Stallone a fair amount of time recreating the role which shot him to fame back in the 1970s and this time around he is coaxed into training Creed, taking on the same kind of character mantle that the late, great Burgess Meredith took on as Rocky’s trainer in the original movies. It’s nice to see this happen with Rocky becoming this person for someone else and, although in terms of Stallone it’s probably not a necessary film to make for the character, it certainly doesn’t disrespect the material in any way. It doesn’t add anything to the Rocky series but it certainly doesn’t take anything away from it either.

Michael B. Jordan, an actor who I really liked for his portrayal of a teenage superhero in Chronicle (reviewed here) is absolutely great as young Adonis Creed and he easily keeps up with Stallone in the acting stakes. They’re both pretty cool in this... as is Creed’s love interest Bianca. Played by Tessa Thompson, she’s something a little more three dimensional, and therefore better, than you would expect for this kind of role. That being said, because the character is kinda interesting and Thompson is so good in it, I felt that she could have done with a few more scenes in this movie, to be honest.

The film does a lot of the stuff you’d expect a boxing movie to do and we have lots of little training montages and a few good boxing matches. The second of the three main non-training bouts in the film is absolutely terrific, it has to be said, and you almost feel you are right in the ring trading blows with the two opponents yourself. The fluid camerawork is very slick and, though not a million miles away from the stuff in the early films, gives this new movie a little bit of an edge in the fight choreography department, I think. That being said, the movie is a 12A and it seems to be getting away with a lot less in terms of injury to the main protagonists and antagonists as the movie plays out. Either way though, it doesn’t seem inappropriate to the surrounding story and it works well in the context of the shooting styles used around it.

The music is pretty good too but, since there are so many little references to the previous Rocky movies in the film in general (even I was picking up on a lot of them and I’m not all that familiar with the series), I was surprised that the composer,  Ludwig Göransson, held back on using Bill Conti’s famous Rocky signature theme so often. I only detected different parts of it twice in the whole movie (I’m sure it’s possibly used just a little more) and while I understand the way of thinking that Creed has his own themes and songs as it’s essentially his journey, I felt there was some contradiction towards the end when the Rocky intro leitmotif comes in full blast at the start of the last bout. If you’re going to take the stance that Rocky is standing in the corner and the music takes on some of his heroic theme... then I think that maybe could have been a stronger element throughout the whole movie. Regardless, the score certainly holds its own and elevates the movie the way a good score is supposed to so... no real complaints about it here.

You know, back in the day, those early Rocky movies were never a foregone conclusion as to where they were going to end up. Would Rocky end up victorious in the ring or would he take a fall? Would his winning or losing the final fight mean he achieved personal growth or was something else going on? There was always the possibility of some ambiguity there and the end result of the boxing match was never a foregone conclusion. You would have to wait until maybe even after the last punch was thrown to find out if the hero would win or lose. I don’t want to spoil anything in this review, of course, by telling you what happens in this one but I will say that, in terms of tone, pacing and predictability... this one really doesn’t let the series down. You won’t know what’s going to happen until it’s over.

I wouldn’t be surprised if this movie kickstarts another entry or two in this series and, if it does, I sincerely hope that the writers and producers bring Sylvester Stallone along for the ride. After all, if there were no Rocky movies, there would be no Creed.

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