I was a bit cynical when this thing was announced. It sounded a bit like a ‘Mutt’ movie, a reference to the horrible attempt to offload a new Indiana Jones on us in that poor fourth movie. Surprisingly though it carries the Rocky saga inoffensively in a different direction, with the focus mostly being on Michael B. Jordan, playing a character that is easy to root for.
I can’t really recall if it was mentioned in the earlier movies that featured Carl Weathers, that Apollo had a son, but his mother gave birth to his son after Apollo was killed by Drago in the ring. An event that left Mrs. Creed a broken woman, leaving the young Adonis fending for himself with his fists through juvenile detention. He eventually reconciles with his mother to find out that he’s the son of a great boxer and is inspired to follow the career himself, to the anguish of his mother. But Adonis soon finds himself rejected by trainers, they don’t want the son of a Apollo Creed, whose widow is a millionaire, trying boxing as a hobby. ‘No dancing and singing’ as one puts it, a reference to the late Creed senior’s bombast. And so Creed junior eventually finds his way to Rocky Balboa, three steps away from destitution.
I’m glad they went the route of following Creed’s son instead of the other facepalm road of having Rocky Jr. sit through pep talks from his daddy. It’s a fresh perspective to see Apollo’s wife once again after all these years and although I haven’t seen Michael B. Jordan in a movie before, his performance is impressive. Stallone pulls an unsurprisingly strong subtle power play as Balboa too, it’s hard not to be motivated by the old lug.
I have one or two issues with this movie. The energy appears to be sapped out of it quite a bit in the second half, Rocky’s sickness angle wasn’t needed, it slows down the movie somewhat and could’ve been removed completely, the movie was beginning to run out of ideas and should not have ran to 125 minutes at the expense of this. But the end fight, a nice blitzkrieg between Adonis and his opponent goes a good way at cancelling that out, you should leave satisfied. But the second, bigger problem, is the opponent himself. He is practically a cardboard cut out. A nobody, just like the underwritten and uncharismatic Mason Dixon from the previous movie. We’re a long way from Clubber Lang featuring heavily as the antagonist right at the opening credits. They need to fix this in the sequel. Another issue is that Creed junior seems somewhat pedestrian compared to his father. A lot quieter, no extravagance. I’m not sure whether I like that or not.
I breathed a sigh of relief when watching the fights in this movie and maybe that’s what was most important.. There is no shaking camera bullshit nor baffling editing choice – in one fight in particular there were no cuts at all. Are we finally entering the post-shaking camera era?