Favorite Film Franchises: CREED?

PREVIOUSLY: Favorite Film Franchises: ROCKY

At first glance, this probably seems like an odd choice to add to this particular category, as there are, to date, only two films, so that doesn’t exactly qualify it as a “franchise.” But I think the way that these two films are structured they feel as much a part of the original Rocky film franchise, rather than a spinoff. Rocky 1-6 and Creed 1 and 2 tell a complete 8-film story, in my opinion. So much so that I would argue that there really is no need to make any future Creed films, at least not in the near future. But I’ll get to that later. First, let me give my brief thoughts on the two Creed films.

CREED
Written by Ryan Coogler and Aaron Covington, directed by Ryan Coogler. November 2015

Micheal B. Jordan stars as Adonis “Donnie” Johnson. A juvenile delinquent raised by a poor single mother who, as a teen, discovers that he’s actually the illegitimate son of Apollo Creed, the late Heavyweight Boxing Champion who was played by Carl Weathers in Rocky, Rocky II, and Rocky III, and then was killed during a boxing match in Rocky IV. It’s Apollo’s widow Mary Anne (played by Phylicia Rashad, taking over the role from Sylvia Meals, who played the part in Rocky II and IV and died in 2011) who finds Adonis and adopts him after the death of his birth mother. Despite being raised in luxury and having a well-paying white-collar job, Adonis longs to follow in his father’s footsteps as a boxer, although he also wants to do it under the name Johnson, ostensibly so that he can make it on his own without comparisons to his father. But the truth is that he’s afraid that if he fails he’d be dishonoring his father, which is why he’s hesitant to take on the name “Creed.”

So right there it’s interesting how the film portrays Adonis and his motivations. Clearly, by going into boxing it’s a way for him to connect with the father that he never even knew, yet he’s also afraid of not living up to his father. So in this way, Apollo’s legacy is both a goal to fight for and an albatross around Adonis’ neck.

Adonis ends up moving to Philadelphia to pursue a professional boxing career and seeks out Rocky Balboa to train him. Rocky’s still running his restaurant as seen at the end of the 2006 film Rocky Balboa. Since that film, Rocky’s brother-in-law Paulie has died, and Rocky’s son has moved to Canada. So Rocky’s back to feeling alone. Despite his initial reluctance, Rocky ends up agreeing to train Adonis, who wins a local fight. Word leaks out that Adonis is Apollo Creed’s son, sparking larger interest in the sports world. And when Ricky Conlan, the reigning Light Heavyweight Champion, finds himself in new of a replacement opponent for his next fight, which is scheduled to be his last one before he’s set to go to jail,  he offers Adonis a shot at the title, but only on the condition that Adonis uses the last name Creed, because they want to hype up the fact that he’s Apollo Creed’s son.

Adonis agrees, the fight commences and Adonis goes the distance, and wins the respect of the crowd and the boxing world, despite losing a split-decision. But it looks like he has a bright future ahead of him in the sport.

There’s also a couple of notable subplots here, including Mary Anne’s disapproval of Adonis’ choice to become a boxer, Adonis’ burgeoning relationship with a young aspiring pop singer named Bianca Taylor (Tessa Thompson) who is struggling with hearing loss, and the revelation that Rocky has a form of cancer which he has been refusing to have treated because he’s basically given up on life.

All in all, it’s a satisfying, if not revolutionary, movie. It’s certainly better than if it had been an attempt to simply remake the original Rocky, or even if it had gone the more predictable route of having this be about Rocky’s son trying to follow in his father’s footsteps as a boxer. The character of Apollo Creed was a major part of the Rocky films, first as an adversary and then as a trusted friend and mentor, and his death in part IV was a huge impact on Rocky’s life. So having the son of Apollo carry on, with Rocky has his mentor, felt like the natural way to wrap up that story arc.

The parts I didn’t like were that Adonis had to be an illegitimate son of Apollo’s, thereby retroactively making Apollo an adulterer. I realize that this was done specifically to set up the premise that people didn’t know that Adonis was using a different last name and that the public wouldn’t initially know that he was Apollo’s son, but it still kind of sucks. Maybe it would have been better if Jordan was instead playing Apollo’s grandson, as it was originally reported he would. Also, Rocky reveals that Apollo won their secret third fight that ended Rocky III, I would have preferred that that remain a mystery.  Still, it was a good film, and complete as a standalone.

CREED II
Written by Juel Taylor and Sylvester Stallone, directed by Steven Caple Jr. November 2018

This is really the only story that made sense for a sequel to Creed, without just being a copy of Rocky II and going for the Adonis/Conlan rematch and having Adonis win the championship. Instead, they do have a rematch with an earlier opponent from the first film, which leads to Adonis becoming the World Heavywieght champion, which itself is probably the most implausible things of this franchise, considering Jordan’s comparatively slight stature. But, anyway, he’s almost immediately challenged to a match by Viktor Drago (Florian Munteanu), the son of Ivan Drago. Seeing this as a chance to avenge his father’s death at the hands of Ivan, Adonis agrees to the match.

I like this film much better than the first one because it was a more emotional story on several levels. Of course, there’s the main story of Adonis continuing to struggle with the idea of living up to his father’s legacy, but now with added consequences as he and Bianca are married and getting ready to have their first child (who carries the genetic possibility of deafness), but there’s also how this fight affects Rocky. Despite his winning the fight against Drago in Rocky IV, it didn’t bring Apollo back, and failing to stop that fight, and save Apollo’s life, is Rocky’s greatest failure and regret, and now facing that possibility again with Apollo is too hard for him to handle. But also, this film’s greatest achievement is the way in which it humanizes Ivan. He and his son are initially presented as, Ivan (played once again by Dolph Lundgren) was in the previous film, straight robotic villains, but as the film progresses and we learn more about their motivations, it’s not quite so black and white. Both father and son are facing their own internal demons. Ultimately, this film, like the first one, is about fathers and sons, and the emotional tie between them.

The film ends with a satisfying conclusion for all involved.

And now, in my opinion, that’s it. The story is complete. Both if you look at it from the story of Adonis Creed, he’s embraced his father’s name and avenged his father’s death. You could take Rocky IV and the two Creed films as a complete trilogy, following the first three Rocky films as one trilogy, all telling the story of the life and legacy of Apollo Creed. Or you could take all six Rocky films and two Creed films as one 8-film saga about the life of Rocky Balboa. With this last film, he’s corrected his biggest mistake, shepherding Apollo’s son to victory. And it ends with him reconciling with his own son and grandson in Canada. There’s nothing left to tell in the story of Rocky.

Likewise, the Adonis Creed story is complete. I mean, what’s next? The motivation for this post was because I saw a recent news item that said that current Heavyweight boxing champion Deontay Wilder has said he wants to play the son of Clubber Lang, Rocky’s opponent played by Mr. T. in Rocky III, in Creed III.

I think a third Creed film can be done, and box films were financial hits so I’m sure that the studio wants to make one, but I feel like if it’s done, it needs to become it’s own film now, step away from the Rocky story. The “next generation” aspect worked in Creed 2 beause of the special circumstances regarding the character of Apollo Creed, but doing it again would just be too gimmicky. At most, I’d be fine with Wilder, or whomever, playing the son of Clubber Lang if it was just a small part of the film, like the opening. Have the film open with Adonis fighting and beating Clubber Jr. And that’s like the first 15 minutes of the film, and then it moves on to something else.

Thinking about it, if I could write Creed 3, I’d consider going in another direction, moving it beyond the traditional “boxing film”, where it’s all about Adonis preparing for some new boxing match. Instead, I’d try to turn it into a crime drama or something like that. Come up with a story about something like the mob’s involvement in boxing, maybe a new trainer or sparring partner or Adonis’ gets heavily in debt to the mob, putting his life in danger, and Adonis gets invloved in trying to help him. I think with the right story, that could be a hit.

Just my opinion.

 

 

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