CREED: EXPECTATION VS. REACTION

THREE GUYS AND… MOVIE

series created by Marvin Mercer and Nick Stephenson

“CREED”

written by Dominick Cappello

Here were my thoughts after viewing the second theatrical trailer on September 14, 2015…

I never lost hope that we hadn’t seen the last of the “Rocky” saga. Of course, this isn’t just another sequel. This is a spinoff focusing on Adonis Creed, the son of Apollo Creed, played by Michael B. Jordan. Sure, he’s had a rough year thus far with the fantastic flop that was Josh Trank’s “Fantastic Four” (2015), but no one I’m aware of is holding the cast members responsible. It seemed to be tiresome studio politics which hampered that reboot.

I was impressed with the first trailer released for “Creed” (2015), directed by Ryan Coogler, and the same goes for the second one. The first trailer wasn’t quick to reveal that the protagonist was who he was and that Sylvester Stallone would be reprising his role as Rocky Balboa. There’s no beating around the bush this time. Rocky visits Adonis in jail, so we know that Adonis is still struggling to get his act together even after Rocky has taken him under his wing. We saw Apollo’s children in “Rocky II” (1979), but Adonis was apparently born after the death of Apollo in “Rocky IV” (1985), so all he knows of his father is the legend. Adonis is conflicted. He doesn’t want to be spoon-fed because of who his father is and also doesn’t want to disgrace the family name. Living in the shadow of a man who he never met. Audiences weren’t too happy the last time that Rocky was strictly a trainer. That being “Rocky V” (1990), but taking Sylvester Stallone’s age into account, I think that people are ready to let “The Italian Stallion” sit this one out.

Adonis looks to fight his way up the ranks of professional boxing, but maybe he is getting a title shot before he is ready? Rocky knows a thing or two about being an underdog. Then, the hammer drops. Rocky is ill. Paulie has passed away and is buried beside Adrian. There is a rumor that Rocky himself might kick the bucket in this film, so this will truly be the end of the “Rocky” saga even if there are future films with the Adonis character. The death of Rocky Balboa. I already know that I’ll get choked up. Actually, I’m a bit choked up just writing about it.

Well, if Rocky is short on time, I’m sure he’ll impart as much wisdom as he can before he leaves us. Adonis is seen wearing the classic red, white, and blue trunks. Those were wore by Apollo in the original “Rocky” (1976), then given to Rocky in part three when he had his rematch with Clubber Lang. Rocky wore them again as a tribute to Apollo when he fought Ivan Drago. Rocky thought he had found a worthy protégé when he met Tommy Gunn in part five, but Tommy was a rotten apple. This time around, it’s clear that Adonis is the right man to carry on the legacy. Honestly, just as Rocky didn’t need to win when he first fought Apollo, only to go the distance, or when he made his comeback against Mason Dixon in the last film, Adonis doesn’t need to win any titles. Giving it his all and going the distance will likely be enough to make Rocky proud and do service to the memory of his father. But, for old time’s sake, Rocky does have Adonis chase a chicken. That one’s for you, Mickey. You lousy bum.

And here are my thoughts after finally seeing the film on December 17, 2015…

Okay, I loved this movie. Why bury the lead? But, was it what I was expecting or was I way off in my assumptions? Well, I didn’t realize that Adonis “Donnie” Johnson was an illegitimate child. His mother being the mistress of Apollo Creed. I’m sure that it’s not too uncommon for world famous athletes to father children with someone other than their wives. As a troubled youth, Adonis is taken in by Apollo’s widow. As an adult, Adonis leads a double life, working a stuffy office job by day while sneaking south of the border at night to compete as a boxer. His record is 15 & 0.

With nobody in his hometown of Los Angeles willing to support his dream of following in his father’s footsteps, Adonis moves to Philadelphia and seeks out “The Italian Stallion” Rocky Balboa, who is initially unwilling to train him, but does admit that Apollo won their rubber match from the conclusion of “Rocky III” (1983). Adonis trains at Mighty Mick’s Gym, which has finally gotten a paint job after seven films, but no one know there who his father is. Why exactly does Adonis want to follow in his father’s footsteps? The movie keeps it vague, but I assume that Adonis believes that by following the same path, he will somehow have a better understanding of who Apollo Creed was as a man and not just as a legend.

Adonis has a love interest, but I didn’t find her to be extraneous to the overall plot. Rocky eventually takes Adonis under his wing. After his first fight as “Hollywood” Donnie Johnson, which he won, the media catches wind of his parentage. The handlers for “Pretty” Ricky Conlan, the reigning Light Heavyweight Champion, see this as an opportunity. This will be Ricky Conlan’s last fight before a long prison sentence. He is without an opponent after a melee at a press conference where he broke his challenger’s jaw, so Adonis is handpicked as his new challenger under the condition that he agree to be billed as Adonis Creed. So, the fight will essential be a publicity stunt just like Rocky’s first fight with Apollo Creed and his comeback exhibition match against Mason “The Line” Dixon in “Rocky Balboa” (2006). It’s like poetry. It rhymes 😉

With Rocky’s blessing, Adonis accepts the challenge, but both are shaken when Rocky is diagnosed with non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma. Rocky refuses chemotherapy, accepting of his fate and seemingly ready to be reunited with his loved ones in the afterlife. This was the moment I’d been dreading since the trailers revealed that Rocky would fall ill in this movie. Adonis is crushed by Rocky’s decision to not seek treatment as he feels that Rocky would be abandoning him. After losing his temper, Adonis gets into a scuffle, and ends up behind bars. After his release, he makes a deal with Rocky that they’ll fight together. Adonis will train for his title match and Rocky will go through with the chemotherapy.

The main event is held in Liverpool, Ricky Conlan’s hometown. Adonis is in hostile territory, but for good luck, his surrogate mother sends him the stars and stripes trunks to wear. Ricky Conlan sure had an impressive entrance. The fight is scheduled for twelve rounds and follows the traditional “Rocky” format of showing rounds one and two in there entirety, then a montage carries us into the second to last round. Adonis’ eye is swollen shut, but he goes the distance and almost captures the gold. So, that went down just as I had predicted. He went the distance and that was all he needed to do. He did the “Creed” name proud. If there is a sequel, that’s when he’ll become champion.

The movie ends with Rocky and Adonis ascending the famous “Rocky Steps”. As far as Rocky’s health goes, I suppose that it would have been too hokey to have his illness in full remission, but it’s for the best that he didn’t succumb to the disease. The death of Rocky Balboa? Nope, I’m not ready for that. “Creed” works as both stand alone film and as the seventh installment in the “Rocky” franchise. Not so easy to pass the torch, but this film did it successfully. The last “Rocky” movie and the first “Creed” movie all in one.

– Dr. Jelly

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Author: Dominick

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