I had mixed emotions whether I was going to watch this sequel to the sort-of spin-off / reboot to the famed Rocky franchise. I really liked but didn’t love the first movie but after hearing about the setup this time around, I’ll admit I was very much intrigued. After becoming world heavyweight champion, Adonis Creed (Michael B Jordan) the son of former champ Apollo Creed gets an offer from a new boxer hailing from Russia – Victor Drago, the son of Ivan Drago (Dolph Lundgren) the man who killed his Dad in the ring back in 1985 (Rocky IV). With Ivan on hand as Victor’s trainer also, it quickly brings back painful memories for Rocky Balboa (Sylvester Stallone) who doesn’t approve of Creed taking on the fight, believing old wounds shouldn’t be re-opened.
I’ve gone on record in the past as saying, for as much as Michael B Jordan always looks good in movies, especially in the first movie, his acting skills have never quite been up to the task. Here though he fairs better and is given much more depth thanks to fleshed out relationships, not just with Stallone but also his girlfriend and mother, and is given a bigger, more emotional journey too. Add to this great support from Stallone who may take more of a back seat to give Jordan the spotlight – but still delivers. I was also surprised and pleased to see that, although very subtle, Victor Drago and his father Ivan’s relationship was given much more than the one-dimensional bad guys treatment.
Every story-beat and character moment was well done too that even if the material and the structure is far from new, it’s the way it was directed, with skill and care by relative unknown Steven Caple Jr. Oh and its a boxing movie so what about the fights? Superbly filmed and visceral that every punch had genuine impact. Some of the most effective fight footage I’ve seen in a long time. Yeah, not really much to criticise here. It dabbles in a few cliches, has a couple of corny tugging-on-heart-strings moments, but comes together to make one of the best Rocky movies that’s not strictly a Rocky movie. A must see.
Following the death of his father, Prince T’Challa aka Black Panther returns home to claim his birth right and become king of Wakanda. However when news surfaces of a terrorist who has stolen some of his homeland’s resources, T’Challa (Chadwick Boseman) springs into action to stop his home’s sacred power being used for evil.
This has had a great deal of attention and is now one of the highest rated Marvel movies on RottenTomatoes.com, surprising when the character has never been what you’d call a household name like Thor, Spiderman etc. For whatever reason this movie has gained such attention, what we actually have is a fairly basic super hero movie with the twist of an African setting and largely black cast. Panther is an interesting, layered character and fairly refreshing compared to the usual machismo we get with other characters; but with a rise and fall and rise again story ark, I failed to see how this was any different than what we’ve been getting for several years now. Add to this an underwhelming Michael B Jordan as the villain who’s character is basically a carbon copy of another Marvel villain, and like in Creed has no screen presence and is instead feels miscast beyond his impressive pecks. Yet we do get a fantastic car chase sequence, decent CGI and some tense fight scenes, along with good support from Martin Freeman and especially Letitia Wright as T’Challa’s sister – who gets all the best lines and funniest gags.
As it stands this was very pretty, often fun but very drawn out considering it’s simple plot, and felt more like an ‘also ran’ in the juggernaut that is the Marvel Cinematic Universe than anything else. I still had a good time, but like a lot of heavily-hyped things these days … I also came away wondering what the fuss was about.
I’ve always had a soft spot for the Rocky franchise. I’ve watched the first, Oscar winning instalment several times and would be up for checking out the numerous sequels again one day. So I went into this quite hyped and was one of the people who really appreciated what Sylvester Stallone did with the last movie, Rocky Balboa.
Adonis Johnson (Michael B Jordan) is trying to make a name for himself despite the looming shadow of deceased father, renowned champ boxer Apollo Creed. He turns to his father’s former ageing friend and rival Rocky who is still running the restaurant in Philadelphia. With reluctance Rocky agrees to train Adonis and gradually help him rise up through the ranks of the local boxing circuit, before eventually attracting the big name fights. This is shot distinctly in a very authentic, realistic style with I’m guessing a lot of first time ‘from the neighbourhood’ or ‘from the boxing world’ actors. It’s a trick that worked very well indeed for Eastwood’s Gran Torino, but I’ll admit it seemed to bring the movie down a bit here with even Jordan coming off a bit amateurish; struggling with line delivery in a way I’d only expected from the mumbling Stallone. However with an earnest and believable turn from the Italian Stallion (especially in one emotional speech) and decent direction I still found this gripping. It doesn’t offer much new to the formula and is, bar the Creed connection another stab at what became Rocky 5 … but I still found myself swept up in Adonis’s journey and as that Rocky-theme kicked in during the final bout, I was buzzing.
It’s not the best Rocky movie or probably even the best boxing movie and falters in the casting where it could have shined, but for a realistic non-Hollywood boxing drama this still managed to … pack a punch (sorry).
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