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Saturday, December 5, 2015

Creed: This generation's Rocky Balboa

 On Thanksgiving day, the premiere of Creed debuted in theaters across the country. Directed by Ryan Coogler, the spin off to the Rocky series is the story of Adonis Johnson, the son of Apollo Creed. Creed was the Heavyweight Champion of the world, and Rocky’s nemesis, in the original Rocky. In the later sequels, Apollo became Rocky’s trainer and close friend.

Prior to fighting Ivan Drago in Rocky 4, Apollo had an affair with a woman who later gave birth to Johnson. Apollo was killed in the ring by Drago and never got to meet Johnson. Years later, while Johnson was in custody at juvenile hall, Mary Anne Creed (Apollo’s wife) reveals to Johnson that Apollo Creed is his father. It is unknown who Johnson’s real mother is. Mary Anne offers to have Johnson move in with her instead of going from group home to group home. Johnson agrees. Johnson eventually decides to become a professional boxer under the tutelage of the "Italian Stallion” Rocky Balboa.

Prior to watching this movie, I read article after article about how fantastic the movie is. I read that Johnson’s character, Michael B. Jordan, did an excellent job. I read the movie should be a franchise of its own and an Oscar may be a possibility. Being one of the biggest Rocky fans in the world, I did not know what to expect. Was it going to embarrass one of the greatest underdog stories of all time? Did the Rocky character have to be resurrected once again after the disappointing Rocky 5 and the entertaining but so so "Rocky Balboa" movie? Was Creed going to run the franchise into the ground? Let’s just say, I was very much pleasantly surprised.

The movie had its definite share of nostalgia of the original Rocky movie. Johnson is seen running through the Italian market where Rocky ran in the first two Rocky movies. Johnson is also seen working out in the vintage Mighty Mick’s boxing gym where Rocky spent countless hours being trained by Mickey Goldmill. Mighty Mick’s is also the location of where Apollo and Rocky had a secret trilogy match up. Rocky finally reveals who won that third fight in Creed. And last but not least, Johnson is seen visiting the Philadelphia Museum of Art where Rocky ran up “the steps.” The museum is also where the famous Rocky statue sits. But the freshness Creed brought was unexpected and a breath of fresh air.

The hip hop and R&B influence was very apparent. The street slang, the music, and style of dress showed a different side of the Rocky franchise. Creed also showed a different kind of love story never before seen in previous Rocky movies. The dialogue between Johnson and his love interest, Bianca, played by Tessa Thompson, was genuine and original. Both characters had dreams and goals and later supported one another in their endeavors. Their story simply did not focus on what Johnson wanted to achieve in boxing and in life. It was new and refreshing to see.

I was happy to once again see the great Sylvester Stallone play Rocky’s character on the big screen. To see the innocence, inspiring, and heart of gold of the man who has been a part of American culture since 1976 was an absolute joy. But there was something different this time around about the indestructible fighter who took blow after blow and kept coming that we have grown accustomed to seeing over the years.There is no more fight at the end with Rocky being the triumphant champ with the crowd cheering “Rocky! Rocky!” This is not Rocky’s story. It is Johnson’s story. Rocky has officially passed the torch. Rocky’s time has officially passed, as he shows his age and fragility. Rocky is now Mickey, the trainer helping his fighter defeat his opponent in the ring. It was something that was inevitable. Although I have to admit, it was a little sad to see unfold before my eyes. But like life itself, the show must go on…

Creed portrayed one of the very best boxing sequences I have ever seen in Hollywood. The boxing choreography was excellent. It was not pure give and take, brawling, and blood and guts. Was there blood? Was there give and take, tit for tat, and exaggerated punching sequences? Absolutely! But the defense, counter shots, shoulder roll, and combination punching to the head and body was unlike any other I have seen on the big screen. Kudos to you Ryan Coogler!

The training camp in the film was also very impressive. The bag work, the shadow boxing, the sparring, and the mitt work appeared very real. It did not show some hodge podge actor holding punching mitts like he just got off the couch and walked into a boxing gym. Mitt holding is a skill in itself. The training camp showed the assistant boxing trainer as someone who has been around the sport for a long time. It was also very apparent Michael B. Jordan put in an immense amount of work in the gym to do the character justice.

I’m ecstatic that Creed made the Rocky franchise proud. I’m excited the birth of a new underdog trying to prove his worth has arrived and that boxing continues to be an avenue to tell inspiring stories. I am excited that the Rocky Balboa spirit continues to live on for generations to come. Ladies and gentlemen there’s a new sheriff in town and his name is Adonis “Hollywood” Johnson.

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