The Magic of Creed (non-spoiler)

23 Nov 2015 | Author: | No comments yet »

‘Creed’ Takes Rocky Back To The Big Screen.

The character created and played by Sylvester Stallone first jumped into the ring in the 1976 film Rocky, which won the best film Oscar. “It was one of those things where I wanted to change my name as a kid,” recalls the 28-year old actor, who’s actually named for his dad, not the Michael Jordan of hoops legend. “I played sports.There are lots of things one can point to in the film, from Stallone bringing back the mumble to the 3-round fight in one shot to the mature performance of Michael B.

But what interests me is the alchemy created by co-writer/director Ryan Coogler and his co-writer Aaron Covington in blending the oh-so familiar and the new, the raw, the class movie that surprisingly supplants race as a central theme. Not only was he essentially taking the franchise over from Rocky himself, Sylvester Stallone, but he, as Adonis Creed, would have to live up to the greatness of his on-screen father Apollo, who was brilliantly played by Carl Weathers in the first four Rocky movies. He had a couple of turtles named Cuff and Link, he eventually acquired a dog named Butkus — and of course he was plucked from obscurity to fight Apollo Creed, the greatest boxer the world had ever known. Luckily, early reviews for Creed suggest that Jordan is more than worthy of continuing the legacy of both Apollo and Rocky, but Weathers, the person whose opinion perhaps matters most, recently chimed in and gave his thoughts on the actor’s performance.

When Jordan posted on Twitter in response to his Fruitvale Station co-star Octavia Spencer’s post about how she watched Stallone and Weathers in Rocky while growing up, Weathers replied, “@michaelb4jordan You did well for the CREED name! Born after his father’s death, orphaned by his mother and raised by Apollo’s widow (Phylicia Rashad) — who finds him angry and alone in the juvenile system — Adonis has yet to come to terms with being the son of a world heavyweight champ. By the 1930s the genre had become more sophisticated and although there have been some turkeys over the years, boxing films have continued to earn acclaim, awards and box-office riches, with every decade producing its own contender. Drawn inevitably to boxing, he goes to Philadelphia and seeks out his father’s old rival, Rocky (Sylvester Stallone), and asks the reluctant ex-fighter to become his trainer.

Rocky, “The Italian Stallion,” was not so much a reflection of the Italian immigrant story (told so masterfully just years before in The Godfather, Part II). Beery played former heavyweight champion Andy “Champ” Purcell, battling alcoholism and gambling addiction while constantly disappointing his son Dink, played adorably by a young Jackie Cooper. Reviving the “Rocky” magic seems like a long shot, especially since the Oscar-winning original came out nearly 40 years ago and Stallone, an unknown when he wrote and starred in that first film, put his own coda on the series with 2006’s “Rocky Balboa.” But director Ryan Coogler, who teamed with Jordan on 2013’s “Fruitvale Station,” isn’t one to bet against.

Threatened with losing his son, Champ gets his act together for one last fight. (Spoiler alert) Test audiences disliked the original ending in which Champ lost and died in his son’s arms, so the ending was altered to have Champ win but still die, so his son could at least be proud of him. Coogler was able to convince Stallone to join a project that he’d been mulling since he was in film school at the University of Southern California — and that he first met with the megastar about before he’d even finished making his feature directing debut. Go see it! #BePeace.” Creed is set for release on November 25th in the States and January 16th in the UK, with a cast that on top of Jordan includes Sylvester Stallone, Tessa Thompson, Phylicia Rashad and Tony Bellew. And with the exception of the unfortunate “Rocky V” (Tommy Gunn is the Mister Freeze of “Rocky” villains), we had a fantastic run with one of the most memorable movie characters of our time.

By putting Jordan together with Stallone, Coogler, who also cowrote the “Creed” script, has created a fresh chapter that both honors the gritty, yet sweet style of 1976’s “Rocky” and spins the brand forward for a new generation. The critics are judging it a technical and heartfelt knockout. “Ryan Coogler’s rousingly emotional new film is the best installment since the 1976 original,” said Entertainment Weekly. The Chicago Tribune, acknowledging the skepticism, put it this way: “Turns out we really did need another ‘Rocky’ movie.” Jordan credits the honest, restrained, sometimes tender tone of the movie to Coogler, who drew inspiration from watching the franchise with his father as a child. “I think it’s a testament to Ryan and what he brings to everything he does, a certain level of authenticity and realism to it, and some of this feeling that less is more sometimes,” says Jordan. “”There’s a nice, subtle buildup. Jordan, a script from writer-director Ryan Coogler that expertly navigates paying tribute to the franchise while creating an effective stand-alone film and fine work from Stallone, whose work as Rocky through the years has often been underrated, “Creed” is a terrific addition to the “Rocky” canon.

Through a one-scene flashback and a few establishing scenes, we learn of one Adonis Johnson (Alex Henderson), the product of an affair between a mother who didn’t want him — and none other than Apollo Creed, who died before Adonis was born. Flash forward a decade, and now the 25ish Adonis (Jordan) is working for a Los Angeles financial firm during the week and sneaking down to Tijuana to fight in brutal, black-market matches on the weekends. Even though Mary Anne has provided Adonis with a top education and he’s a rising star in the corporate world, Adonis is simmering with anger and resentment, and filled with the urge to fight.

There also is a lovely echo of Rocky’s tentative romance with shy pet store clerk Adrian in Adonis’s very contemporary relationship with Bianca (Tessa Thompson of “Selma” and “Dear White People”), his downstairs neighbor and an aspiring singer-songwriter. “It’s kind of interesting to see what it’s like dating when two people are so ambitious and have their own goals and dreams that they’re trying to achieve, and that ambition draws the two people together and how do you make that work,” says Jordan. “It is that give and take, how much you’re willing to sacrifice and how much you’re willing to work to make that relationship work out. Enter Rocky, and you want to cheer the first time Stallone as Balboa slowly out of the shadows at Adrian’s, still wearing that familiar hat, still carrying himself like a prizefighter with every step. In Rocky, Apollo Creed and his people were very aware of fighting a man of an “opposite” race and the value of that at the time, as is Adonis’ eventual (very White) opponent in Creed, though he couches his racism in the idea of “legitimacy,” as we have heard so often about President Obama. It doesn’t take long for Rocky to figure out who Adonis Johnson really is; it doesn’t take Adonis long to persuade Rocky to train him — at Mickey’s old gym, now refurbished but still an old-school joint where you can practically smell the sweat and the broken dreams before you open the door. He uses that drive and curiosity and motivation to, you know, finally move to Philly and seek out Rocky, who is the only person that kind of knows his father the, you know, the best.

Snappily dressed Corbett is a boxer from an Irish family who fights at a time when boxing was illegal and invents fast footwork, outclassing opponents. T played with Apollo in Rocky’s corner or the Russian who would (30-year spoiler alert) kill Creed and have to be taken out by good old all-American Rocky Balboa. Based on the story of the Italian-American middleweight champion Jake LaMotta and his self- destructive ways, De Niro packed on the kilos to play the boxer. We wanted to make sure it was as real as possible.” Jordan trained for roughly a year to get into the fighting shape he displays on the current cover of Men’s Fitness. Critics were divided when the film came out, but its reputation has since grown and it is now considered by many as the greatest boxing film of all time.

The process involved a strict diet and arduous preparation. “I kind of knew what I was getting into a little bit, but you never really know until you step in the ring. And I wondered, in that moment, if in real life that was how you responded when you found out you got to play this role – because this is a huge role. Adonis Creed is both from the underclass and the upper class… which ties him to living-legend-who-still-lives-in-his-old-house Rocky in a way that I don’t think Rocky is even meant to understand.

It’s definitely an eye-opening experience.” Jordan says he clicked with Stallone right away and admired the veteran actor’s willingness to take on what’s essentially a secondary role that reveals the aging, vulnerable side of Rocky. “Coming from a place of being so strong for such a long time, and then being able to see yourself play a character that’s weaker and more supportive is definitely a transition for him. And beyond Adonis Creed himself and the dozens of specific callbacks to the Rocky films, the writers manage to make it feel of the same ilk, though through Maryse Alberti’s lens, it doesn’t look much like the original at all.

But my mind was so focused on the project that was in front of us, “Fruitvale Station,” that I didn’t even have time to think about “Creed” until, you know, a year and a half later. Jordan and Tessa Thompson talk before a press conference promoting their film “Creed” outside the Philadelphia Museum of Art, Friday, Nov. 6, 2015, in Philadelphia. (Photo: Matt Slocum, AP) During a recent visit to Philadelphia, Jordan and Stallone appeared in public with Mayor Michael Nutter, who declared Nov. 25 as Creed Day.

The young actor laughs at the suggestion that, if many “Creed” sequels follow, an Adonis statue could one day join Philly’s famous Rocky statue, which is featured in the movie. Beyond the movie joys of the film, there is something powerful about a movie that is so unabashedly full of race and ethnicity on its face while, at the same time, it is not about those things much at all. Although Jordan hit a professional speed bump this summer with the poorly received and internally troubled superhero ensemble “Fantastic Four,” his post-“Creed” projects sound worth anticipating. He also is set to star in “Just Mercy” as civil rights lawyer Bryan Stevenson, who launched the Equal Justice Initiative, a nonprofit devoted to defending poor people and those wrongly charged or convicted.

Jordan, who has described himself as a fan of Michigan State basketball, developed the idea with a friend and still wants to eventually produce it. “The timing has to be right for something like that. There’s something about that city that’s just an inspiration, the hope, a pride, a town that’s been so full of pride.” “I learned from Sly as well, it’s called show business. Show and business,” he says. “That’s something you have to really pay attention to, because you can do a project for you and a project for different reasons that push your career forward.

You know, I went to the real gyms, you know, sparred with real fighters, trained – worked out with their trainers six days a week, sometimes two to three times a day. I’m very, very hopeful that, you know, in success that, you know, and people will behind this character and this franchise, that it can be something that we could definitely see more of.

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