A funny thing happened in 2006: Sylvester Stallone made a new Rocky movie, Rocky Balboa, and it didn’t suck. When we last saw the marble-mouthed Rocky in action he was giving Tommy Morrison a back alley beating in Rocky V, powered to victory by the practical ghost of long-dead trainer Mickey ordering him, “I didn’t hear no bell. Get up, you sonofabitch, because Mickey loves ya’!” It could have been worse; he could have been single-highhandedly ending the Cold War, but he’d already done that in Rocky IV. Balboa was an effort to provide the character a more fitting swan song, revisiting him as a widower still mourning Adrian’s death as he runs an Italian restaurant named after her. It was Rocky as an older man improbably shoved into the boxing world’s spotlight one last time, and though not everyone was won over many were surprised to find an at least competently made boxing movie.
But it’s time to pass the baton. In the years since Balboa, boxing movies, which had been all but extinct, have had a couple of high-profile new entrants, such as The Fighter, Real Steel (where it was boxing robots), Grudge Match (aka, Rocky Vs. Raging Bull) and Jake Gyllenhaal’s upcoming Southpaw.
Creed, due out November 25, would seem like just another one of these standard boxing movies, except this time the character is African-American and not white like almost all major boxing movies (except for The Hurricane, Ali, something called Undisputed, and … nope, that’s all I’ve got). Actually, I should re-phrase: Creed looks like a damn good boxing movie with a fiery lead performance from Michael B. Jordan, who is clearly going to break through this year off of Creed and his turn as Johnny Storm in the new Fantastic Four. Creed‘s first trailer, which debuted online four days ago, pitches us a familiar, but well-told tale of an aspiring boxer with a chip on his shoulder. There’s even a glimpse of Tessa Thompson (Selma; Dear White People) in there as, I assume, a love interest.
And then a little over the halfway point we discover that this new guy is actually Apollo Creed’s son. There’s something about that which is just so jarring, at least to me. The last time we saw Apollo Creed (Carl Weathers), in Rocky IV, he was basically a cartoon character, dancing in the boxing ring in an Uncle Sam outfit as James Brown played “Living in America” in the background.
That obviously didn’t go so well for him, what with being killed in the ring by a seriously peeved Russian, but that was a franchise at its most campy and now it’s being linked to a spin-off which is aiming for grit and realism. However, Apollo wasn’t always quite so over-the-top (although he was always a showman), and as the We Hate Movies podcast pointed out Rocky must be wracked with guilt over not throwing in the towel to stop the fight in Rocky IV. Sure, Apollo ordered him not to, and he would have been super angry in the moment. Months later, though, he would have likely thanked him, “Look, man, I owe you my life. You did the right thing. Could you imagine if I kept fighting? I would have died! What would have become of my son?”
The answer is apparently that his son wants Rocky to pull a Burgess Meredith and train him. Sure, they already went that route with Rocky and Tommy in Rocky V, but this time, and I can’t believe I’m about to say this, it’s personal. More importantly, this might be Sylvester Stallone gracefully handing the franchise keys to someone else.
Here’s the trailer:
As FilmSchoolRejects put it:
With Creed, Stallone could very well be passing the torch, successfully. It’s something many old franchises attempt, with past examples being Tron, Indiana Jones and Die Hard. Those went directly to the main hero’s own offspring. Here, the heir is someone else’s son, that of Stallone’s old rival-turned-friend Apollo Creed. Rocky has done the mentor thing before, but it didn’t go so well. This, however, looks like it might succeed, if there’s interest in following Michael B. Jordan as Adonis Creed. The marketing team is supporting the idea, for sure, trusting in his story as being central and intriguing viewers long enough that we’re probably already on board before Rocky makes his entrance […] Stallone does look perfect in his evocation of Burgess Meredith’s role of Mickey, but that might not be intentional. Either way, better to see the guy in this than another Expendables sequel.
Creed is co-written and directed by Fruitvale Station‘s Ryan Coogler, and is due out November 25.