I don’t like boxing movies, but Rocky isn’t just a boxing movie to me. It’s about the underdog (d’uh), about family and love and best friends. Rocky is also the series of movies I watched because my father liked them, and as such I went to see Creed with a healthy amount of nostalgia.
Nostalgia is in part what influenced Ryan Coogler, now Black Panther‘s new director, in making it. He grew up watching Rocky with his father, and they watched it together when his father got sick… which, in turn plays a big part in the movie. Whatever you think about Creed, know that it’s filled with a lot of love for the true story at the heart of this series: the underdog who finds out who he is. Or can be.
Michael B. Jordan, the best thing in Fantastic Four, plays Adonis Creed, the illegitimate son of Apollo Creed. Mary Anne Creed finds him in juvenile detention when he’s a kid when Apollo has long passed and takes him in, introducing him to his father’s legacy. Adonis has never known his father, but grows up in his home, surrounded by him in trophies and memorabilia and tapes. At one point, he shadowboxes through one of Apollo’s fights, showing just how much he wants to be just like his father. It’s a powerful, lonely image, and for me, fuels Adonis’ every move.
One of those moves is when he goes to Philadelphia looking for Rocky to be his trainer. This Rocky is about as far away as you can get from the earlier movies, but no one can escape time, not even him. Sylvester Stallone is understated, restrained in this movie and is as mesmerising as he was in the first movie when he had nothing to lose and everything to gain. Rocky is alone in this movie — there is no Adrian or Paulie, or an entourage or friends or his son — it’s just him, and he’s wrapped himself in a cocoon away from boxing. He’s tough to convince to re-enter this world, and I thought perhaps in this case, the weight of nostalgia was too much for him to bear, until Adonis succeeds in winning him over. That said, Rocky’s fight in this movie is with cancer and no one, not even Rocky Balboa can beat this opponent. So, he gives up but it is Adonis that forces him to get up again to fight.
The juxtaposition of his cancer treatment and Adonis’ training just about broke my heart. It’s compelling watching Stallone play this once larger-than-life character like this.
As Adonis begins his training, under his own name and not his father’s, he begins to build something for himself that isn’t part of his father’s world, I think. He meets and falls in love with Bianca, who in turn is underused and needs to be in all the Creed movies going forward (there are going to be more, aren’t there?). While he met Rocky because of Apollo, it is to Adonis that Rocky listens to when it counts. They’re an oddball family, these three, but there’s no doubt they are.
It’s in the middle of THE fight that everything that drives Adonis erupts. It’s going to break your heart again and put everything about Adonis in perspective. He’s more than his father’s name and he finally realises that in the ring.