Philadelphia looked like the multicultural city I know it to be when compared to other Philly-set favourites (no that’s not a Silver Linings Playbook burn; I actually liked Silver Linings Playbook).
The chemistry between Michael B. Jordan and Sly Stallone, and between Michael B. Jordan and Tessa Thompson. It could just be that Michael B. Jordan has chemistry with anybody (he was so good…and so overlooked by the Academy in Fruitvale Station glad to see him bring the quiet heat here as well).
Sly Stallone was a revelation – he reminded us why Rocky is his most iconic role by tapping in to all that made that character someone you wanted to root for and could still relate to – and he wears weathered well. Again a performance that might get some Academy attention – they like a good comeback story, right?
The writing and direction – how do you revitalize a franchise while creating something to which a new generation totally disconnected from that franchise can totally relate. It’s not just about adding a load of hip hop and some bikes and ATVs, though that scene was kick-ass, but centering a new, millennial hero who is connected to and respects that past but doesn’t want to ride its coattails. It’s about taking the time to define your characters, even the boxers cameo-ing, as more than their roles. It’s about a story arc punctuated by heart, purpose, passion. I went to see this with my teenage nephew and appreciated the call backs to the original Rocky, all of which went totally over my nephew’s head but made for no less of a rich experience for us both.
The director – Okay, I know I already spoke about the writing and direction but it tickles me no end to see another young black director on the come-up. I’ve watched some of the b-roll (thanks, you tube) and I like the energy he appears to create on set, the rapport with his cast (newbies and vets), all while keeping focused on his vision. I like that he made it for his dad. I like that he co-wrote the movie and that even though he was taking over a well-established, albeit faded franchise, he was wearing the dress the dress wasn’t wearing him – and yes, the franchise is the dress in that scenario.
The music – I actually tried to find the battle song that Pretty Ricky came in to when I got home – found it, didn’t like it as much outside of the context of him using it to psyche out his opponent, pump up the crowd, and communicate his general over-it-ness during his entry for their big battle. “Don’t waste my time” communicated the mood of that moment so well. In fact, the musical notes were on point throughout – even if I left feeling nostalgic for even a few bars, piano bars even (did I miss it?) of Eye of the Tiger – ETA: or maybe I mean Gonna Fly Now (the familiar theme dating back to the original Rocky).
Bianca – Or as Rocky fans are free to think of the independent-minded singer with progressive hearing loss, this generation’s Adrian. Like Adrian did with Rocky, she challenges Adonis/Donny to be a better man but doesn’t lose perspective re her own life and her own priorities in the process. Plus Rocky’s love for Adrian, and his stumbling courtship of her was one of the beautiful things about the original. When Donny was grooming Bianca’s hair as they talked things over, what woman in the audience didn’t feel an internal aww? Actually it might have slipped out because, seriously, aww. The nice, sweet courtship moments between the young lovers, and their fight and make up moments were so well done in fact that I, ironically, left feeling short changed by the love story and by the parts of Bianca’s life that we didn’t see – she kind of faded in to the back ground there near the end because this is, after all, about Donny’s journey. I wanted to see more of them together and of her journey independent of him. The good news is that with Creed doing as well as it has at the box office, we may, this one time, get what we’re asking for – as long they don’t go all slick and forget what made this one work.
The fight scenes – I hate boxing. Two men pounding on each other. Blood and eyes so swollen they’re shut. Not my thing. But I like, paradoxically, how immersed we were as viewers in the fights in Creed. The camera made me a part of the action in a way that had me covering my eyes at moments in a way that I don’t even do in horror movies. It was intense. And that was a good thing. Go figure.