Tuesday, 5 April 2016

Creed (2015)

This movie is officially called a spin-off but is it? is it really?? or is it more of a soft remake? hmmm. Its a tricky one really and the main question that rears its head in my review here. I mean lets look at the plot here, the main protagonist, Adonis Creed, is the product of extramarital adventures by the famous Apollo Creed. In his early years he is in and out of youth facilities for getting into trouble (generally fighting, naturally), until one day Apollo's widow (Mary Anne) turns up and takes him in. Seventeen years later and Adonis is an up and coming young man with a good job, but he wants more, he wants something else, so he quits his job and seeks out a way into boxing, against Mary Anne's wishes. After initially being rejected by a boxing academy/gym he travels to Philadelphia in search of Rocky Balboa, the one man he knows can help him. From this point onwards we follow Adonis as he is trained by Rocky one stage at a time, until he manages to capture a fight against the current light heavyweight champion.

So what can I say here, well lets be honest about this from the start, this is essentially a remake of [i]Rocky[/i], there really is no doubt about that. Its basically the same thing but with an African American protagonist, a black Rocky if you will. I guess the main differences here are, the fact Adonis grows up in the lap of luxury with Mary Anne, after she pucks him out of a youth facility, and the fact he does actually have a good future ahead of him with a solid job, before going into boxing. Which is of course the opposite to Rocky where Balboa was an enforcer for a local hood and came out of the gutter in comparison. So all Stallone and his team have done is flip the basic scenarios around and carry on from there, with some minors changes of course.

So what does this film offer that the previous movies didn't? does it throw anything new into the mix? Well...for all intents and purposes, not a lot frankly, and this is me being honest here, I'm not gonna just jump on any bandwagons. For a start, I wouldn't have done what Adonis did, give up his good, well paid job and living with his rich stepmother in her big mansion. I realise there is more to it than that, but I'm just saying, me personally, I wouldn't have done that. So for me personally I found it hard to connect with Adonis on that level, but that's just me. There is a strong sense of deja vu as we follow Adonis in his quest to nab Balboa as his trainer, deja vu from many films of this nature that is. Adonis goes to Rocky's restaurant and tries to convince him into training him, Rocky refuses saying he's basically over that aspect of his life, he's too old yadda yadda yadda. Rocky then finds out that Adonis is Apollo's son and this slightly changes his stance but he still refuses. But over time Adonis keeps nagging Balboa about it, turning up at his restaurant and helping him out etc...until eventually, of course, Rocky gives in and decides to train Adonis...his way only.

Training sessions are as expected with lots of quick cut montages and scenes focusing on various odd training methods, such as chasing a live chicken around, to standard methods like shadow boxing, skipping etc...Usual obligatory stuff really, lots of sweating and grimacing, big muscles and Stallone shuffling around wearing his trademark hat and mumbling a lot. In the original you had that iconic scene where Rocky runs up the steps to the Philadelphia Museum of Art and proceeds to shadow box in a state of euphoria, well here you have an equivalent sequence...but its not quite as good, or iconic. In this movie Adonis is running along an urban, somewhat shitty looking street in his trademark grey tracksuit. He is being flanked by numerous youngsters on motorbikes which he encouraged to follow him whilst jogging. Adonis is getting more and more pumped and hyped as he runs faster and faster down this street (leading to Balboa's place), the youths urging him on as they do wheelies next to him. Adonis lets out an adrenaline filled roar at the camera (which is right in his face) as he reaches Balboa's place, he starts shadow boxing and calling out to Rocky, whom cheers him on from the window. Yeah its a brave attempt but completely fails for me, I didn't get any emotion from it, it didn't look anywhere near as good, felt more cramped than anything really with the location, and all the scrotes on bikes just felt tacky, felt too much like watching unemployed hoodie culture.

The plot does pretty much follow previous old routes in this creaking franchise. Whilst in training the young Adonis meets and falls in love with a local singer who becomes his rock so to speak, just like Adrian had before. This of course brings baggage which is completely expected and rather predictable, obviously Adonis gets into a brawl over her which leads to a crack in the relationship, and some jail time for him, because of course. But fear not, in the end they work things out. Of course the main plot swap other than Adonis, is Rocky himself who is clearly now taking on the role of his old trainer Mickey Goldmill. 'When I left you I was but the learner, now I am the Master', to quote some famous film I can't recall. Yes now old Rocky is errmm...old! hobbling around, looking kinda tubby, grey hair, wrinkles etc...The circle is now complete as Rocky takes a young boxer under his wing and trains him just as Goldmill trained Balboa, but wait there's more!

To really add more spice to the mix (whilst giving Stallone something more to get his teeth into) and to play on the character of Adrian, Rocky is diagnosed with Non-Hodgkins lymphoma. Now like I already said, and far be it for me to speak negatively about this, but I tend to think this was just to give more gravitas to Stallone's performance, boost the award chances so to speak. I mean yeah it gives Adonis something to help Rocky with, something else to fight for, a reason for Balboa to be in the movie other than just training, something for Balboa to fight against, but was it really necessary? If you took that element out would it make any real difference? Call me cynical sure, but I just think it was an easy turn to ratchet up the emotion because the film lacked it.

The real fun obviously comes from watching the bouts, the bloody, bruised, saliva showering bouts. This is where the movie really comes to life with modern day technology really putting you the viewer in the driving seat, so to speak. Ballsy close-ups, aerial shots, thundercracking sounds, the camera darting in and out, weaving in between the fighters, the dripping sweat and flickering blood, the trainers yelling instructions etc...What can I really say here?? it basically looks like you're watching a real live bout on television, accept there are lots of close-ups and dialog driven moments from the team in the corner when the bell rings. This is also where real boxing fans will get their kicks as there are numerous real boxers portraying characters in the film, never heard of them myself.

Have to admit I found it amusing when Adonis's main opponent turned out to be Liverpudlian, and the fact Balboa and Adonis fly to the UK to fight at Goodison Park (home of Everton FC). I didn't expect that at all and just found it kinda funny I suppose, a big Rocky flick being filmed at Everton's home ground, I wonder if the American movie goers could understand the Scouse accent? It also kinda highlighted the fact that many real boxers don't actually seem to have rippling physiques like you see in the movies. Here you have Jordan all buffed up, yet his opponent, a real boxing champion, is thick but has hardly any muscly physique at all, just goes to show. Gotta say, I found it typically fairytale-esque that Adonis gets his ass handed to him to the point of virtually being knocked out, flat out on the canvas, yet the fight goes on! Meh, predictable, stereotypical sports drama fluff.

For fans of the franchise this movie will please I'm sure, for fans of boxing this film will probably please, for casual movie goers I'm sure it will keep them engaged but in all honesty I wouldn't blame anyone for getting bored. Yes the acting is fine from all involved, if slightly overrated and not particularly subtle in my personal opinion. Yes it looks good...dirty and gritty when it needs to be, and yes its directed well by Coogler, but there is no new ground being broken here, none whatsoever. This movie feels very much like some other modern movies at the moment that have fallen into the soft reboot/remake category despite claiming otherwise (Jurassic World, Star Wars, M:I 5 etc...). This is essentially a soft (nostalgic) remake of the original movie from 1976 with a few new twists or alternate directions. Its not a bad film by any means, its certainly an enjoyable serviceable film, but that's as far as I can go really, again I don't really understand the hype that has followed this movie but there you go.