Directed By: Ryan Coogler
Staring: Michael B. Jordan, Sylvester Stallone, Tessa Thompson
Writers: Ryan Coogler, Aaron Convington
MPAA Rating: PG-13
Runtime: 133 Minutes
Synopsis: The former World Heavyweight Champion Rocky Balboa serves as a trainer and mentor to Adonis Johnson, the son of his late friend and former rival Apollo Creed.
There were no “Yo Adrian’s” or “Cut Me Mick’s” but Creed was able to take the essence of Rocky and add a modern, urban, and quite frankly Black feel that made this film one of the best in 2015. From the juvenile detention scenes to the training sequences to the in-ring fighting the actors, writers, and director nailed this film and brought out authentic emotion from the audience.
This film encapsule determination throughout the movie. Adonis not wanting to work a comfy 9-5 and to pursue his dream, Rocky deciding to train Adonis through tough times and Tessa continuing to make music and pursue her dream despite her disability. These characters time after time were faced with circumstances were a lot of people would give up or you almost want them to give up but the kept fighting. In a movie based around boxing, the fight outside the ring for the characters was harder that the fight inside. Michael B. Jordan’s portrayal of Apollo Creed’s son was magnificent. He was left for nothing as a child when his mother passed and and his father died in the ring. Sent to juvenile detention center he was almost out of options when his fathers widow decided to give him a chance and take him in. Throughout the film “Donny”(as he is referred to throughout the film) was determined to prove that she made the right choice taking him in despite the fact he was a constant reminder of her husbands infidelity. Jordan showed the struggle between being grateful and being angry about the life he was dealt and that anger is what lead him to want to fight and go down the path his dad did.
Another amazing part of this film is the chemistry between the main characters. It was so authentic and the emotions were so real that you always felt what the characters were going through in each situation in the film. After moving to Philly to train with Rock Michael B. Jordan’s character met his neighbor Bianca played by Tessa Thompson and the chemistry was instant. It jumped off the screen. The two of them went from neighbors, to friends, to lovers through a progression that did not feel rushed and felt logical and likely which is hard to do in a 2 hour film. The eye contact, the facial expression, the inflection in voice and tone when around each other made this relationship believable. Not to be out done, Sylvester Stallone probably put in his best acting performance of his career. Rocky felt like the old uncle that you love to hang out with because he knows the right things to say at the right time, but also lets you eat ice cream late. Stallone and Jordan felt almost like father and son even though they never met. The idea that Rocky was best friends with Donny’s father Apollo was obvious and made the transition from strangers to family easy. Stallone also had great chemistry with Thompson in scenes where the three of them were together.
Cinematography and Choreography
Arguably the best part of this film was the cinematography. The lighting, the camera angeles were next level and were essential to telling the story of the movie. The most iconic shot of the movie was during a training montage where Donny was running through the streets of Philly and the kids in the neighborhood started following him on their dirt bikes and atv’s. It definitely started getting a little dusty in the theater at this point because it was so symbolic to neighborhoods, camaraderie, the ability to get behind someone and inspire. The kids circling him while he was punching and warming up is a scene that you rarely see in a movie that elicited real emotion along with awe by the sheer brilliance and production behind it. Then you have the choreography of the fight scenes. This may be the only negative of the movie and when I say negative I mean maybe 4 stars instead of 5. The scenes were shot magnificently the angles and zoom shots of the punches landing and the crowd reacting were fantastic. However the fights themselves were a bit cartoonish which to be fair is a common theme throughout the Rocky franchise, however they could have been done a bit more realistically just to continue that realism them that was prevalent throughout this film
Lastly the major theme throughout this film was fatherhood and the different versions of it. Even though his father was not their Adonis still felt like he left him with something, he grew up with a single mother that had to play both roles, and then he met Rocky who also was a fatherlike figure towards him. Throughout the film he was running away from being Apollo Creeds son and eventually he understands that its not a hindrance its who he is and he needed everything that happened to him up to that point to bring the best out of him.