Have you watched the original Rocky lately? It’s kind of remarkable just how great that movie is and how different it is from the other Rocky movies. We all know it won an Academy Award for Best Picture, but I feel that’s just some piece of information we all know is true, but don’t spend a lot of time thinking about why. I mean, Rocky beat All The President’s Men, Taxi Driver, and Network — cases could be made for all of these movies, but this isn’t a, “How in the world did Rocky win?” situation: Rocky absolutely deserves to be in the conversation with those other films.
Imagine there were a Taxi Driver 4. In Taxi Driver 4, after a drug deal gone wrong, Iris Steensma is critically injured, so Travis Bickle travels to the Soviet Union to wreck havoc on the men who injured Iris. This leads to the famous exchange, “You talking to me, comrade? You talking to me? Well, dasvidaniya, punk!” At the end of the movie, Travis Bickle ends the Cold War. Now, I wrote all that as something preposterous, but part of me thinks this would be immensely entertaining. But if someone told you the plot of Rocky IV in 1976, it would sound just as ludicrous. In Rocky, Rocky Balboa is a streetwise punk who breaks people’s thumbs for extra cash. In Rocky IV, Rocky Balboa owns a talking robot.
No matter how much we might like the Rocky franchise, the sequels still dilute how we perceive the original. The last act of Rocky II is great, but the rest of the movie is a bit of a slog. I loved Rocky III as a child – hey. Mr. T and Hulk Hogan – but it doesn’t really hold up when watching as an adult. Rocky IV is insanely entertaining, but it’s a different genre. Rocky V is terrible. And Rocky Balboa is nice enough, in a, “Well, at least the last Rocky movie isn’t Rocky V,” kind of way.
This brings us to Creed, hands down the best Rocky movie since the original and a film that should legitimately be in the Academy Award conversation, just like the original Rocky. When I’ve told people how good this movie is, I’m met with shock. This is because people aren’t remembering Rocky, they are remembering the Rocky franchise. This is understandable, but that mindset has to be tweaked for Creed.
It’s kind of amazing that no one else has tried to make a movie about the son of Apollo Creed (played by Carl Weathers in the first four Rocky films) until now. It’s good that a director like Ryan Coogler (who directed the terrific Fruitvale Station) got on board. And it’s fortunate that a no-brainer movie like Creed was still around for someone like Coogler — a director who knows what he’s doing and knows these characters — to make